The Implications of Malaysia’s New Sales Tax on Low-Price Imported Goods to be sold on digital platforms

12 March 2024 | News


Malaysia, as a key player in the Southeast Asian region, since January 1st has implemented a new 10 percent sales tax on the import of low-priced goods which are sold on digital platform. In a globalized economy, nations often grapple with the challenge of balancing domestic economic interests with international trade dynamics.

The introduction of the sales tax on low-priced imported goods in Malaysia reflects the government’s commitment to protecting domestic industries and fostering economic growth. The country, like many others, has experienced the challenges of maintaining a level playing field for local businesses in the face of increasing global competition. The new tax seeks to address the influx of cheap imported goods that may undermine the competitiveness of local products, sold by usual means of trade, just like shops and stalls.

One of the primary objectives of the sales tax is to boost the competitiveness of local industries by curbing the entry of low-priced imported goods. This measure is expected to stimulate domestic production and employment, as businesses may find it more lucrative to invest in local manufacturing rather than importing inexpensive products.

Furthermore, the imposition of the sales tax may contribute to the diversification of the Malaysian economy. By encouraging the development of various sectors, the government aims to reduce its reliance on specific industries and create a more resilient and sustainable economic foundation.

Under this tax update, all imported goods (for exception see below) that are sold online at less than 500 ringgit (US$105) will be subject to the 10 percent new tax rate, applied on goods imported to Malaysia by land, sea, and air and it only applies to freight on board or product price, excluding shipping and other fees.

Electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, liquors, and cigarettes are excluded from this taxation.

Consumer Implications

While the new sales tax is intended to protect local industries, consumers may bear the brunt of higher prices for certain imported goods. Low-income households, in particular, might experience a strain on their budgets as prices rise, impacting their purchasing power and consumption patterns. This could potentially lead to debates about the regressive nature of such taxes and calls for targeted measures to alleviate the burden on vulnerable populations.

Moreover, consumers may witness changes in the availability and variety of low-priced imported goods. Some products may become scarcer due to increased costs for importers, influencing consumer choices and preferences. The government must carefully consider the potential social consequences and work towards mitigating any negative effects on the well-being of its citizens.

Seller obligations

Those who sell products on online platforms or operate online marketplaces must register with the RMCD if the total sales value of the low-value goods exceeds 500,000 ringgit (US$105,000) in 12 months.

International Trade Relation

The implementation of a sales tax on low-priced imported goods may have implications for Malaysia’s relationships with its trading partners. It is essential for the government to communicate the rationale behind the tax to avoid disputes and tensions. Clear communication can help reassure trading partners that the measure is not intended to be protectionist but rather aims to foster a fair and competitive market environment.

However, there is a risk that the new tax may be viewed as a barrier to free trade, potentially leading to diplomatic challenges. Malaysia must engage in open dialogue with its trading partners, emphasizing the importance of a balanced approach that supports local industries without compromising the principles of global trade cooperation.


In conclusion, Malaysia’s new sales tax on low-priced imported goods reflects the government’s commitment to promoting local industries and ensuring a fair economic landscape. While the measure has the potential to stimulate domestic production and diversify the economy, it also raises concerns about its impact on consumers and international trade relations. Striking a balance between protecting local industries and maintaining a globally competitive environment will be crucial for the success of this new policy. As Malaysia navigates the complexities of this economic strategy, careful monitoring and adaptive policymaking will be essential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth.