On January 1, we switched our calendars from 2018 to 2019. But in China, February 5 is the date for setting off fireworks. This year, we’re ushering in the Year of the Pig. The pig is the last animal in the Chinese zodiac — according to one Chinese legend, he overslept for the Jade Emperor’s great meeting of the animals in heaven. Men born in the year of the pig are optimistic, gentle, and focused. Women born in the year of the pig are full of excitement, trustworthy, and have good fortune with wealth. (No fortune cookie jokes, please!)
We’re 20ish years into the new millennium now. Driverless cars are starting to take to the streets, and Amazon is working on drone deliveries. So you might think naming a year after a barnyard animal is silly. But hey, just in the last month, Chinese scientists planted cotton on the dark side of the moon, while here in the U.S., the government counseled furloughed employees to pick up side gigs babysitting and pawn their kidneys. Who’s to say the Chinese aren’t on to something?
Naturally, the Year of the Pig got us wondering just how piggy the Peoples’ Republic gets with taxes. You’d probably expect them to be pretty high, considering the “Communists” have been running things since Truman was President. But it’s been a long time since any real Marxists have been in charge. It turns out that communism is bad for business! (Also, jokes about communism aren’t funny if everyone doesn’t get them.) So you might be surprised at just how much China’s tax system has come to look like ours.
Chinese employers withhold income and social security taxes just like here. Income taxes start at 3% on salaries up to 1,500 yuan/month (about $225) and top out at 45% over 80,000 yuan ($12,000). Social security varies from city to city, with employers generally contributing 33% and employees paying another 11%. If your only income is salary under 10,000 yuan/month, you don’t have to file a tax return.
Business owners pay 5-35% on their earnings. (What would Chairman Mao think of that?) Individuals also pay 20% on investment income and capital gains, including real estate sales. Individual tax returns are due on March 31, with extensions granted under special circumstances only. Husbands and wives file individually; there are no joint returns.
Corporations typically pay 25% on their profits. However, the World Bank reported in 2017 that China’s total corporate tax burden, including property taxes and value-added taxes, swallows about 68% of profits. And China appears to impose some indirect “taxes” that our Congress would have a hard time passing. For example, Poland and Canada have just arrested executives from telecom giant Huawei for espionage, which suggests the People’s Republic is “taxing” companies for more than just cash.
China also imposes a grab bag of value-added taxes, consumption taxes, and property taxes. Then there are “behavioral” taxes that include a vehicle and vessel use tax, a license-plate tax, a slaughter tax, and a banquet tax. (We’re pretty sure the poor piglet is jazzed about those last two.) And China is on the forefront of using facial recognition software to monitor citizens, so you’ve got to imagine they’re pretty good at rooting out tax cheats.
Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by drinking Guinness, and Cinco de Mayo by drinking Corona. So why don’t more of us celebrate Chinese New Year with a Tsingtao or two? Call us any day you’re ready to pay less American tax and we’ll give you something to celebrate!