The Indian Ministry of Finance informed the Indian parliament that prominent Chinese smartphone manufacturers, including Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo, evaded tariffs and illegally remitted a minimum of 80 billion rupees ($980 million) in India, according to a CNBC report on July 21. The report also stated that the Indian tax authorities were able to retrace only 18% of the total amount evaded by these companies.
Why it matters: With its vast population and rapid economic development, India has become an attractive destination for numerous international enterprises seeking to enter the local market. In recent years, Chinese mobile phone manufacturers have achieved significant success in the Indian market. However, the issue of tax evasion has gradually emerged as a prominent concern, drawing the attention of Indian authorities.
Details: According to the CNBC report, Chinese mobile phone brands are accused of evading taxes by manipulating financial data, engaging in fictitious transactions, and overpaying fees to affiliated companies.
- India’s Ministry of Finance reported that the combined turnover of Chinese phone brands in India, which also includes Transsion, Realme, and OnePlus, amounted to 15 billion rupees ($180 million) from 2021 to 2022, leading to the creation of 75,000 employment opportunities for local citizens. Furthermore, these companies have employed 80,000 sales and operation staff across India.
- Xiaomi’s total tax evasion reached 11.37 billion rupees ($140 million) during 2019-2023, while Oppo evaded tariffs to the value of 44.03 billion rupees ($540 million), according to Indian authorities.
- The Indian Ministry of Finance claimed that there have been a total of 13 similar cases involving tax evasion on goods and services by these companies from July 2017 to June 2023. Specifically, Xiaomi was reported to have paid interest amounting to 3.17 million rupees ($39,000) and a fine of 1.33 million rupees ($15,000) from 2019 to 2020.
- In April 2022, Indian authorities accused Xiaomi of illegally transferring money to foreign entities in the form of royalty payments since 2015, freezing the company’s funds of 55 billion rupees ($680 million) in the bank accounts of its Indian subsidiaries. Xiaomi refuted these allegations and stated that these royalty payments were made for the licensed technology and intellectual property used in the Indian versions of its products. Despite Xiaomi’s re-appeal to address the situation, the Indian government rejected the firm’s demand to unfreeze its funds.
- In July 2022, India’s financial crime agency blocked 119 bank accounts linked to Vivo’s India business, which collectively held 4.65 billion rupees ($58.76 million). This move came as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering activities. The Indian authorities conducted raids at 48 locations belonging to Vivo and 23 entities connected to the company. The allegations suggested that the proceeds of Vivo India’s sales were being transferred out of the country to evade taxes. While Vivo presented arguments in their defense and managed to recover access to the bank accounts, they were required to pay a guarantee of $119 million to the Indian government.
- In July 2022, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) stated that Oppo’s Indian subsidiary had improperly obtained tax-free benefits amounting to 29.81 billion rupees ($360 million) through false declarations of certain imported goods.
Context: According to market analyst firm Canalys, four Chinese phone brands entered the top five by market share in India in the second quarter of 2023, behind Korean brand Samsung. Vivo was second, shipping 6.4 million units, and Xiaomi held the third spot by shipping 5.4 million units, while Realme and Oppo (excluding its sub-brand OnePlus) ranked fourth and fifth by shipping 4.3 million and 3.7 million units respectively.