Chinese stars hit with $1.62 billion in 'cold winter' tax crackdown

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have collected more than 11 billion yuan ($1.62 billion) in unpaid taxes from celebrities and entertainment companies since they hit the industry with a crackdown, state media Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese actress Fan Bingbing poses on the red carpet at the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong, China March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Xinhua, citing the national tax bureau and content watchdog, said the campaign, which began in October, had ended and companies and workers had been ordered to correct their tax records.

The most famous star to get caught up in the campaign was actress Fan Bingbing who has 62 million online followers.

She was ordered to pay about $129 million in overdue taxes and fines in October, after a four-month disappearance from the public eye, Xihua reported earlier.

Fan issued an apology after being ordered to pay up, saying she accepted the decision, would overcome “all difficulties” to pay the penalties and would step up supervision of her companies.

Industry insiders have lamented that a “cold winter” has descended on the business since authorities launched the checks, with film projects stalling and investors selling off related company shares.

Huayi Brothers Media Corp 300027.SZ, a company linked to Fan Bingbing, has seen its share price halved since last year, while movie box office revenue growth in the world's second-largest movie market after the United States, slowed last year.

Authorities said the industry should set its mind at rest and focus on work, but added that it would continue to target companies and individuals deemed highly exposed to tax-related risks.

Industry workers should “practise socialist core values ... and strive to be entertainment workers with belief, empathy and sense of responsibility in the new era”, authorities said, according to Xinhua.

($1 = 6.8060 yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Robert Birsel