2018 Local Tax Payments by Huayi Brothers, Some Major Chinese Stars Revealed

The Chinese city that is home to the world’s largest film studio has released lists of its top registered taxpayers in 2018, revealing the payments by major production companies and movie stars at a time when new tax regulations have upended the industry.

In years past, the small city of Dongyang in coastal Zhejiang province attracted big entertainment companies to Hengdian, a town under its jurisdiction, with preferential tax benefits and the massive Hengdian World Studios complex. The area now gives an indication of what lies in store for the Chinese movie industry as authorities order companies to file and pay back taxes accrued under benefit schemes considered legal at the time.

A list released Tuesday on Dongyang’s official WeChat account – but since deleted – ranked Huayi Brothers as the highest-paying entertainment company in the region and fifth highest taxpayer overall, having coughed up RMB326 million ($48.2 million) in 2018. Dongyang Daylight Entertainment, the company behind the hit 2015 TV show “Nirvana in Fire,” came in ninth, forking over RMB129 million ($19 million).

Chinese superstar Lay Zhang, the EXO K-pop group member who hit up the Grammys last weekend, “Tiny Times” actress Yang Mi, and Jing Tian, the actress who played opposite Matt Damon in “The Great Wall,” were the three most-taxed artists with studios in the region, having paid RMB19.13 million ($2.8 million), RMB15.53 million ($2.3 million) and RMB10.43 million ($1.5 million) in 2018, respectively.

Other celebrity-owned studios listed included those of singer Hua Chenyu (with taxes of RMB7.92 million), popular Uighur actress Dilraba Dilmurat (RMB6.6 million), and another EXO heartthrob, Lu Han (RMB6.34 million).

The figures likely only reflect normal taxes for the year and do not include the controversial back taxes, said Chinese financial publication Caixin, citing a legal expert.