KUALA LUMPUR: Some small traders are being threatened by "non-governmental organisations" demanding payment to avoid being punished by the Customs Department over mistakes in charging the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon said petty traders and hawkers were being harassed by these groups who were dressed in uniforms, forcing them to become members so that they would not be penalised.
"In some cases, the 'NGOs' demanded a payment ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of ringgit," he said yesterday.
"MCA Youth would like to urge these small traders not to become a member or pay a single sen because there is now a grace period for the implementation of the GST."
Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong had said no action would be taken against those who made unintentional mistakes in the first two years of the GST's implementation.
He said the "advisory period" would cover documentation errors and misunderstanding of the tax conditions.
In Kuantan, Pahang Customs director Datuk Sarip Ismail said business owners should not entertain any enforcement officers in plainclothes claiming to conduct checks on the GST's implementation.
"Most likely, they are bogus officers who are out to capitalise on the situation," he said.
Sarip said shop owners had the right to ask for authority tags.
"Our officers will come in a team. They will be in full uniform with the official department logo," he said.
Sarip was commenting on a case in Kampung Tengah here where two men posing as Customs officers robbed a mini market owner of cash and cigarettes.
Umno Youth has also criticised the implementation of the GST, saying government agencies were not ready to handle the rollout, and it was now chaotic.
Information chief Jamawi Jaafar, in a statement, said that despite two years of preparation, these agencies were unable to make sure that prices were tweaked to reflect the new tax.
He suggested that a crisis management committee be formed to act as an information centre and counter any issues that cropped up.
He also called for a single spokesman to be appointed so that there would not be any conflicting information.
"When it (GST) was launched, we found - especially in rural shops - that goods were still charged with the sales and services tax and have now added the GST," he said.
Jamawi said this made the goods more expensive.
"Traders were also raising prices as they liked and blaming it on the GST," he said.
Even "small issues" such as the prepaid phone reload cards, he said, could not be handled properly by the Government.
"If the Government cannot handle such a small thing as this, how is it going to handle the higher prices of thousands of more complex items?" he asked.
Report complied by : Simon Khoo, Zuhrin Azam Ahmad, Razak Ahmad, Yuen Meikeng, Loshana K Shagar, Patrick Lee, D. Kanyakumari, Winnie Yeoh, Cheryl Peh and Ong Yih Hwa.