Tesla involved in tax refund row, risks losing trust

By Wang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/3 20:28:42

Visitors gather at Tesla's booth at the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on Thursday. Photo: Xie Jun/GT

Tesla Inc is mired in a tax refund row that may make it lose Chinese consumers' trust, and its attempt to detach itself from the row doesn't appear to be well accepted.

Many complaints have broken out among Chinese Tesla owners since Friday, when the US electric carmaker announced that its cars are exempt from the purchase tax in China. 

The announcement, which means lower prices for Tesla in China, might help open its market in the country but for its owners, they think they have paid the tax that they should have not paid.

The maximum tax refund can reach 90,000 yuan ($13,791).

A letter written by Tesla owners circulating on the internet on Tuesday showed that some of the buyers have started seeking tax refunds.

The letter read that those who bought tax-exempt models between January 1, 2018 and Friday should demand tax refunds.

Some Tesla owners complained that the company might have hidden the information on purchase tax refunds since a certain process is required.

A Tesla Model 3 owner surnamed Zhang who bought her car in March told the Global Times on Tuesday that many Tesla owners are discussing refunds in WeChat groups, and those who tried got different replies.

A document seen by the Global Times shows that a refund application by a consumer in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province was rejected by the local taxation authority.

Another owner surnamed Li on Tuesday said in a WeChat group with more than 200 Tesla owners that Beijing has not issued a specific policy on tax refunds. But consumers should not wait, and those who still can refund their cars should do it first, Li said.

The consumer surnamed Zhang said that she thought Tesla was more likely holding the information back from consumers, and if it's true, the brand's integrity is facing questions.

Responding to the complaint, Tesla on Tuesday said that it had not deliberately hidden information from consumers.

Tesla's China head Zhu Xiaotong said that Tesla had applied for the tax exemption several times, but the company didn't have the right to make  public the information at the time, and it didn't have the power to decide if the application could be approved.

But a lawyer said the company could have handled the matter better. Tesla could have made public the news of its application, Wang Zhengzhi, senior partner at Beijing-based Globe-Law, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that the company is suspected of violating consumers' rights to know.

The company should make every effort to help consumers regarding the matter now, Wang said. 

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