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China tells celebrities, livestreamers to report tax-related crimes before 2022

The order came days after China’s “queen of livestreaming” was fined $210 million for tax evasion amid a broader crackdown.
Chinese Live Streamer Viya
Viya, known as China’s “queen of livestreaming,” appears on the e-commerce platform Taobao on April 16, 2019, in Hangzhou, China.Chen Zhongqiu / VCG via Getty Images

Chinese provincial authorities have ordered celebrities and livestreamers to report tax-related crimes before 2022, just days after China’s “queen of livestreaming” was fined 1.34 billion yuan ($210 million) for tax evasion.

Top e-commerce livestreamer Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was fined on Monday by the tax bureau in Hangzhou, a city in eastern China, for hiding personal income and other offenses in 2019 and 2020.

On Wednesday, tax officials from China’s most economically prosperous cities and provinces posted identical notices on their websites ordering celebrities and livestreamers to conduct a self-review of any tax-related misdoings, correct these issues, and report to the relevant tax authorities.

“Before the end of 2021, correct tax-related issues and report them proactively to the tax bureau, (which) will lighten, mitigate or exempt tax penalties in accordance with the requirements of the notice,” the notice said.

“If the self-inspection and self-correction are still refused or not thorough, the tax bureau will deal with it seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”

Chinese Live Stream Celebrity Viya Press Conference
Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was fined $210 million this week for tax evasion.VCG via Getty Images

Celebrities and livestreamers are the latest to get caught up in a broad crackdown that initially targeted tech monopolies but has since widened to include private education, social media platforms, and other industries deemed by Beijing to pose an obstacle to its latest goal of reducing economic inequality and achieving “common prosperity.”

Before the crackdown, tax evasion had already sunk the careers of several well-known figures in the entertainment industry. However, Wednesday’s notices highlight the broad-ranging and systematic nature of the “common prosperity” crackdown.

President Xi Jinping has called for China to achieve “common prosperity,” seeking to narrow a yawning wealth gap that threatens the country’s economic ascent and the legitimacy of Communist Party rule.

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Tax authorities that have issued the warning include those from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. Collectively, these cities and provinces make up over half of China’s GDP and host the vast majority of high-earning celebrities and livestreamers in the country.

In September, the central government’s State Taxation Administration issued a notice announcing measures to strengthen tax administration in the entertainment sector, including livestreamers.

Similar promises of lighter punishment and exemptions for those who reported and corrected tax-related misdoings were also made in the September notice. Since then, more than 1,000 people have taken the initiative to pay tax arrears, according to state media.