Leader Talks: Clint O’Connell on Cambodia’s modernizing taxation system

Harrison White

Partner at tax and corporate advisory firm DFDL Cambodia Mr. Clint O’Connell spoke with CIR Leader Talks on his almost 14 years working in Cambodia’s tax industry, the emerging tax trends as well as his firm being awarded the 2022 Tax Firm of the year in Cambodia.

Arriving in December 2008 O’Connell first came to work at one of the Big Four accounting firms in Phnom Penh after previously working at New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department and a Big Four accounting firm in Auckland.

“In 2010 I moved to work at DFDL Cambodia which is my current employer, this December will mark my 14th year of working in tax in Cambodia,” he said.

“During my time here I have been fortunate to have been involved in many working groups including the Tax Working Group, the Government-Private Sector Working Group-D, EuroCham Tax Committee and I am currently the Chairperson of the newly established AmCham Tax Committee,” he added.

According to O’Connell these working groups have been instrumental to his learning and allowing tax advisors like himself to better lobby and advocate to the Royal Government of Cambodia on behalf of those industries and clients they represent.

Experience and relationships are key

Reflecting on some of the biggest developments in the tax and advisory sector since entering the market O’Connell says the modernization of Cambodia’s taxation sector has occurred ultra-rapidly since he joined DFDL in 2010.

“For the first few years after I arrived in Cambodia there were not so many new tax regulations that were introduced so it was fairly straightforward to get to grips with the domestic tax framework here,” he said.

“However in the space of only a few years we had the beginnings of the modernization of the Cambodian tax system and with it new concepts for Cambodia such as transfer pricing, double tax agreements, taxation of e-commerce, securities and just recently trusts,” he added.

O’Connell believes that DFDL Cambodia is in a fairly unique position to advise their clients on these developments, and on commercial transactions generally, in-so-far as having an award-winning commercial practice working closely with an award-winning tax practice provides great results for clients.

Clint O’Connell speaking at the 2019 Tax Forum.

“Working closely with our colleagues in our commercial team we can provide input on recent tax practices and regulations which may significantly impact a commercial transaction ensuring that adequate protections can be put in place for our clients if necessary,” he said.

DFDL Cambodia also has a dedicated award winning tax disputes team which has grown in stature year by year.

To read more about DFDL Cambodia working with the private sector click here.

“The tax disputes process is a procedural process which is well suited to those with a legal and tax background. It is also a process where experience and relationships are key. Our dedicated tax disputes team at DFDL has more than ten years of on-the-ground experience and our results speak for themselves,” he added.

2022 Tax Firm of the year in Cambodia

DFDL Cambodia was named the 2022 Cambodia Tax Firm of the Year at the 12th annual International Tax Review Asia-Pacific Tax Awards. O’Connell says he and the team are very proud of the achievement explaining, as opposed to some awards in the industry this is not a “bought-award”.

He added the award was based on detailed technical submissions made by tax firms in Cambodia to the International Tax Review (ITR) one of the leading tax publications in the world.

“DFDL Cambodia has won the ITR Cambodian Tax Firm award five times in the last six years. It is something we do not take for granted and we are very thankful for our clients who have trusted us to act as their tax advisor,” he said.

“The highlights of the last year included working with leading global e-commerce entities to help implement the VAT e-commerce regulations in Cambodia, how our tax disputes team responded to new challenges, particularly around the taxation of share transfers, and the growth of our transfer pricing practice,” he added.

Clint O’Connell working with the EuroCham Tax Committee.

Looking to the emerging trends for the industry over the coming years O’Connell opined;

“The next five years of tax trends in Cambodia I believe will see an increased focus on tax audits as taxpayers here get to grips with the mounting complexities of the tax system. Expect to see a roll-out of a more comprehensive individual taxation regime over the coming years along with an overhaul of the current Law on Taxation”.

In addition, he forecast over the next months some developments on the taxation of shares, further tax regulations on trusts, anti-avoidance rules, more DTA’s and e-commerce tax updates.

“It’s going to be a busy and exciting time for all tax professionals in Cambodia as you can see and we think DFDL is in an excellent position to continue to be a market leader in tax during this time,” O’Connell added.

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