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China: Around The Nation

China’s online hostesses are making a killing – and the taxman wants his share

Tax authorities in Beijing say hostesses from one firm still owe 60 million yuan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 4:32pm

Online hostesses working for one firm in Beijing earned a total of 390 million yuan (US$56.4 million) last year, but local authorities say they’re not paying their taxes on time, according to a newspaper report.

The capital’s tax bureau said the hostesses still owed 60 million yuan, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Internet streaming grew to an industry worth more than 9 billion yuan in China last year, according to the article. And hostesses, who perform online and also chat with individual members of their audience, make up a sizable share of the business.

‘Act cute, but nothing sexually explicit’: inside the world of China’s online hostesses

However, tracking the incomes of internet hostesses is challenging. They make much of their money from virtual gifts – which can be worth thousands of real yuan – from their predominantly young male fans.

To address the challenge, Beijing now requires various platforms to deduct a portion of their hostesses’ incomes automatically.

A government official also said that responsible departments would launch a multi-province investigation into the personal incomes of online hostesses. Some of them have been earning millions of dollars through their performances online.

Most notably, Zhang Dayi, one of China’s best known internet hostesses, reportedly earned US$46 million in 2015. According to Forbes, this exceeded the income of China’s top actress, Fan Bingbing. She made about US$21 million in the same year.

In addition to their standard salary, most hostesses make money by asking viewers to reward their performances with stickers that are priced in virtual currencies. For example, a hostess might ask viewers to send her a sticker if they want to see her dance.

Beijing now says this portion of a hostess’ income will be categorised as accidental, making it subject to the 20 per cent tax rate that is applied to income from lotteries.

The report has caused a stir on the internet, with social media users marvelling at the wealth online hostesses have amassed.