Report: PM says IRB will refund taxpayers RM16b owed when govt has money

A. Ruban
The prime minister said that his administration is currently unable to pay out the refund as doing so would deplete the government’s resources. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will reimburse taxpayers the RM16 billion tax refunds owed by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration only when it has sufficient funds to do so, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

The prime minister told The Malaysian Insight news portal that his administration is currently unable to pay out the refund as doing so would deplete the government’s resources.

“We will pay back the money due to the people but only when we have the money.

“If we pay all of them the money, then we don’t have money at all,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng revealed last week that the BN administration owed taxpayers RM16 billion in excess income tax and real property gains tax refunds over six years.

He also revealed that the BN government did not pay RM19.2 billion in Goods and Services Tax refunds.

Lim previously disclosed in Parliament that billions of ringgit was missing from the government’s trust account and accused the BN administration of “robbing” businesses of this sum.

Internal Revenue Board (IRB) director-general Datuk Seri Sabin Samitah confirmed in a statement last Friday that there was insufficient cash in the refund trust fund to pay out to the 1,653,786 companies, individuals, associations, and foundations owed the sum as of May 31.

In the same interview, Dr Mahathir also accused his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak of using the taxman as a bogeyman to scare off potential donors from financing PH parties.

“You don’t understand the enormity of Najib’s operation. During his time, what he did was to frighten anybody from financing the Opposition,” the PM was quoted saying.

He added that individuals seen as close to him or PH leaders would in the past be “visited by income tax officers with ridiculous demands” or had their bank accounts frozen.

He cited Country Heights Holdings Bhd executive chairman and business tycoon Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew as a case in point.

“You know he had paid all these taxes but they said he had to personally pay as well.

“They said, ‘you must pay and if you don’t, then we will freeze your accounts’. So, his work and all that had to be stopped and that is how he [Najib] tortures people,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying.

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