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UK signs free trade agreement with South Korea

Great Britain has secured its first post-Brexit trade deal after signing an in-principle free trade agreement with South Korea.

The agreement, which International Trade Secretary Liam Fox signed with his South Korean counterpart Yoo Myung-hee in Seoul, seeks to maintain existing trade arrangements with the country after Brexit.

The Financial Times says it “comes amid growing uncertainty over bilateral trade conditions after the UK leaves the world’s single largest economic bloc”. The BBC adds that the agreement is “designed to provide stability under a no-deal Brexit”.

The Korea Times explains that there have been “concerns” that South Korean companies “may no longer enjoy the benefits” of current arrangements if the UK crashes out without a deal.

Great Britain and South Korea will largely maintain the trade terms that are in the current deal between Seoul and Brussels, which took effect in July 2011.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement that the deal includes keeping zero-tariffs on South Korean exports such as auto parts and automobiles.

After the talks, Britain and South Korea also vowed to expand cooperation in emerging technologies such as hydrogen and nuclear energy.

Seoul’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee said: “The deal is significant as it eased uncertainties sparked by Brexit, amid the already challenging environment for exports on the escalating trade row between Washington and Beijing.”

The two countries plan to ratify the deal before October 31st, the new deadline for Brexit.

Although the UK is South Korea’s second-largest trading partner among the EU members, it is its 18th-largest trading partner, accounting for less than 2% of South Korea’s overall trade.

Last year, South Korea’s exports to the UK were worth $6.36bn. The Asian country exports mostly cars and ships to Britain. Going the other way, the UK exports crude oil and automobiles to South Korea.

Tax PHOTO

The 10 countries that make the most money from taxes

Paying taxes is something no one enjoys doing, but the amount individuals and companies pay varies enormously throughout the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has calculated how much tax was paid in 2016 by 10 countries. Here’s what it discovered. How does your country measure up?

Australia: $348 Billion

The latest figures available show Australia raised $348 billion from its 24.13 million-strong population. Individuals pay income tax on a progressive basis from 19% to 45%. A Medicare Levy is payable on top to pay for public healthcare; this was increased from 1.5% to 2% in 2014, while since 2015 higher earners who don’t have private hospital cover must also pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge of between 1% and 1.5% on top. Corporate taxes stand at 30%, however the government is pushing for this to be cut to 25% by 2025.

Japan: $351.6 Billion

Japan received $351.6 billion from its population of 127 million, according to the most recent figures. In 2017 the country’s ruling bloc approved a plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 30% to 20%, although only for companies that raise wages and increase capital spending. Japan has a progressive income tax system, with rates from 20% to 40%.

South Korea: $371.1 Billion

South Korea, which received $371.1 billion from its 51 million population, is undergoing huge changes this year as the country enacts a 2018 tax reform bill. Some of the changes include adding a new 25% corporate income tax bracket for taxable income in excess of $270 million, instead of the previous flat rate of 22%. Meanwhile the top income tax bracket has been increased from 40% to 42% for higher earners.

Spain: $412.4 Billion

With a population of 46.6 million, Spain generated tax receipts of $412.4 billion in 2016 according to the report. The country operates a sliding scale of income tax from 19% to 45%, while the general corporation tax rate is 25%. Meanwhile, residents of the Andalucia region had some good news this year, as it was announced changes to inheritance tax rules mean that the vast majority of children or spouses will not have to pay it anymore.

Canada: $491.1 Billion

The system of paying federal tax is simple in Canada: there is a sliding scale of 15% to 33% depending on how much you earn, however it gets a bit trickier when you need to add on provincial and territorial tax as the rate you pay depends on your income – and where you live. The rates vary dramatically from 4%, the lowest bracket in Nunavut, up to the highest bracket in Nova Scotia of 21%. The country’s population of 36.3 million brought in a total of $491.1 billion in 2016.

