South Korea's tax agency is intensifying its probe into large businesses as part of efforts to crack down on tax evasion and broaden the overall revenue base for the government, industry and government sources said Friday.
According to the sources, the National Tax Service (NTS) launched a special tax audit into CJ E&M, the entertainment arm of CJ Group, on Thursday. This followed an audit into steel-making giant POSCO, which started earlier this month.
Little was known about what prompted the NTS to start the investigation into those companies.
The probes came after the NTS started a tax probe into CJ Group and Lotte Shopping in July. A probe is also under way for Hyosung Group since May, and the agency is reportedly seeking to refer the case to prosecution for investigation on tax evasion charges.
The series of tax audits appears to be in line with efforts by the NTS to crack down on tax evasion and shed light on the country's shadow economy in a bid to expand the revenue base at a time when the government is struggling to secure sufficient funds necessary for expanded social welfare programs.
In the face of concerns that such strict stance could hinder business activities, the agency said that it will scale back its tax audits into some struggling industries but confirmed its principle to get tough on businesses suspected of tax evasion.
"In consideration of the economic situations, we plan to reduce audits into companies this year, but we will continue to get tough on regulating the shadow economy and offshore tax evasion in order to establish tax justice," an NTS official said.