The purpose of a tax system in any country is to generate revenue for the government, who in turn are to use this money to fund their operations and better serve the public.
Malaysia’s tax system is no different. In Malaysia, income tax is the contributing approximately 66% of the total income, inclusive of corporate tax and personal income tax.
Tax Laws in Malaysia
The primary law governing income tax in Malaysia is the Income Tax Act, enacted in 1967. Some of the most important portions of the Income Tax Act relate to topics such as:
Established with the enactment of the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia Act 1995, Inland Revenue Board (IRB) is the only entity which is legally authorized to impose taxes in Malaysia.
From time to time, the IRB issues guidelines to provide clarification on tax-related issues for which the Income Tax Act does not specify what is to be done in a particular tax-related circumstance and may make amendments if they deem it necessary.
|Technical guidelines||Operational guidelines|
|Information regarding subjects such as:
advance pricing arrangements
|Contains details on the proper procedures in a given circumstance.
Recent operational guidelines issued are about:
Territorial Scope of the Malaysian Tax System
The tax system in Malaysia is territorial with the income tax charged for each year of assessment. Most income sourced from abroad is not liable to tax even if it is received in Malaysia. However, an exception is made in the case of resident companies which carry out specialised businesses, which includes:
Such companies have their income taxed regardless of the source of the income.
Several factors determine the location of the source of income. These factors include but are not limited to the following:
Definition of Income in Malaysian Tax Law
Although the Income Tax Act does not explicitly provide a definition of the word “income”, it nevertheless does set out what income are liable to be taxed.
The Income Tax Act requires the following forms of income to be taxed:
NOTE: In Malaysia, only a person’s chargeable income is liable to tax.
The Income Tax Act also divides income into five different categories:
Tax Resident Status in Malaysia
Taxpayers in Malaysia, whether they live in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, or Sarawak, are either considered to be residents or non-residents. Tax resident status in Malaysia is not contingent on one’s nationality. This means that a foreign expat working in the country via a working visa will hold the tax residency status if they qualify for the criteria of a tax resident in Malaysia.
|Tax Resident||Anyone who has lived and worked in Malaysia for at least 182 days of a given calendar year|
|Non-residents||Those who have lived and worked in Malaysia for between 60 and 182 days of a given calendar year|
|Tax-exempted||Anyone who has lived and worked in Malaysia for fewer than 60 days of a given calendar year|
Entities may also be granted tax resident status in Malaysia. A company or body of persons carrying on a business is considered a tax resident in Malaysia for the basis year for a year of assessment if, at any time during the basis year, the management and control of its business or of any one of its businesses are exercised in Malaysia.
You can learn more about corporate tax here.
What are Tax Rates in Malaysia?
The tax rates for both individuals and companies are listed below:
|SMEs – total capital valued below RM2.5 million||
What are the Tax Exemptions, Deductions, Reliefs, and Rebates Available in Malaysia?
There are instances where certain incomes are exempted from taxation, with most taxpayers in Malaysia eligible for at least one exemption. Some of these tax-exempt incomes include:
Tax deductions are only available to those who are tax residents in Malaysia, it reduces one’s chargeable income and can be used by people who have given certain gifts or made certain donations.
Tax reliefs are set by the IRB. Eligible taxpayers may use tax reliefs to deduct a certain amount of money from their total annual income. Tax reliefs are given to offset the costs of activities which the Malaysian government deems necessary, beneficial, or both. Among the most common tax reliefs include:
Tax rebates are deducted from the actual taxed amount. There are two tax rebates offered:
|For married taxpayers||
|Related to tithes||
Generally, there are 4 types of tax preparers:
- A Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
A person who is licensed to offer accounting services to the public. Some CPAs specialise in tax planning and preparation and are allowed to represent clients on any tax matters.
- Enrolled Agents
A person trained in federal tax matters and is licensed by the Internal Revenue Board and are allowed to represent clients on any tax matters.
- Tax Attorney
A person licensed by the state to practice law and are allowed to represent clients on any tax matters.
- Non-credentialed Tax Preparers
A person who prepares taxes without any professional credentials or certifications from an external organisation.
Amendments can be made to a submitted tax return form depending on when the amendments are/ can be submitted:
Submitting amendment before tax deadline: Submit a letter detailing the mistake(s) made with supporting documents (receipts, invoices, statement, etc) to the responsible branch that handles your tax file.
Submitting amendment within 6 months from tax deadline: Make a self-amendment by submitting an Amended Return Form (ARF) to the responsible branch that handles your tax file. Only taxpayers who submitted their tax returns on time can make a self-amendment.
No later than the last day of February the following year: Delivery of Form EA by employers to employees.
By 30 April the following year: Deadline for filing of Forms BE, BT, M, MT by the person not carrying a business (employees).
By 30 June the following year: Deadline for filing of Form B by the person carrying a business e.g. a sole proprietor.
By 30 June the following year: Deadline for filing of Form P by a partnership excluding limited liability partnerships (LLPs)
It is extremely crucial that tax returns be done properly, accurately, timely and with careful consideration. If errors are detected, the Inland Revenue Board may impose fines of up to 200% of uncharged tax. Late submissions may result in fines of up to 45% of payable tax.