China’s online sales queen Viya fined $210m for tax evasion

BEIJING, Dec 20 (Reuters) – China’s “live streaming queen” has been fined 1.34 billion yuan ($210.16 million) for tax evasion, tax authorities said on Monday.

Internet celebrity Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was fined for concealing personal income and other offenses in 2019 and 2020, according to the tax bureau in southern China’s Hangzhou. .

She then apologized.

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“I am deeply sorry for my violations of tax laws and regulations,” she said on her Weibo account. “I fully accept the penalty imposed by the tax authorities.”

Viya, 36, is known for her ability to sell “anything” via live streaming on the Taobao Live platform. Last year, it sold a rocket launch service for 40 million yuan.

During a recent online shopping festival known as Singles’ Day, she sold products worth a total of 8.5 billion yuan in one evening, according to media reports.

Viya is the latest celebrity live streamer to be caught up in a sweeping crackdown that initially targeted tech monopolies but has since taken aim at private education, social media platforms and celebrity culture.

Prior to the crackdown, tax evasion had already sunk the careers of several well-known figures in the entertainment industry.

Viya, however, represents a new generation of celebrities, whose meteoric rise to fame has been fueled by the equally dizzying growth of China’s e-commerce industry, many aspects of which have come under regulatory scrutiny. .

Two e-commerce live-streaming influencers were reportedly investigated for personal tax evasion last month and jointly fined nearly 100 million yuan. Their live streaming services have since shut down.

Viya was scheduled to host a live stream at 7 p.m. Monday focusing on cosmetics. A check of its Taobao livestream studio showed that a reminder for the event had been deleted.

Late Monday, Viya’s accounts on Weibo, Taobao Live and short-video platform Douyin were disconnected.

The state tax administration issued a notice in September, announcing measures to strengthen tax administration in the entertainment sector, including live streamers.

The bureau said anyone who reports and corrects tax-related wrongdoings would be given a lighter sentence or even exempted from punishment. More than 1,000 people had taken the initiative to pay back taxes, according to state media.

($1 = 6.3762 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing, Eduardo Baptista in Hong Kong; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Robert Birsel and Andrew Heavens

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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David A. Albanese