I have several complicated questions about the scope of gaofei (9B) income, having read every post about this topic on the forum at least a couple of times. (I’d particularly appreciate hearing what @yyy and @tando think, on the basis of their previous posts, but all input welcome.)
As a starting point, Article 4 of the Income Tax Act:
Income tax on the following categories of income shall be exempted:
23. Individual income derived from written articles, copyright books, musical compositions, musical productions, dramas, cartoons, or as remuneration for speeches and lectures on an hourly basis. However, the total amount of such income for the whole year shall not exceed NT$ 180,000;
Question 1: The language of the act seems ambiguous here – does “on an hourly basis” refer to just speeches and lectures, or does it apply to all of the preceding items as well? In other words, would income derived from written articles etc. only be covered if paid on an hourly basis, or is it also covered if paid on the basis of, say, a fixed fee relating to the number of words?
Question 2: Is anyone certain whether editing falls under the scope of gaofei at all? The consensus from previous threads appears to be that it does, whereas @tando suggested that it might not in a previous reply to me ages ago. The three specific situations I’d be interested in are (i) editing scientific manuscripts (on which my name wouldn’t appear), (ii) writing news articles (on which it would), and (iii) editing news articles (on which it wouldn’t).
Question 3: I found a couple of official sites (here and here) where the quoted text above is followed by “for which each payment does not exceed NT$5,000”, but both of those appear to specifically refer to non-residents – notably, this restriction doesn’t appear in the Income Tax Act itself. So, does it actually apply to residents as well, or only to non-residents?
Question 4: The NT$180k limit – would I be correct in assuming that any gaofei income above this value is taxed at the normal rate while the first NT$180k is exempt (as opposed to exceeding this limit meaning that the gaofei exemption can’t be applied at all – again, the wording seems a bit ambiguous). Or…would the excess be classified as professional practice income or something and be taxed at a much higher rate?
Question 5: Is the gaofei exemption limited to work paid in Taiwan and labeled accordingly as 9B during payment, or would it also include work done for foreign companies with no presence in Taiwan? In other words, can something legitimately be claimed as gaofei during filing if it wasn’t paid in Taiwan and labeled as 9B by the employer?
Question 6:@yyy you suggested in a previous post that gaofei is “non-reportable” – is that really true, or shouldn’t it still be reported? This category of income is included in the filing software:
Thanks in advance for any responses – I realize that these are complicated questions that maybe nobody knows definitive answers to. I submitted my tax return earlier today with everything under “income derived outside the ROC” (5F), but I’m just wondering now whether I should have done it differently and tried to claim the gaofei exemption for some of the work. It looks like I’ll need to head to the tax office in the next couple of weeks anyway to get them to accept my documentation and I’ll probably query this with them then, but just wanted to see if anyone knew some of the answers in advance.
I don’t have any valid knowledge on this topic, and have no certain input, but just post some information I found on internet and think somehow related. Two letters from taxation office are on translation work, but might relate to editor work too.
Taiwan Finance and Taxation Letter No. 35590 [The remuneration for the firm to hire an individual to write a translation is not a cost] issued by taxation office says
Law firms or translation agencies hire individuals to write and translate patents or other documents for the execution of business or business needs. The remuneration paid is not a manuscript fee, but should be general labor remuneration, and income tax is levied on salary income.
Taiwan Finance and Taxation Letter No. 861880788 [Non-employment-based translation review review and revision fees are of the nature of the manuscript fee] says
Translation fees obtained by individuals for translating books and documents, as well as remuneration for revisions, additions, deletions, and adjustments to the text of the manuscript, such as manuscript revision fees, review fees, review fees, etc., except for those obtained based on employment relationship, which are salary income Due to the nature of the manuscript fee, the provisions of Article 4, Section 23 of the Income Tax Law can be applied, and the fixed amount is exempt from income tax.
List of various types of income tax exemption / taxable and withholding on nhu.edu.tw site
Remuneration for performing business 9B
Translation review fee, review fee, writing fee, editing fee (Article 4, paragraph 23 of the Income Tax Law / Implementation Rules of the Income Tax Law, Article 8-5 / Ministry of Finance 86.02.26 Taiwan Finance and Taxation Letter No. 861880788)
1 The individual is not based on the relationship between the client and the servant, but is entrusted to translate the book and publish it, or to review the manuscript
2 Refers to the remuneration for articles that can be modified, added, deleted, or adjusted
The above letters and list are originally in Chinese and translated by Google.
Customers/employers are exempted from withdrawing tax if they pay no more than 5000 to non-residents. To residents, it was 20000ntd. I’m not sure if it is still so.
people who get the income maybe should pay tax, if it is not withdrawn already.
180,000 NTD are exempted from 9B income.
If it is 9B, the tax rate for 9B is applied to the exceeding part. If it is not 9B, a rate for the category is applied. I haven’t done a calculation so this is not sure, but depending on the total amount of income, salary category might give you less tax. I guess even if it is a one-time contract, it could be an employment relationship and the remuneration could be a salary.
I read that as meaning only the 講演 – speeches and lectures – need to be paid for on an hourly basis in order to qualify. (How many novelists are paid by the hour?) The fact that the Enforcement Rules of the ITA sever the last part of the list from the rest of it supports this interpretation.
For a law firm or translation agency hiring an individual to write or translate patents or other documents for the needs of business or professional practice, the remuneration paid is not in the category of gaofei and should be categorized as ordinary provision-of-labor remuneration, income tax being payable according to [the relevant provisions for] salary income.
Note the wording: 聘請 (hire), similar to 聘僱 (which implies hiring for employment) but apparently lacking an official definition. Also note that it says nothing about publication, implying that these documents would generally not be published.
This is the one I was thinking of in the other thread:
For a public or private organization, group or enterprise or a school at any level, which holds classes or conducts training courses, seminars, or other activities of a similar nature, and which hires teaching personnel to teach the courses, the hourly fees thus paid are in the category of what the [Income Tax] Act Art. 14 Par. 1 Category 3 calls salary income. Such teaching personnel are not limited to the status of professor (including associate professor, lecturer, assistant professor etc.) or teacher [or instructor].
Again, it says these people are 聘請 by the educational institutions, and it goes further this time, characterizing them as 人員, which tends to be synonymous with employee or worker.
For an individual’s translation fees obtained due to translation of books/documents, as well as per-word fees for revising, adding/deleting, or adjusting the text of a draft, such as revision fees, review fees, examination fees etc., other than income obtained based on an employment relationship and thus categorized as salary income, it is of the nature of gaofei and can be subjected to the income tax exemption of the provisions of Income Tax Act Art. 4 Subpar. 23, for a certain amount.
This time it’s very clear: if the writing or editing is performed as part of an employment contract, it doesn’t count as gaofei for income tax purposes.
These three MOF letters are from 1979, 1985, and 1997 respectively, which suggests a gradual movement towards aligning the concept of 薪資所得 (salary income) with the concepts of 僱傭契約 (employment contracts) and 勞動契約 (labor contracts), though still leaving some wiggle room for other types of 勞務契約 (contracts for the provision of labor, including independent contracting) to be treated as producing salary income in some cases. Ergo, if the tax office thinks a business entity is paying you as if you were an employee (even a part-time one), even if the labor department doesn’t think so, the tax office can still deem the relevant income salary income, though I think in most cases if you’re truly not an employee the tax office will agree that the relevant income is not salary income.
If you have a publication contract (出版契約) as in Civil Code Art. 515, I think you should be safe.
I just called the toll-free number. For the sake of posterity, this is an edited summary of part of the conversation.
Me: What counts as gaofei here − what is the scope of this category?
Tax office: Usually, if the income is in Taiwan, it’s easy. The publisher will just issue the money and indicate the kind of income. So if they think it’s gaofei, where you provide something, you write articles etc., then they will tell the tax bureau that this is gaofei.
Me: So does this only apply to employers in Taiwan? Because obviously employers outside Taiwan don’t have any way to file the tax under 9B.
TO: So… [hesitant] I think that is applicable to income derived from overseas as well, but because we don’t have the channel to see it, you need to provide something that we can understand it is applicable under 9B gaofei. It means probably kind of invoices, contracts, whatever you have. I can’t really tell you what you need to provide, but you need to tell us it is a certain kind of income that is under the scope of gaofei. I’m not sure what that is, actually.
Me: So I think if I write a book, for example, this is definitely gaofei, yeah?
TO: Yeah, that’s for sure, yeah.
Me: How about if I edit scientific manuscripts, so this is like somebody in Japan, let’s say, they write a manuscript, I edit it and improve the English, ermm…
TO: Ah…kind of translation?
Me: Yeah, kind of…translating bad English to good English, let’s say.
TO: Hmmmmm [even more hesitant]. I think you will be under that as well too, because you don’t really have a contract with that person, or you’re not an employee.
Me: Correct. It’s not an employee/employer relationship, it’s like a freelance relationship, yeah.
TO: Usually for people, for this kind of income, we do have like a really huge range, you can just claim it, and then issue some kind of document where we can see, oh okay, whether it’s from the e-mail between you two or just the claim for yourself, and then you give us kind of a list or income description you wrote yourself, I think we’ll accept it.
