Government Cashes In on Vehicle Import Taxes

The Finance Ministry’s Cus­toms and Excise Department has raked in some $500,000 per day in ve­hicle import taxes since the government’s Jan 13 order for all car owners to pay their unpaid tax bills, officials said on Tues­day.

Though previous orders went ignored and shooting erupted when customs tried to confiscate untaxed vehicles in 2001, it was peaceful at the Customs De­part­ment on Norodom Boulevard on Tuesday as motorists voluntarily parted with their money.

However, not everyone was happy. “I came to pay the import tax by myself,” said 49-year-old RCAF Captain Chao Serey as he paid $2,000 in tax on a 16-year-old Toyota pick-up truck.

“I feel I am victimized by the smugglers…. There are many more luxury cars [whose owners] have not paid tax,” he said as he left the office.

Most untaxed vehicle owners have volunteered to pay, but a number of cars have been confiscated since the operation began on Jan 14, said Keo Sokkheang, the department’s bu­reau chief of re­search.

Four cars were taken from their own­ers Monday and two on Tues­day: a Mercedes-Benz and a Lex­us Sport Utility Vehicle, he said.

“This time we are [working] smoother than before, there is no armed conflict,” Keo Sokkheang said. “The order is stricter than ever and it will not stop,” he said, adding that cars confiscated will be impounded until their tax is paid and their owner fined an additional 30 percent of the tax owed.

Even the country’s elite ap­peared to be heeding the taxman’s call on Tuesday as $44,979 was forked out for an armor-plated, 2004 series GM Chevrolet SUV by one customer at the tax department.

Among those paying up was Oknha Kith Meng, chairman of the Royal Group family of companies, who paid taxes on several luxury vehicles, said Cus­­toms Officer Chou Sophala.

Contacted on Tuesday evening Kith Meng said his tax bill, which he had paid Tuesday, had cost him about $100,000 for several cars.


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