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Chinese pop star in Reinfeldt tax plea

Chinese pop star in Reinfeldt tax plea

Published: 28 Apr 2010 13:40 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Apr 2010 13:40 GMT+02:00

Chinese superstar pop singer Wei Wei has appealed to Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to intervene to settle a dispute with the Swedish tax authorities, which she claims have recently begun seizing her assets.

The Local reported last June on claims from the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) that Wei Wei had neglected to pay income taxes on money earned from concert tours throughout her homeland, where she is one of the country’s biggest stars.

The agency estimated that Wei Wei earned around 29 million kronor ($4 million) per year while resident in Sweden between 2004 and 2008 – income which was never reported to Swedish tax authorities. The agency in June 2009 submitted a request to the County Administrative Court's (Länsrätten) in Stockholm to freeze some 50 million kronor of the singer's assets.

But in her letter to Fredrik Reinfeldt, Wei Wei argues that the court's subsequent rejection of the Tax Agency’s request has not been observed and expresses dismay over what she argues is a lack of respect for the Swedish legal system.

"I learned to love the country bit by bit, but now I feel being abused by the bureaucracy. Simply, because the tax authority does not seem to consider the legal process," Wei Wei writes.

While the court agreed that it was “probable” that Wei Wei had indeed earned money that ought to be taxed in Sweden, it ultimately ruled that the tax agency had failed to provide “enough concrete evidence” to back their claims about Wei Wei’s earnings.

The court claimed that the agency's estimates were based on “information from the internet and the media, including interviews with Wei Wei as well as conversations the Tax Agency had with people who are long-time residents of China”.

Despite the court decision, Wei Wei claims that the tax agency has moved ahead with freezing her assets, to a value of 80 million kronor according to an order she claims has been filed with the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden).

Wei Wei claims that the authority has seized 600,000 kronor from her account in Handelsbanken without prior notice.

"My lawyers are shocked, my Swedish neighbors, partners and colleagues are

feeling bad and insulted on behalf of me," Wei Wei writes.

Wei Wei was married in 1995 to American pianist Michael J Smith, a Swedish resident since 1974, until the couple divorced in 2003. In her letter to the prime minister, Wei Wei declares that she "lived mostly in China and partly in Sweden from 1999-2007" together with her three sons.

She claims that she has paid taxes for the period in question, in China, and argues that a double taxation prevention agreement between the two countries means she has met her obligations.

While living in Stockholm, the singer worked with the likes of Benny Andersson and recorded her song I Want to Fly (the Mandarin version of Where We Are), official song for the 2008 Olympic Sailing City of Qingdao, in the city.

The letter, which is copied to the justice minister Beatrice Ask, finance minister Anders Borg and foreign affairs minister Carl Bildt, ends with the words: "Please help!"

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:23 April 28, 2010 by baishayu
Pop star? It was 30 years ago!
15:28 April 28, 2010 by Essingen
It is indeed worrying if the tax authorities regard themselves as being above the legal system.
16:00 April 28, 2010 by Hauhr
"the authority has taken 600,000 kronor from her account in Handelsbanken"

Can skatteverket (or anyone else) really "take" money from someone's bank account?
17:29 April 28, 2010 by mjennin2
If she is a dual citizen (which it sounds as though she was/is), I'm assuming she already paid income tax on her monies earned in China. But even if she didn't, what business is it of Sweden to tax her on that income, if it wasn't generated in Sweden? Is it a different type of tax other than income?

It's embarrasing that Skatteverket based their estimates on heresay and interviews...and then submitts a request to Länsrätten to freeze 50mm kronor of assets after the presumed offense was only a failure to pay taxes on 29mm kronor, and then eventually 80mm kronor worth of assets were frozen. 80mm? That nearly triples the original amount of 29mm kronor, and I highly doubt she was going to pay a 100% tax on that! Why so much?

Legal systems are so ridiculous. Seriously.
17:41 April 28, 2010 by Localer
as far as i know, China not allowed due citizenship. and she is definitely Swedish on paper. if she is still china citizen, she should had have her money save in her chinese bank account .
17:47 April 28, 2010 by Puffin
Part of the problem is that I think that she may not have been 100% honest when she was trying to 'big up' her pop star status a few years ago which seems to have been more in her headd than reality

I remember her appearing on Allsång på Skansen back in 2008 where she was going on about the millions of record's she sold in the past few years and she also claimed she was going to sing at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing although I don't remember her being there at all !!

