,The GST, which was implemented on April 1,2015 at a rate of 6%, was zero rated in 2018 and replaced with the current sales and services tax. PETALING JAYA: The government is considering reinstating the goods and services tax (GST) system as part of its fiscal reform to broaden its revenue and reduce its dependency on commodities. Finance Ministry deputy secretary-general Zakiah Jaafar said that the government is embarking on a study on how to widen the country’s revenue base, which includes reviewing the existing tax structure and possibly imposing new taxes. “So now, we are slightly distracted in maintaining a countercyclical stance until recovery is fully entrenched despite limited fiscal room. “We are certainly studying new tax reforms, which include reviewing the existing tax structure and the possibility of new taxes to be imposed. “But rest assured, we are very mindful of their impact and the timing. If anything, the government would wait until the economy has fully stabilised and activities are normalised before making any major changes, ” she said in a panel discussion at the launch of the World Bank’s flagship report titled “Aiming High – Navigating the Next Stage of Malaysia’s Development” yesterday. The World Bank lead economist for Malaysia Richard Record (pic above) said Malaysia continued to collect much lower levels of public sector revenue compared to almost all of the countries that had already transitioned from a mid- to high-income economy before it. “That’s one of the reasons we see this as a large gap in terms of expectations in increasingly middle-class society and what the public sector is able to deliver with those revenues. So clearly, Malaysia needs to raise the level of tax collection over the medium term, ” he said during the question-and-answer session with the media. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Zakiah said the government had extra fiscal space that was created by establishing the Covid-19 Fund under the Temporary Measures for Government Financing Act, which allows for larger expenditure through borrowings in a limited period. “Hence, the government has additional flexibility to borrow in the event further support is needed for the economy despite the lack of revenue.” But, moving forward, Zakiah said Malaysia will need to rebuild its fiscal position via a medium-term fiscal plan and several reform initiatives to improve the country’s tax framework and reduce leakages as well as to broaden the government’s revenue base. She added that Malaysia had a good growth track record to rebound within a year from each of the five crises it experienced in the last five decades. “We have been on a concerted consolidation path for the last decade or so, but have to sidetrack to manage the current crisis. “Once the economy recovers, we will work towards getting back to consolidating our fiscal position, ” she said. The GST, which was implemented on April 1,2015 at a rate of 6%, was zero rated in 2018 and replaced with the current sales and services tax.
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