SOUTH KOREA - The National Tax Service announced Thursday that it would bar its senior officials from playing golf or dining out with executives of large businesses, starting later this year.
Following a series of corruption scandals, tax authorities issued the ban on high-profile NTS officials on privately meeting with CEOs, executives and tax advisers of the nation's 100 major conglomerates.
The senior tax investigators that will be subject to the prohibition include officials holding positions of director general or above at the NTS headquarters and provincial offices nationwide.
In addition, the tax agency plans to let its internal auditors conduct an entire review of the periodical tax probes on the 100 companies. Manpower for inspection into internal corruption cases will also be enhanced.
The policy was adopted during a meeting of 260 senior NTS officials including NTS commissioner Kim Duk-joong at its headquarters in Seoul, and detailed measures and the implementation date will likely be unveiled in the coming weeks.
"We have to regain public trust through fairness, transparency and clean tax policies," NTS chief Kim told the meeting. "Clean tax polices also come with senior officials taking the lead. As chief of the tax agency, I will take the lead first."
The policy comes amid mounting public criticism over irregularities involving tax evasion, which were committed in some business groups due to allegedly cozy relations between some tax investigators and corporate taxpayers.
Earlier this month, two former NTS senior officials were indicted for accepting bribes from CJ Group, whose chairman Lee Jay-hyun was recently indicted on charges of dodging taxes and misappropriating corporate funds.
The prosecution said former NTS commissioner Jeon Goon-pyo was accused of taking 340 million won (S$391,000) and a luxury watch from CJ Group executives in exchange for favors during a tax probe in 2006.
Jeon allegedly conspired with then-deputy commissioner Heo Byung-ik. Prosecutors said the two figures admitted to accepting kickbacks from CJ, but denied they were linked to specific favors.
Prosecutors' investigation into Jeon and Heo comes at a time when the NTS is striving to shake off its image as a corrupt and untrustworthy public agency.
Incumbent chief Kim Deok-joong pledged in March to uproot tax corruption before waging a war against the underground economy.
The NTS' image has been tarnished as many of its former heads were involved in corruption scandals. The agency's 13th chief Son Young-lae and 15th chief Lee Ju-sung were both found guilty of receiving bribes.