Indonesia tells 78 names mentioned in 'Panama Papers' to correct tax reports

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia has started to probe the tax reports of 78 individuals after finding differences between their wealth reports and data from the “Panama Papers”, the head of the country’s tax office said on Thursday.

Mossack Fonseca law firm sign is pictured in Panama City, April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/Files

The country’s finance minister has instructed the tax office to scrutinize names in the data leaked from a Panamanian law firm to chase possible unpaid taxes.

The head of the tax office Ken Dwijugiasteadi told a news press conference that the Panama Papers mentioned 1,010 Indonesian people and 28 firms as having set up shell companies abroad.

Tax officers have combed through around 800 names and found out that 272 of them have tax identifications, he said, adding that they are still reviewing the rest.

Out of those identified, the tax office has issued letters requesting 78 taxpayers to revise their tax reports.

“We have asked them to clarify whether the assets mentioned in the Panama Papers are included in their tax reports,” he said, adding that most people deny having offshore assets, referring to the data obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as “just media reports”.

“But then I attached our data, and then they started to correct their tax reports. If the data still doesn’t match, we will start an investigation,” Dwijugiasteadi said.

He refused to disclose how much money the 78 might owe the government, based on the tax office’s findings.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is facing a sizable revenue shortfall this year as the resource-rich country can no longer rely on commodity-related income.

Dwijugiasteadi, who was appointed in March, has made improving individual compliance his priority this year. There are around 27 million registered taxpayers in Indonesia when there should be more than 120 million eligible to pay, out of Indonesia’s 250 million population.

The government plans to offer a tax amnesty program, giving low rates to previously untaxed assets, to improve people’s compliance. But the controversial plan, which was due to be implemented early this year, has been delayed by parliament. Many analysts say the program might not start until near the end of the year.

Reporting by Hidayat Setiaji; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore