Tax returns and complianceTax ratesResidence rulesTermination of residenceEconomic employer approachTypes of taxable compensationTax-exempt incomeExpatriate concessionsSalary earned from working abroadTaxation of investment income and capital gainsAdditional capital gains tax (CGT) issues and exceptionsGeneral deductions from incomeTax reimbursement methodsCalculation of estimates/prepayments/withholdingRelief for foreign taxesGeneral tax creditsSample tax calculation
All tax information is summarized by Samjong Accounting Corp., the Korea member firm of KPMG International, based on the Ibid.
Tax returns and compliance
When are tax returns due? That is, what is the tax return due date?
31 May of the year following the tax year
What is the tax year-end?
What are the compliance requirements for tax returns in Korea?
Taxpayers who receive only Class A income may not be required to file an annual tax return since their employer is required to withhold payroll taxes monthly, finalize their tax liability, and issue a tax settlement certificate at the end of the tax period. Class A income earners who receive income from other sources, such as Class B income, business income, and rents, must file a tax return of their composite income on or before 31 May of the year following the tax year. There are no official procedures for obtaining extensions of time to file tax returns.
Class B income earners can pay their taxes by either of the following two methods.
- Declare Class B income on a voluntary basis and pay the taxes by 31 May of the year following the tax year.
- Join a taxpayer’s association and pay the required taxes on a current monthly basis through the association that will finalize each member’s income tax liability at the end of the tax year. All association members obtain a 10 percent reduction in the amount of tax payable for timely paid taxes.
If the taxpayer fails to file within the statutory period, then a late filing penalty of 20 percent of tax amount due is assessed. If tax due is paid past the due date, a late payment penalty is assessed. The late payment penalty is calculated in the following way: tax amount due x [0.03 percent x number of days past due date].
In case of residents, salaries received outside of Korea as well as those received within Korea will be taxed in Korea.
In case of non-residents, salaries received outside of Korea as well as those received within Korea will be taxed in Korea as long as they relate to services performed in Korea.
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What are the current income tax rates for residents and non-residents in Korea?
The following graduated income tax rates are applied separately to taxable composite income and retirement income to calculate the tax amount from each source of income. In addition, resident tax of 10 percent of the total income tax amount is assessed.
Income tax table for 2013
However, expatriates can elect to apply a 17 percent flat tax2 rate to total Korea-sourced employment income.
Tax rate for non-residents is the same as that for residents.
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For the purposes of taxation, how is an individual defined as a resident of Korea?
For income tax purposes, a resident is an individual who is domiciled or resident in Korea for one year or more. Thus, an individual will be deemed a resident if his/her occupation requires him/her to reside in Korea for one year or more, or if it appears that residence is his/her intent in view of his/her family, financial, and occupational status in Korea. Temporary absences from Korea are considered an integral part of the period of residence.
A non-resident is simply an individual other than a resident.
Is there, a de minimus number of days rule when it comes to residency start and end date? For example, a taxpayer can’t come back to the host country for more than 10 days after their assignment is over and they repatriate.
There is not such a specific rule in Korea when it comes to the definition of residents.
What if the assignee enters the country before their assignment begins?
Even if the assignee enters Korea before their assignment begins, the tax obligation for Korean-sourced income does not occur as long as he/she does not start to work until the actual date of assignment. The tax on the income earned is assessed at the actual starting date of assignment.
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Termination of residence
Are there any tax compliance requirements when leaving Korea?
Taxpayers who leave Korea permanently must file a final tax return prior to their departure, based upon a tax year starting from 1 January to the date of departure.
What if the assignee comes back for a trip after residency has terminated?
In a case the former assignee comes back to Korea for a trip, there is no tax obligation for the assignee unless the trip is work-related.
Do the immigration authorities in Korea provide information to the local taxation authorities regarding when a person enters or leaves Korea?
No. Generally the immigration authorities do not provide any information to the tax authorities.
Will an assignee have a filing requirement in the host country after they leave the country and repatriate?
Yes, if there is any Korea-sourced taxable income.
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Economic employer approach3
Do the taxation authorities in Korea adopt the economic employer approach to interpreting Article 15 of the OECD treaty? If no, are the taxation authorities in Korea considering the adoption of this interpretation of economic employer in the future?
Yes. If the remuneration paid to the expatriate worker stationed less than 183 days in the host country (that is Korea) is borne by the host entity as a result of the recharge from the home entity, the host entity should withhold income tax and file withholding tax return with the Korean tax authority.
Are there a de minimus number of days before the local taxation authorities will apply the economic employer approach? If yes, what is the de minimus number of days?
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Types of taxable compensation
What categories are subject to income tax in general situations?
The following is a brief listing of items that may form part of an expatriate’s compensation package that are considered taxable earned income. This listing is not intended to be comprehensive:
- salaries and wages, bonuses, allowances, and other compensation for services rendered
- termination payments other than qualified severance pays (that is retirement income), such as retirement bonuses for meritorious service
- reimbursement of expenses related to entertainment, confidential representation, and taxes without a clear business purpose
- fixed monthly or annual allowances for transportation or travel
- reimbursements for transportation or travel where proof of expense is not presented
- allowances for housing, food, clothing, health, family, inflation, overtime, and so on
- overseas allowances received by expatriates
- insurance premiums paid by the employer for the benefit of the employee
- wages paid in-kind, at market value.
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Are there any areas of income that are exempt from taxation in Korea? If so, please provide a general definition of these areas.
The following items generally are considered to be either non-taxable reimbursements or tax-exempt earned income. This listing is not intended to be comprehensive:
- meal allowance up to KRW100,000 per month
- reimbursement of vehicle operating expenses up to KRW200,000 per month when an employee uses his/her own vehicle for business purposes
- cost of uniforms provided to those required by law to wear uniforms
- cost of work clothes worn only at the workplace by employees in certain industries
- reimbursements for social membership and entertainment expenses incurred for business purposes
- qualified employee’s education fees paid by the employer
- cost of housing of the expatriate employee, paid by the employer directly on behalf of the employee where the rental contract was entered into between employer and landlord.
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Are there any concessions made for expatriates in Korea?
The following special rules are available to expatriates.5
- Foreigners can elect either of the following two methods for the calculation of their employment income tax.
- Apply a 17 percent flat tax rate6 to total Korea-sourced employment income (no deductions or credits are allowed for this purpose).
- Use the existing regular method of tax calculation under which graduated rates ranging between 6 percent and 38 percent are applied to adjusted taxable income that has been derived by subtracting applicable deductions and exemptions from gross income (the tax amount so calculated is further reduced by applicable tax credits to arrive at the final tax due amount under the regular method).
In order to make the election for the 17 percent flat rate, taxpayers should file an application when the montly payroll withholding tax return or year-end payroll tax reconciliation is performed or when the annual composite income tax return is filed. The montly payroll withholding tax return, year-end tax reconciliation and the annual composite income tax return are due 10th day of the following month, 10 March and 31 May of the year following the tax year, respectively.
- Wages received by an expatriate sent to Korea under a governmental agreement.
- 50 percent tax exemption for wages received by an expatriate furnishing service under a technology inducement contract as prescribed by the Foreign Capital Inducement Law, or under an engineering contract approved by the Engineering Technology Promotion Law. The exemption applies for two years from the date of employment (For this purpose the employment should start on or before 31 December 2014).
- 50 percent tax exemption for wages received by an expatriate technician furnishing services to a domestic company or person, if such wages are received within two years of the date of employment (For this purpose the employment should start on or before 31 December 2014). The expatriate technician must have had five years’ work experience or three years’ experience with a bachelor’s degree or above. The expatriate technician must have a contract to work in a specified industry.
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Salary earned from working abroad
Is salary earned from working abroad taxed in Korea? If so, how?
Where days worked outside Korea are considered to be an integral part of the period of residence for an expatriate, the taxable salary of the expatriate may not be reduced by allocating income to working days spent abroad on business trips.
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Taxation of investment income and capital gains
Are investment income and capital gains taxed in Korea? If so, how?
Capital gains from the sale or transfer of land, buildings, or rights thereto, and stocks and other assets specifically listed in the pertinent Presidential Enforcement Decree, are subject to a 6 percent to 38 percent graduated capital gains tax. Taxpayers subject to forced property sales under legal or bankruptcy proceedings may obtain tax relief under certain conditions, and capital gains arising from certain transfers, exchange, and government appropriation of farmland are tax exempt. Gains from the sale of one residence per household are generally exempt from capital gains tax if the taxpayer who owns only one residence has held the residence for three years or more . Owners of luxury residences are required to pay taxes on gain related to excess space deemed luxurious under relevant law. Luxury residences are houses or apartments that have a value of at least KRW900 million.
Capital gains are calculated by deducting the original purchase price, capital improvements, a basic deduction of KRW2.5 million, special deductions, and other necessary expenses from the sales price.
Special deductions are available to encourage long-term holding of properties as follows (Applicable only to transfer of real estates).
|3 - 4 years
10 to 12 (increased by 2 for each year)
|5 - 10 years
15 to 30 (increased by 3 for each year)7
Gains from the transfer of securities by a non-resident are subject to a withholding tax of 10 percent of the sales proceeds. However, where the acquisition value of securities can be confirmed obviously, the amount of tax withheld is the lower of the following two amounts: 10 percent of the sales proceeds or 20 percent of the gain on the sale.
Capital gains tax is charged using either flat rates or a progressive schedule, depending on the category of assets. The rates for tax year 2012 are as follows.
|Sale of real property (commercial or residential) held less than one year
|Sale of real property (commercial or residential) held for one year or more but less than two years
|Residential house of a taxpayer whose household owns two or more houses
||50 to 60|
|Sale of real property (commercial or residential) owned by the taxpayer but not registered
|Capital gains arising from sale of shares in unlisted companies
||20 (30 if sale by a major shareholder)|
For real property other than the ones described earlier that is registered in the taxpayer’s name and has been held for two years or more, the following rates apply.
Expatriates deemed residents are subject to Korean tax on their worldwide income, including their investment income. However, tax residents in Korea of foreign nationality who have had domicile or place of residence in Korea for five years or less in aggregate in the previous ten years ending on the last date of the tax year concerned, are not subject to Korean income tax in relation to their foreign-source income attributable to that tax year unless the income is paid in or remitted to Korea. Interest income paid by financial institutions and dividend income paid by public companies generally are subject to the separate taxation rule (that is taxes due on these sources of income are calculated separately from those for composite income). The tax on the interest and dividend income subject to separate taxation is withheld at the source at a rate of 15.4 percent (inclusive of the resident tax), which is a final tax. Interest and dividends paid to non-residents are subject to a 22 percent withholding tax (inclusive of the resident tax). However, interest income arising from bond issued by the government or local authority and local company is subject to a 15.4 percent withholding tax including resident surtax. Withholding tax rates may be reduced under the provision of double taxation treaties.
When stock option is exercised, income tax and social taxes will be imposed.
The gain on exercise (difference between the exercise price and the fair market value of the stock on the date of exercise) will be treated as earned income and subject to income tax. The income will normally be classified as Class B income.8 However, if certain conditions set forth in Article 19 of the Presidential Enforcement Decree to the Corporate Income Tax Law are satisfied, the associated costs recharged to a local company can be deducted on its corporate income tax return; in such a case (i.e., corporate tax deduction is claimed by the local company), the income will be re characterized as Class A income.
|Other (if applicable)
Income denominated in foreign currency should be converted into Korean Won at the standard exchange rate of the date the income is received. Foreign exchange gains or losses are not separately considered as income or loss.
Gains from the sale of one residence per household generally are exempt from capital gains tax if the taxpayer who owns only one residence has held the residence for three years or more.
Owners of luxury residences are required to pay taxes on gain related to excess space deemed luxurious under relevant law. Luxury residences are houses or apartments that have a value of at least KRW900 million.
Not applicable. Even if any capital losses occur as a result of investment in the properties or stocks subject to capital gains tax, the related tax return should be filed with the tax authority. Capital gain/loss is taxed separately from the other two types of income (that is composite income and retirement income).
In general, personal use items are not subject to income tax.
Property acquired in a manner of donation or gift are subject to gift tax. The applicable tax rate is 10 percent to 50 percent by taxable income bracket.
Residents or non-residents who acquire gift properties are required to file a tax return within three months from the end of the month in which the gift is received.
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Additional capital gains tax (CGT) issues and exceptions
Are there additional capital gains tax (CGT) issues in Korea? If so, please discuss?
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General deductions from income
What are the general deductions from income allowed in Korea?
A number of deductions are available to a resident depending upon the type of income and his/her family status.
Every resident and non-resident is entitled to a deduction from his/her wage and salary income. The amount of the deduction is dependent on the amount of wages or salaries earned. The deduction is computed as follows.
||But not over KRW
A resident who has composite income may deduct personal exemptions that are categorized as basic and additional. These are deducted first from composite income.
|Female head of household or dual income earner
|Child of six years of age or below
|Newly borne or adopted child
||1,000,000 (for second child); 2,000,000 (each for third child and after)|
The spouse exemption is available to a resident provided the spouse lives with and is supported by the resident and that the spouse’s annual adjusted taxable income does not exceed KRW1,000,000.
The dependent exemption may be claimed for each lineal descendent or foster child of the resident aged 20 or below, and for each lineal ascendant of the resident or his/her spouse who is aged 60 or more who lives with and is supported by the resident. The dependent’s annual adjusted taxable income must not exceed KRW1,000,000.
An additional elderly dependent exemption may be claimed if the resident, spouse, or a dependent living with and supported by the resident is 70 or older.
An additional disabled exemption may be claimed if the resident, spouse, or a dependent living with and supported by the resident is a handicapped person.
Retirement income received from an employer is reduced by the following two special deductions to arrive at the taxable retirement income:
- 40 percent of an employee’s retirement income
- the sum of a basic deduction and an additional deduction each of which vary based on the years of service as shown below.
|Less than 5 years
||300,000 x SY
|5 to 10 years
||500,000 x (SY minus 5 years)|
|10 to 20 years
||800,000 x (SY minus 10 years)|
|More than 20 years
||1,200,000 x (SY minus 20 years)|
The tax on taxable retirement income is computed as follows.
(Taxable retirement income/Service years) x Tax rates x Service years
The tax rates applied in the earlier formula are the same as the graduated rates applied to the taxable composite income.
The following deductions are allowed to a resident with earned income.
- Insurance premium deductions are allowed up to KRW1 million.
- Premiums paid by workers under the National Health Insurance Law and Employment Insurance Law are deductible fully.
- Qualified education expenses incurred by and on behalf of the taxpayer are deductible fully.
- Education expenses, excluding graduate school fees incurred for children, brothers, sisters, adopted children, and the spouse of the employee, provided the individual qualifies as a dependent: partially deductible. Deduction is limited to KRW9 million for education expenses incurred for college, and KRW3 million for education expenses incurred for high school, junior high school, elementary school, and kindergarten.
- Medical expenses deduction of KRW7 million or, the cost of actual medical expenses minus 3 percent of the total amount of compensation, whichever amount is smaller. (Alternatively, the standard amount specified in the pertinent regulation for non-wage-and-salary earners.) However, the deduction limit of KRW7 million is not applicable to medical expenses incurred for the taxpayer, disabled persons, or those aged 65 or older.
- Credit/debit card usage deduction: Credit card usage deduction is available for the aggregate personal expenditure billed within Korea on Korean credit cards of a taxpayer or his dependents that exceed 25 percent of his gross income (“eligible amount”). The deductible amount is calculated in the following manner, subject to the combined maximum deduction of KRW3 million per annum:
- credit card/official cash receipts: 20 percent of eligible amount
- debit card/pre-paid cash cards/card usage for traditional market : 30 percent of eligible amount. As for 30 percent of traditional market card expenditure or KRW 1,000,000 is added to the maximum deduction amount.
A taxpayer who does not want to itemize the special deductions may simply deduct a standard deduction of KRW1 million instead. In addition, 100 percent of an employee’s contribution to the National Pension Scheme is deductible.
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Tax reimbursement methods
What are the tax reimbursement methods generally used by employers in Korea?
Current year gross-up.
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Calculation of estimates/prepayments/withholding
How are estimates/prepayments/withholding of tax handled in Korea? For example, Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG), and so on.
Where the compensation is classified as Class A income (that is compensation paid or borne by a Korean company), monthly payroll tax withholding is required. The monthly payroll taxes should be remitted to the tax office by the 10th day of the month following the month in which the compensation is paid out.
There is no installment payment or withholding requirement for the other class of earned income, Class B income (that is compensation paid by a foreign company without cost charge back to Korea). Tax due on Class B income can be paid by either of the following two methods:
- declare Class B income and pay the taxes by filing an annual tax return by 31 May of the year following the tax year
- join a taxpayer’s association and pay the required taxes on a monthly basis through the association.
When are estimates/prepayments/withholding of tax due in Korea? For example: monthly, annually, both, and so on.
