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Friday, June 16, 2017

Sabah hotels want Customs to collect tourism tax

KOTA KINABALU - After asking for a year’s deferment of the tourism tax, Sabah hoteliers now want the tax be collected by the Customs Department.

Malaysia Association of Hotels, Sabah and Labuan chapter Thomas Willie claimed collecting the tax at the Custom Department’s major exit and or entry points would help to solve the complexities of the tourism tax.

“This would ensure that all tourists are subject to the tax, regardless of who their accommodation provider is, and considerably simpler and easier to administer for the government.

“If you do it this way, you can start tomorrow even,” said Willie.

Willie was also speaking on behalf of the Sabah United Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Sabah Tourist Association, Sabah Hotels Association, Malaysia Budget Hotels Association — Sabah chapter, Sabah Backpackers Association and Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (Matta).

The group previously said that imposing the tax on July 1 would incur too much cost from adjusting their accounting systems, heavily affect the hotel industry, cause a rise in demand for unregistered accommodation providers and potentially cause them legal implications with their published hotel rates.

“We are not opposed to the tax, per se, but we would like for some amendments to be made to its provisions and a deferment,” he said.

Matta vice president Datuk KL Tan said that Sabah and Sarawak should be part of the discussion in the imposition of the tax because the implications were significant.

According to the group, the current model of the tourism tax unfairly places the burden of tax collection on the registered hotels and leaves unregistered accommodation providers such as Airbnb, and other operators unregulated.

Willie said that there were 709 accommodation providers in Sabah, of which 299 were unregistered with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

“Even in the event where unregistered providers are registered, the proposed rate applicated to unrated providers are significantly lower although in direct competition to registers provider of similar quality.

“This will uneven the playing field significantly,” he said.

The tourism tax has been a controversial issue since minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced it would implemented on July 1, charging patrons between RM2.50 and RM20 for overnight stays at registered hotels and inns.

Sabah and Sarawak had both voiced disagreement with the tax, leading to an argument between Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Sarawak counterpart Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday said the issue was resolved, with Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Abang Openg agreeing that the tax was necessary but did not elaborate on the details of the rollout.

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