Korea to expand tax benefits for ship fund investments, shipbuilding

2023.11.29 10:52:01 | 2023.11.29 10:53:36

[Photo by Lee Chung-woo]이미지 확대

[Photo by Lee Chung-woo]

The South Korean government is mulling the expansion of tax benefits for individual ship fund investors with a lower dividend tax rate to revive the sluggish shipping industry. The move aims to increase the fund size by offering greater tax benefits to investors to eventually help boost shipping activities including ship construction and operation.

The proposed tax incentive will likely be up for discussion at an upcoming economic ministerial meeting led by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho in early December 2023.

According to the shipping industry on Tuesday, ship funds have shrunk sharply since 2016. Analysts attribute the decline to the elimination of tax benefits for individual investors since 2015, which deprived them of the incentive to invest, as well as the impact of the Hanjin Shipping Co. bankruptcy in 2016.

Ship funds raised new funds worth 1.09 trillion won ($840.69 million) in 2015, but the figure was a mere 827 billion won per year on average between 2016 and 2022 and the more than 20 percent drop was largely led by a sharp decline in the private sector. The private share of the funds fell 93.2 percent to an average of 63.9 billion won a year between 2016 and 2022 from 939.3 billion won in 2015. The number of private funds also dipped to four from 11 during the same period.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries is also examining measures to increase tax credits for new ship orders, according to sources. Mid-sized shipping companies that build new ships will also receive a 5 percent tax credit as part of the government’s goal to encourage new investment from shipping companies to revive the shipping industry.

At present, only small and medium-sized shipping companies are eligible for tax credits through the investment tax credit system. “There are not many cases where small and mid-sized shipping companies issue orders for new ships,” a shipping industry official said. “The tax credit system needs to be more realistic.”

The government’s efforts for expanding tax benefits come amid a recent recession in the shipping industry.

The Shanghai Container Freight Index (SCFI), an indicator of freight rates of international container ships, stood at 993.21 on Friday, down 80.6 percent from its record high of 5109.6 in January 2022. But tax authorities are known to have reservations about these measures given the tax revenue shortage.

By Lee Hee-jo, Choi Jieun, and Han Yubin

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