BEIJING - The Chinese government has moved to regulate gift cards to stop a loophole that may help corrupt officials escape accountability when taking bribes, according to a document issued by China's Cabinet, the State Council.
"The regulation on commercial gift cards aims to prevent money laundering, illegal cash withdrawal, tax evasion and bribery," said the document on the State Council's website.
In China, an unknown number of commercial gift cards are issued every year as a means of payment for various specified goods or services.
Although gift cards play a role in reducing the use of cash, which facilitates payment and stimulates consumption, gift cards lack supervision or risk control measures, violate financial disciplines, and can even be used for bribery, the document said.
"Such problems have severely disrupted taxation and financial management and encouraged corruption," the document said.
According to the regulation, issuers of gift cards must register customers' identities if they buy 10,000 yuan ($1,500) or more in cards, and the cards must contain the names of the people who will use them.
Anonymous cards must have a value below 1,000 yuan, while cards bearing the names of their users should not exceed 5,000 yuan.
These measures could increase the obstacles to abusing the cards and that would help to prevent corruption, the official said.
Further, the regulation stresses that all officials are strictly prohibited from accepting any kind of gift cards in their official activities.
Officials receiving cards and failing to hand them over to their units will be considered to have received the face value of the cards in cash, it said.
The State Council ordered China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, and the Ministry of Commerce to launch a nationwide inspection on all gift cards in circulation by the end of the year.