China to tax rich more, cap executive pays to cut wealth gap

In a bid to address widening wealth gap, China has unveiled a major plan to reform its income distribution mechanism.

Updated: Feb 06, 2013, 16:12 PM IST

Beijing: In a bid to address widening wealth gap, China has unveiled a major plan to reform its income distribution mechanism, proposing to tax the rich and state units more besides imposing caps on salaries of top managers while increasing lower staff pay.

The reform will focus on increasing residents` income, narrowing income distribution disparity and regulate distribution order, a statement issued by the China`s cabinet, which approved the 35-point blue print, said.

As per the reform plan, the government will work to double the average real income of urban and rural residents by 2020 from the 2010 level and facilitate the poor to enjoy faster income growth.

The reform also targets raising the proportion of residents` income in the overall national income and spending more government funds on social security and employment.

However the statement said, "deepening the income distribution reform is a systematic project that is arduous and complicated and concerns the reallocation of various interests. There is no way to accomplish it overnight".

The income reform plan was approved as China saw its income gap between new rich and poor was yawning, even with its economy emerging as second-largest in the world.

The Gini coefficient, a rich-poor index, reached 0.474 in China in 2012, higher than the warning level of 0.4 set by the United Nations.

The reform plan was announced as wealth gap was identified as major threat to the ruling Communist Party of China`s hold on power.

It came a month ahead of the one-in-a-decade power transfer under which new administration headed by CPC new leader Xi Jinping would take over power from next month replacing Hu Jintao.

The new guidelines offer directions on an extensive range of policy areas such as taxation, subsidies, salary system, financial regulation, household registration and social security.

The guidelines set a target of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line of 2,300 yuan (USD 366) in per capita annual net income at constant 2010 prices by around 80 million as of 2015. That will be a drastic fall from about 128 million in rural areas who were defined as poor in 2011.

According to official estimates China has 150 million
people under the poverty line.

Under the plan farmers will be guaranteed proceeds from transferring their contracted land plots and collect higher revenues from gains in the land value.

The plans aims at officials, state-owned enterprises (SOE) and wealthy individuals in its bid to strengthen regulation of the high-income group, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Rules that demand government officials report their income, real estate assets, investment and family members` jobs will be implemented more strictly, the guidelines said.

SOEs must impose ceilings on payments to their senior management who are appointed by the state and make sure senior staff`s salary growth is slower than the average level for general employees, they said.

The percentage of profits that central SOEs have to hand in to the government will be increased by around 5 percentage points by 2015 from the current level and the added income will go to social security.

The guidelines also proposed keeping the staff scale of central and local governments from growing in the 2011-2015 period and rigorously controlling government spending on receptions, car purchases and driving as well as overseas tours.

To tax the rich more, the government will expand experimental property taxes gradually, collect consumption taxes on more high-end entertainment activities and luxury products, and study imposing inheritance taxes "at an appropriate time".

In the meantime, foreign individuals will no longer be exempt from personal income taxes on stock dividends and bonuses they obtain from foreign-funded enterprises in China, according to the guidelines.