Me: And how about for writing news articles, especially online news articles, so that’s something I’ve written, or it’s been translated and I’ve edited it…would this also fall under gaofei, or is it only for scientific/academic manuscripts?
TO: Whichever manuscript you’re doing is under the scope [interrupts herself to tell me there’s a 10-minute limit per phone call]…as far as what you tell me, I think it’s under the scope, so you can just mention it and write a list for us.
Me: So that is for up to NT$180,000 per year. What happens above NT$180,000 per year? So if the total was, let’s say, NT$500,000, how is it taxed?
TO: The rest [500,000−180,000=320,000] should be 70% is your income. So if you don’t have anything else, for 70% is NT$224,000. If you’re a resident, you stay in Taiwan more than 183 days, then with this income you don’t need to pay anything actually. [I think she misspoke here, but we subsequently clarified this as NT$224,000 minus the standard exemption (88,000) and standard deduction (120,000) to give NT$16,000 taxable income, taxed at the standard rate of 5%.]
Me: So, what I was concerned about there, the tax rate on this, does it count as professional practice income, which I think is 18% or 20%, or is it just the regular 5%?
TO: [It got a bit confusing here, with her apparently not knowing what I was referring to and some discussion about resident vs. non-resident, but the gist of it, to my understanding, was that the 5% rate would probably apply here.]
Me: So you mentioned the NT$88,000 exemption and the NT$120,000 standard deduction, does the NT$200,000 special deduction for salary and wages also apply here, or because 9B is not salary and wages, this deduction doesn’t apply?
TO: Yeah, they are not.
Me: So actually then, if the situation is maybe this is gaofei, maybe it’s salary and wages…
TO: Either way. Once you think it is gaofei, then NT$180,000 is deducted, then you don’t have the special deduction for salary and wages. And if you just regard it as a salary then it’s NT$200,000 deduction.
Me: …so either way it’s about the same – one way it’s a NT$180,000 deduction, one way it’s a NT$200,000 deduction, so not a big difference. [Turns out I was wrong here, because this doesn’t take account of the 30% deduction after subtracting the NT180,000, which apparently makes quite a big difference as the total income increases – see below.]
Me: Would it be a problem if my total income is, like, NT$600,000, I file it all as gaofei? [I didn’t phrase this very well, but what I was getting at is whether filing all/most of my income as 9B and having little or no actual “salary” income would be viewed as problematic by the tax office.]
TO: It depends on what kind of documents you gave us actually. If you file it as salary, then we’re going to ask for the salary documents. And if you think it is gaofei, then we’ll probably ask you for more description or supporting documents to let us know it is under the scope of gaofei. –End of conversation.–
Yes, I think this is a valid point – in the extreme case of trying to declare everything as 9B rather than salary, it seems that the special deduction for salary and wages (NT$200k) would simply be replaced by the gaofei exemption (NT$180k plus 30% of the excess deducted), such that the difference isn’t that great. I think I was wrong about this. For example, assuming a total income of, say, NT$750k:
As salary: 750,000 − 88,000 (exemption) − 120,000 (standard deduction) − 200,000 (special deduction for salary and wages) = 342,000 taxable income → NT$17,100 tax (5%)
As 9B: 750,000 − 180,000 (gaofei exemption) = 570,000 non-exempt income → 399,000 (70% of that, due to 30% non-itemized deduction), then subtracting 88,000 (exemption) and 120,000 (standard deduction) gives 191,000 taxable income → NT$9,550 tax (5%)
If anyone sees a problem with my maths here, feel free to correct me, but this is based on the calculation done by the tax lady and the deductions she said would apply in this case.
My takeaway from all this (which I may change my mind about in the next few hours or when I go to the tax office to take my documents) is that I may just leave everything filed under salary income derived outside the ROC (5F) rather than trying to claim it’s 9B. I think I could plausibly claim that some of the income is 9B and less plausibly claim that all of it is…but I suspect that proving that might be onerous…
I’m not sure about the math there (not really paying attention to the numbers).
Treating any gaofei income beyond the first $180k as professional practice income is what’s called for in ITA Enforcement Rules Art. 8-5 Par. 3 (quoted above), but like I said it’s possible for the tax office to deem something salary income if it thinks the right boxes are ticked, and your call center lady seems to agree, even if she words it a bit differently.
I say just follow the rules to the best of your ability, and if the tax office finds it too confusing, politely tell them it’s their problem because the rules are part of their mandate, not yours. If they really do find it too complicated to distinguish different kinds of overseas income based on emails and invoices, it’s up to them (or the legislature) to find a proper solution.