If Class A income, the withholding taxes should be remitted to the tax office by the 10th day of the month following the month in which the compensation is paid out. If Class B income, there is no estimated tax or withholding tax requirement.
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Relief for foreign taxes
Is there any Relief for Foreign Taxes in Korea? For example, a foreign tax credit (FTC) system, double taxation treaties, and so on?
For those residents who are liable for non-Korean income taxes, a credit for tax paid abroad is available. However, the credit may not exceed the amount derived from multiplying the Korean income tax due by the following ratio: taxable income on which foreign tax credit is claimed divided by the total amount of taxable income.
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General tax credits
What are the general tax credits that may be claimed in Korea? Please list below.
Certain tax credits may be claimed against the taxpayer’s regular tax liability. The following are examples of commonly claimed credits:
- earned income tax: all employment income earners are eligible to claim the credit up to KRW500,000
- taxpayer’s association: all taxpayer’s association members obtain 10 percent credit for taxes timely paid by the monthly due dates
- contribution made to political parties: up to KRW100,000.
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Sample tax calculation9
This calculation assumes a married taxpayer (a foreigner) resident in Korea with two children whose three-year assignment begins 1 January 2012 and ends 31 December 2014. The taxpayer’s base salary is USD100,000 and the calculation covers three years.
|Moving expense reimbursement
|Interest income from non-local sources
Exchange rate used for calculation: USD1.00 = KRW1,088.9 as of February 2013.
- All earned income is attributable to local sources.
- Bonuses are paid at the end of each tax year, and accrue evenly throughout the year.
- Interest income is not remitted to Korea.
- The company car is used for business and private purposes and originally cost USD50,000.
- The employee is deemed resident throughout the assignment.
- Tax treaties and totalization agreements are ignored for the purpose of this calculation.
Calculation of taxable income
|Days in Korea during year
|Earned income subject to income tax
|Net housing allowance
|Moving expense reimbursement
|Total earned income
|Total taxable income
Calculation of tax liability10
|Taxable income as above
|Korean tax thereon
|Earned income tax credit
|Foreign tax credits
|Total Korean tax
1National Tax Service, March 2012.
2The rate is 18.7 percent including resident tax. Flat tax rate is subject to a sunset clause and it can be applied to income earned on or before 31 December 2014.
3Certain tax authorities adopt an ‘economic employer’ approach to interpreting Article 15 of the OECD model treaty which deals with the Dependent Services Article. In summary, this means that if an employee is assigned to work for an entity in the host country for a period of less than 183 days in the fiscal year (or, a calendar year of a 12-month period), the employee remains employed by the home country employer but the employee’s salary and costs are recharged to the host entity, then the host country tax authority will treat the host entity as being the "economic employer" and therefore the employer for the purposes of interpreting Article 15. In this case, Article 15 relief would be denied and the employee would be subject to tax in the host country.
4For example, an employee can be physically present in the country for up to 60 days before the tax authorities will apply the ‘economic employer’ approach.
5Flat tax rate is subject to a sunset clause and it can be applied to income earned on or before 31 December 2014.
6In addition to the income tax, taxpayers are also liable for resident tax. Therefore, the overall flat rate will be 18.7 percent inclusive of resident tax. For the same reason, the overall graduated rates range between 6.6 percent and 41.8 percent under the regular method of tax calculation.
7Higher deductions are available for the main home of a taxpayer who owns no other residential property. In such a case, the applicable deduction rates range between 24 percent and 80 percent.
8Earned income derived from an equity-based compensation plan of a foreign related company used to be classified as Class B income regardless of the costs being recharged to the local entity. The reason for this was the corporate tax deduction was not allowed for such recharged costs at the local company. Under the terms of the revised corporate income tax regulations dated 18 February 2010, such recharged costs can be deducted from the local entity’s taxable income if the conditions set forth in Article 19 of the Presidential Enforcement Decree to the Corporate Income Tax Law are satisfied. Class B income is not subject to payroll tax withholding whereas Class A income is subject to the mandatory income tax and social securities withholding. The withholding and reporting obligation is imposed on the local employer who needs to report and remit the taxes by the 10th day of the month following the month in which the taxable event occurs.
9Sample calculation generated by Samjong Accounting Corp., the Korea member firm of KPMG International, based on the Ibid.
10Flat tax rates are applied for years 2011 to 2013 since it resulted in lower tax liability.