■ New tax deductible passed
The legislature yesterday passed an amendment to the Income Tax Law (所得稅法) that will help reduce the taxpayer's burden by making national health insurance premium a deductible item starting next year. The amendment sets no maximum for such exemption, which means that people can charge the full amount of premium paid as a deductible. The amendment is applicable only to taxpayers who file their income tax using "Itemized Deduction," and not "Standard Deduction." Based on the Ministry of Finance's estimates, the change will benefit about 1.6 million households, while the national treasury will suffer a loss of about NT$4.5 billion per year.
■ Refiner upgrading CDU
Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑石化) said it plans to close a refinery unit for maintenance and capacity expansion from June 20. Formosa Petrochemical will shut one of the three crude distillation units (CDU) at its 510,000 barrels-a-day refinery in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County, for 50 days, spokesman Lin Keh-yen (林克彥) said yesterday by phone. The company plans to restart the closed CDU on Aug. 10, he said. The refiner will expand the capacity of the CDU, which turns crude oil into products such as gasoline and diesel, by 20 percent to 180,000 barrels a day. The other two CDUs, which have a combined capacity of 360,000 barrels a day, have had similar upgrades and will continue to operate at normal rates. The expansion will boost Formosa Petrochemical's total oil-refining capacity to 540,000 barrels a day, allowing it to sell more products overseas and take advantage of growing global demand to help counter stagnant domestic sales. ■ First-quarter car sales down
The production value of the domestic auto industry amounted to NT$86.62 billion (US$2.7 billion) in the first quarter of the year, down 15.1 percent over the year-earlier figure, according to tallies released yesterday by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. While the production value of assembled cars declined 18.6 percent to NT$49.02 billion in the first quarter, that of automobile parts and components fell 10.1 percent to NT$3.76 billion. In the first quarter of this year, 125,000 cars were sold, down 10.2 percent year on year. The officials said the market demand for cars was relatively low in the first quarter of this year because promotional packages offered by sellers last year had already moved many local owners to replace their old cars. A total of 514,000 cars were sold last year, the highest figure over the past 10 years.
■ Taiwan lags in ADSL data rate
The data rates of the nation's Internet services are slower than that of neighboring countries, including Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, although their fees are higher, according to the results of a survey released on Thursday by the Consumers' Foundation. The fastest ADSL data rates in Taiwan are 12M/1M, compared with Japan's 47M/3M and 50M/3M, Hong Kong's 6M/640K, and Singapore's 10M/1M, the survey shows. In terms of broadband Internet service, the monthly fees for 1M is US$41.43 for Taiwan's HiNet, compared with US$34.02 to US$52.05 in Japan, US$51.33 in Hong Kong, and US$43.11 in Singapore.
■ NT dollar strengthens
The New Taiwan dollar gained ground against its US counterpart, advancing NT$0.074 to close at NT$32.038 on the Taipei foreign exchange market yesterday. Turnover was US$917 million.