China fines another live-streaming influencer over tax evasion as Beijing keeps heat on once-booming industry

Fan Sifeng was ordered to pay nearly US$1mil in back taxes, late fees and fines after failing to report his full income. Fan follows other high profile streaming hosts including Viya and Zhu Chenhui, who have disappeared online following tax controversies. — SCMP

China’s tax crackdown on the country’s once-booming live-streaming industry continued with another influencer being fined 6.5mil yuan (US$970,300) for tax payment irregularities.

Live-streamer Fan Sifeng was ordered to pay the back taxes, late fees and fines after he failed to report his full income to tax authorities, avoiding over 2.6mil yuan in taxes between July 2017 and December 2021, according to a statement released on Thursday by the tax authority of Xiamen, a city in southeastern Fujian province.

The live-streaming ecommerce industry has been undergoing rapid change in the past year as it has come under greater scrutiny. Some of the industry’s biggest stars have disappeared from internet platforms after following tax-related controversies.

Viya, as Huang Wei is known professionally, was fined 1.3bil yuan for tax evasion in December and has not been seen online since. This was shortly after Zhu Chenhui, once one of China’s top three live-streamers on Alibaba Group Holding’s Taobao Live, was also fined millions of yuan for tax evasion.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

More recently, Li Jiaqi – known as the “lipstick king” for once selling 15,000 tubes in five minutes – disappeared from the internet after a snafu involving ice cream that some said resembled a tank. The live stream was disrupted the night before June 4, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Taxation in the live-streaming industry has long been a controversial issue, leading to a new regulation published in March requiring platforms to deduct personal income tax from live-streamers’ revenues, a move that could mean much heftier tax bills for streaming hosts.

Beijing also issued new live-streaming guidelines last week that raise the bar for who is allowed to host videos in an industry once known for its “low threshold and high income”. Platforms must now vet influencers in certain fields such as law and medicine.

A commentary published by state media People’s Daily said live-streaming was “not a job that you can do just by preparing some equipment and jokes”.

“Some live-streamers who sell products online have accidentally brought trouble on themselves,” the paper said. “The lesson is profound.” – South China Morning Post

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