Papua New Guinea
Income Tax Act rewrite
Papua New Guinea's (PNG's) Treasury has released for public consultation the much-anticipated rewrite of the Income Tax Act (the Act). The consultation draft proposed a commencement date of 1 January 2021. Despite no formal commitments from Treasury, recent documentation indicates that a deferral of consultation and implementation of the Act is likely. Discussions indicate that a likely commencement is deferred until 1 January 2022; however, as there has been no further public consultation during the latter part of 2020 or early 2021, it is possible that the date for implementation will be further delayed.
With no further consultation and no comprehensive draft released, the full impact of the rewritten Act will only emerge as further details become available. Despite the rewrite being advertised as an attempt to simplify tax law to enable greater participation, and ultimately greater compliance, in the tax system, a number of design features have permeated the initial draft, including:
- simplifying and consolidating provisions in a more consistent and structured manner
- placing further emphasis on self-assessment
- assuming the application of the legislated, but not yet enacted, Tax Administration Act by removing administration elements from the rewritten Act, and
- proposing to implement a number of policy shifts, including some that were previously unannounced.
A number of the proposed policy shifts that may impact companies include:
- Capital Gains Tax (CGT): The previously announced CGT regime has been narrowed and included. Commencement of a CGT regime will require additional steps beyond the passage of the rewritten Act; however, it is expected to apply to PNG land and interests in companies whereby more than 50% of their assets are PNG land.
- Resources taxation: Whilst ring fencing of project income and expenditure looks to be maintained, changes to depreciation calculations, including deductions for acquisition costs and the reduction in the additional profits tax uplift factor from 15% to 13%, may impact the resources sector. Transitional provisions and how the measures will impact other projects taxed under the existing regime are the subject of further consultation.
- Banking and insurance: Specific provisions have been included that look to allow those in the banking and insurance sectors deductions (subject to caps) for provisions, marking a significant shift from the current Income Tax Act.
- Taxation of employment benefits: The rewritten Act has opened the possibility of revisiting the taxation of employment benefits, in particular housing and motor vehicle benefits, from a ‘prescribed value’ approach to a 'market value' approach (albeit with a long transition period). Previous suggestions to revisit this policy were met with strong resistance from a number of stakeholders.
- Taxation of non-residents: Recent policy changes have sought to rely more heavily on withholding taxes (WHTs), as opposed to income taxes, to collect taxation from non-residents deriving PNG-sourced income. The current draft of the rewritten Act suggests a return to taxation of non-residents in PNG only where a permanent establishment (PE) exists in PNG, with WHTs applying to specific payments of amounts that may be deemed to have a PNG source.
If these are matters you are investigating in relation to your circumstances, then these potential changes should be considered and discussed with a PwC contact.
2021 National Budget
The 2021 National Budget has been handed down. An earlier version of the 2021 Budget was passed by Parliament, but in a parliamentary sitting was subsequently ruled invalid by the PNG Supreme Court. The original 2021 Budget did not contain material changes to the PNG fiscal framework and contained minor administrative changes to give effect to the operation of tax law. The Budget as now passed is expected to be unchanged.
The government continues to flag reform on key aspects of its revenue strategy, including consultation on the introduction of targeted tax regimes in the telecommunication and financial services sectors. Specifics on the proposed regimes have not been provided other than the government will undertake consultation activity in 2021. It is expected that further reform of the tax system will be undertaken in the next few years.