HK government expects to collect more than $98b - despite the Sars outbreak The government expects to meet its tax revenue target for the year while exceeding last year's collection, despite the devastating impact Sars had on the economy. Speaking after a lunch conference sponsored by the Hong Kong Society of Accountants, Inland Revenue Commissioner Alice Lau Mak Yee-ming said her department was on track to collect almost $98.8 billion in taxes this fiscal year, about $5.7 billion more than it took in last year. 'We are confident of meeting our tax target this year,' she said. Ms Lau also said an interim report on the implementation of a goods and services tax (GST) would be submitted to the financial secretary in February. A final report on the proposed tax by the GST Study Committee, which Ms Lau chairs, is due next December. She said that last year, the government took in 'about $93.1 billion in total tax revenue, so there should be an increase of $5.7 billion this year'. The commissioner said the increase in tax income could be explained by a more buoyant economy and more marketplace activity. She cited the 'recovery in the stock and property markets' as helping revenue. 'We've seen an increase in stamp duties as a result. This is a sign of the economic recovery,' she said. But the increase may also be partly explained by the government's moves to increase the number of people paying taxes. These included the slashing of salaries tax allowances to 1997 levels and lowering the personal tax allowance level from $108,000 to $100,000. Ms Lau said applications for the holdover of provisional tax up to the end of last month had fallen overall, another sign of recovery. Total applications fell 1.5 per cent to 27,200, compared with the same period last year - a drop of 400 applications. But the most dramatic fall was in the number of applications to hold over property tax, which were 17 per cent down on last year, to 1,900 applications. Applications to hold over provisional salaries tax fell 0.5 per cent to 22,500. Applications for profits tax to be held over rose 4 per cent to 2,800, but Ms Lau said this was understandable given the impact that Sars had on many businesses, particularly retail, hotel and travel companies. But Ms Lau cautioned that the full year's applications for the holdover of provisional tax could still rise, given that tax demand notices had been sent out much later this year because of the work required to issue refunds on last year's taxes as part of a post-Sars stimulus package. 'We were busy preparing the tax refund in the middle of the year, so many people may have received their tax demand notices much later this year,' she said. While applications for the holdover of provisional tax fell, applications for paying by instalments rose 32 per cent to 10,350 by the end of last month.