Premium seafood exempted from SST for now

AZURA ABAS and MOHD HUSNI MOHD NOOR

PUTRAJAYA: The government has decided to temporarily exempt premium seafood items from the Sales and Services Tax (SST), effective immediately.

This was announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today. He said there was confusion because seafood consumed by people in the low- and middle-income categories were grouped with premium seafood items.

“Under the molluscs (category), we have oysters, scallops, mussles, cuttlefish and squid, clams, cockles, ark shell, abalone and other molluscs,” he said after attending a briefing on the SST at the ministry.

“Since the government wants to impose SST on premium items such as abalone, all other seafood items consumed by the middle and low income groups are also lumped into the same category with the 10 per cent tax of SST imposed on them.

“For the sake of those in the middle and low income brackets, I, as the finance minister, have directed the Customs Department to exempt all seafood items from SST.”

He said traders should not impose or pay the 10 per cent SST because the directive came into effect immediately.

“As I have said before, the list of goods under the SST is expected to be amended by the end of the year. This is a proactive government that listens to the people and reacts fast based on feedback received,” said Lim.

He said the government had adopted a soft and friendly approach to get traders on board the SST initiative and follow the law.

Lim said SST was a “softer and kinder tax” than the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which “sapu habis” (cleans everyone out).”

On whether traders could offset the GST refunds that the government still owed them with SST payments, Lim said it could not be done because they were different tax systems with different laws.

“Perhaps we can consider waiving a certain amount. But this is something that the Customs Department has to look into. But, it cannot be offset,” he added.

Earlier, Customs Department deputy director-general Datuk Paddy Abdul Halim said the department had overlooked and did not exempt salted fish from SST as directed by the minister.

“The department apologises for the oversight and will issue a directive to exempt salted fish immediately. (In this respect) traders should not collect SST for salted fish,” he said.

Paddy also said the department had removed the Guide on Proposal Sales Tax Rate for Various Goods dated Aug 25 at //mysst.customs.gov.my because it had caused confusion.

He said the guide, which listed 3,564 items, was meant to be a point of reference for consumers and industry players. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd