Taxing times for Jockey Club

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The football betting tax should be raised to enable the government to earn at least HK$5.9 billion in extra income each year, New People's Party lawmaker Adrian Ho King-hong said, ahead of Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po's budget speech on Wednesday.

Ho said increasing the betting tax is one of the methods that can be considered to ensure a balanced budget, since the government's investment in anti-epidemic measures and social support during the pandemic resulted in a huge deficit.

Although the Jockey Club has already thumbed down the suggestion, Ho said the club's three charitable foundations have an accumulative reserve of over HK$100 billion, and paying HK$5.9 billion per year would have little impact on its finances.

He also said the club can introduce new products to increase competitiveness, including betting on basketball and Formula 1 races.

Meanwhile, Carol Liu Zhaohua, president of the Taxation Institute, suggested that the government continue to widen the tax base - including introducing new tax types or levies - since the city's tax system is simple with a narrow tax base, meaning that tax revenue is vulnerable to changes in external factors and fluctuations.

The institute also hoped authorities would provide one-off support for individuals and enterprises in the coming budget and again made a call for handing out HK$5,000 e-vouchers to each eligible person.

Liu estimated that this year's fiscal deficit will exceed HK$100 billion as inflation and geopolitical factors are still affecting the pace of economic recovery despite the gradual restoration of cross-border trade and personnel movement.

She expected the government to implement small-scale and targeted counter-cyclical measures.

Liu said the government should exempt eligible citizens from stamp duties on first-time residential flat purchasing and raise salaries tax allowances to improve people's livelihood.

And tax deductions should be provided to enterprises that hire overseas talents and subsidies could be given to those workers in order to attract and retain them, she said.