China premier vows to quicken property tax reforms

BEIJING Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:30am GMT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will step up property tax reforms and expand a trial scheme of replacing business tax with value-added tax in some industries, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao said on Tuesday.

"We will gradually set up a system to cover both property transactions tax and ownership tax to promote healthy development of the industry," Wen was quoted by the central government portal website, www.gov.cn, as saying.

He did not give details.

The government is relying on administrative curbs to cool housing prices and some analysts have called for market-based measures, such as property taxes, to tackle speculative demand.

Chinese officials have been studying an expansion of its experimental property tax after it kicked off the pilot programme in Shanghai and Chongqing in 2011.

But a senior tax official said on Monday that China may postpone expanding the property ownership tax reform, as it still takes time to work out a plan on which cities to include and the rate to be levied.

The government has extended a pilot value-added tax reform to 10 more cities and provinces from August after it was first launched in Shanghai.

Wen also called for deepening fiscal and tax changes in order to help to narrow the rich-poor gap.

Chinese officials have promised to overhaul the outdated tax system to help relieve the burden on smaller enterprises.

China has been trumpeting the so-called "structural tax cut" policies, or tax cuts for selective sectors, such as smaller firms and household businesses, though some economists have argued that these moves are far from sufficient.

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Kevin Yao; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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