So perhaps this has come back to bite her
17:54 April 28, 2010 by teslar
@mjennin2

actually, if you live in Sweden, you have to pay taxes on ALL your income, regardless of where on the planet you generate it. You are allowed to deduct any tax you might already have paid in another country from the total amount owed to Skatteverket, but they get whatever's left.

It's not about where you earn the money - it's about which country's infrastructure, social systems etc you use.
19:20 April 28, 2010 by naderiano
@Hauhr

""the authority has taken 600,000 kronor from her account in Handelsbanken"

Can skatteverket (or anyone else) really "take" money from someone's bank account? "

It doesn't say they took the money, it says they seized the money. Which they can do.
19:52 April 28, 2010 by Puffin
The tax office can freeze her assets in Sweden if they think she is trying to evade taxes - after all she lived in Sweden for 4 or 5 years and had children here etc

Her PR thing was that she was a huge star in China and outsold Madonna ;)
21:06 April 28, 2010 by sissygirl
Maybe she's big in China. I have never heard of her.
23:50 April 28, 2010 by asquil
Skatteverket may proceed to use the services of Kronofogden to seize her property and withhold money in her bank as a precautionary action pending an appeal which they most likely may win if they provide sufficient evidence.

Take note: The district court did not exonerate her from tax evasion. It simply stated that Skatteverket did not provide sufficient evidence.

Skatteverket will have no problems providing such evidence to the appeal court and can take precautionary actions pending the outcome of an appeal.

She should come clean and negotiate a settlement as allowing the case to continue to higher courts will expose her to even more financial losses.

As Tester said, "It's not about where you earn the money - it's about which country's infrastructure, social systems etc you use".

I'm not a fan of Skatteverket and don't pity her either. She was on national TV to boast about her foreign income so she invited the hammer of the tax man
00:01 April 29, 2010 by texasgubbar
This woman is 46 and looks younger than most 26 yo Swedish women.
01:55 April 29, 2010 by Baned
Even if she was bragging about all the records she sold, it's irrelevant if she didn't make any money. What is this really about? The 600,000 kronor that was seized at Handelsbanken or the 50 million kronor they're trying to freeze?

If the district court stated there's not enough evidence for tax evasion, then is it even legal to freeze an individual's assets while undergoing investigation? I thought this kind of thing only happens to companies?

As for assuming her sons are all born here, according to Wiki, her sons were born in the States.
02:02 April 29, 2010 by mjennin2
@teslar

Very interesting, thanks for the clarification!
03:46 April 29, 2010 by jackx123
i had the same problem working in Norway and unfortunately, the tax man does NOT know about the legal system. Once I pointed to them the relevant paragraphs the case was dropped.

It's easy to get blinded by the amount but law is law and double taxation works they way you pay tax at source of income to avoid just what happened to her.

Very sad story about the narrow mindedness of the tax man and indeed will defer more wealth to come back to Sweden
09:40 April 29, 2010 by Decedo
Maybe she should have married an abusive Swede, reported him and let the Swedish migration board deport her.
13:39 April 29, 2010 by Audrian
In most dictatorial societies the tax system is corrupt. The working people pay more tax than the rich who might npt pay tax at all. Somalia presents the worst of all lots. Nobody pays tax in Somalia, because anarchy has reigned! People however pay money to warlords for protection against the crime the warlords would have committed against them if they had not paid them protection money.

Corruption in the western societies is also common. According the Corruption Index, for example, UK and US, are the most corrupt among the most industrialized countries. In the later countries the rich often evade from paying taxes. From time to time they are caught but pardoned.

I think the tax system in Sweden is fairer than most countries in the world, and it is the duty of the citizens to pay tax and expose those who evade from paying taxes.

The tax authorities in Sweden should be firm without being arbitrary, arrogant or malicious.
15:45 April 29, 2010 by suminh100
I've never heard of her but I do sympathise with her predicament. She needs a good tax lawyer and an accountant :)
22:19 May 4, 2010 by NovaLand
I would claim her assets anytime! :P
06:53 July 8, 2010 by habika
This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone.I appreciatethe concern which is been rose. The things need tobe sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be witheveryone.The above thought is smart and doesn't require any further addition.It's perfect thought from my side. A verysmart and diplomatic answer. It's really appreciable and general.

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