UBS and ANZ also highlighted a surge in shipments into and out of special trade zones within China that would be classified as imports and exports.
“This anomaly has raised some suspicions as to whether some exports have been inflated to take advantage of tax rebates,” the UBS economists wrote on Thursday.
Some trading companies are turning to transportation providers like Shenzhen Global Express Logistics Ltd for help in shipping goods through so-called bonded zones to claim export tax rebates or charge higher import prices for goods without them physically leaving the country.
Shenzhen Global offers customs clearing and other freight services including a “one day tour,” Lin Yongtai, a manager with the company in the city bordering Hong Kong, said in a telephone interview.
For a fee of 1,000 yuan (US$161) per vehicle per day, the company will drive trucks into warehouses in bonded zones, where cargo must clear customs, so that businesses can obtain a refund of value-added tax on the “export” of their products or boost sale prices for goods that carry the cachet of being imported.
“A poor villager can boast he has thousands of yuan of turnover every day, but people later discover he only has one bull — he takes the bull out every morning and brings it back every evening,” Lin said. “The same applies to some parts of China’s foreign trade.”
Such practices are not unknown to the customs administration. In March 2009 it issued a statement that “some local governments and enterprises” were trying to move goods in and out of bonded zones to inflate their export and import numbers and said such shipments would not be included in official data.