Italy: $792.8 Billion

Italy’s 60.6 million-strong population helped contribute to vast tax revenues of $792.8 billion. Italians pay personal income tax of between 23% to 43%, plus regional tax which is typically between 1.23% and 3.33%

United Kingdom: $869.4 Billion

The UK generated $869.4 billion in tax from its population of 65.6 million people, according to the OECD report. The UK uses a progressive income tax system, where those living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland pay between 20% and 45% tax, while those in Scotland pay 19% to 46% tax depending in their earnings. Residents must also pay National Insurance contributions too, which are 12%, although workers who earn more than $62,380 pay only 2% on earnings over that threshold. The Corporation Tax main rate is 19% but is set to be reduced to 17% in 2020.

France: $1,115.9 Billion

With a population of 66.9 million, France generated $1,115.9 billion in tax. However it will be interesting to see the results of dramatic tax cuts President Emmanuel Macron made in 2017, including slashing the contentious wealth tax effectively by 70% and introducing a 30% flat rate on capital gains.

Germany: $1,305.7 Billion

A combination of being the biggest economy in Europe, a population of 82 million and a relatively high taxation system means Germany has the second-largest tax revenue in the report at $1,305.7 billion. In addition to income tax, which varies from 14% to 45% for very high incomes, everyone has to pay solidarity tax, which is capped at 5.5% of an individual’s income tax. Also, if you’re a member of a church registered in Germany, you will also be required to pay a church tax of 8% or 9% of your income, depending on which federal state you live in.

United States: $4,846.3 Billion

The US tops the list in the report for having the highest level of tax revenues, with $4,846.3 billion tax generated from its population of 325.7 million. However with the US going through huge tax reforms this year under President Trump, it will be interesting to see the impact that has on those figures in future. Most analyses suggests that while the changes aren’t the biggest tax cuts the country has ever seen, the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% is the biggest corporate tax cut in US history.

Bitcoin India PHOTO

Crypto BANNED? Is cryptocurrency legal in India?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are facing a crackdown from governments around the world, including India and China, in a bid to tighten up regulations and protect consumers. But are cryptocurrencies legal in India?

Since the start of 2018, Bitcoin has suffered a massive price crash after its stratospheric growth last year sparked concern among central bankers.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde is the latest economic chief to wade into the argument, saying cryptocurrency regulation is “inevitable”.

And bitcoin’s price fall – slumping more than 55 percent since its December high of $19,982 – has been partly blamed on countries that are beginning to introduce cryptocurrency regulations.

Some of the most outspoken countries are India, South Korea and China.

Is the cryptocurrency legal in India?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have a complicated relationship in India because although they are not technically banned, they are not considered to be legal tender by financial institutions.

This was outlined by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during a budget speech on February 1.

Mr Jaitley said: “The government does not consider cryptocurrencies as legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate the use of these crypto assets in financing illegitimate activities.”

Last August he told the Indian Parliament that the government had no authority to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin trading is hugely popular among Indians and has surged in recent months across the country.

According to one estimate by bitcoin platform Unocoin, its website saw a steep rise in users towards the end of last year.

Company founder Sathvik Vishwanth told the Financial Times in January: “Early last year we were gaining about 10,000 new users each month.

“In December it was about 7,000 to 8,000 each day.”

Is cryptocurrency legislation on its way in India?

While India is not outlawing cryptocurrency just yet, it does seem to be making things very difficult for investors.

In recent days, India’s Income Tax Department announced it had issued notices to 100,000 cryptocurrency investors suspected of concealing profits.

Sushil Chandra, chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, said: “We found out that there is no clarity on investments made by many people, which means that they have not declared it properly,”

“People who have made investments in cryptocurrency and have not paid tax on the profit earned by investing, we are sending them notices as we feel that it is all taxable.”

On Saturday, the Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman Ajay Tyagi said regulations on cryptocurrencies was being finalised, along with the individual roles of regulators, according to the New Indian Express newspaper.

No further information was given but investors will now be nervously waiting to hear what happens in the coming days and weeks ahead.