No income tax, but VAT starts in 2018

Saudi Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf. (AP)
Updated 05 May 2016

No income tax, but VAT starts in 2018

RIYADH: The Kingdom does not plan to introduce income tax for individuals, but value-added tax (VAT) would be introduced by 2018, according to Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf.
Al-Assaf said Wednesday in a statement that the decision to introduce VAT had been agreed upon at the 102nd meeting of GCC finance ministers in Riyadh. The discussions had taken place at a gathering of the Committee on Financial and Economic Cooperation, which includes ministers from other GCC states.
The decision was based on an agreement taken by the Supreme GCC Council earlier this year to introduce VAT in the six GCC countries, said Assaf. It was agreed that VAT would be introduced by 2018.
Al-Assaf said VAT, which would be imposed on certain commodities, was much easier to administer than other taxes, many of which were easy to evade.

In an interview with The Economist in January, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and defense minister, had indicated that VAT would be introduced but no income, or wealth taxes. “We’re talking about taxes or fees that are supported by the citizen, including VAT and the sin tax. They will create good revenues, but not the only revenues,” he was quoted as saying. Other reports indicate that the GCC bloc would introduce VAT of up to 5 percent. The tax would exclude 95 food items, but would be applicable for all citizens and residents. Health, education and social services would likely be excluded.
Introducing VAT is considered a major economic reform in the GCC countries, which have minimal tax systems and no tax on income, although some levy fees such as road tolls.
To limit smuggling and damage to competitiveness, analysts say, the Gulf countries should introduce VAT regionally rather than individually, at different times.
According to analysts, VAT could provide a number of benefits to the GCC countries. If levied at a rate of 5 percent, it could yield anywhere from 0.8 percent to 1.6 percent of gross domestic product, depending on the country.


Saudi Arabia clarifies travel rules on students studying abroad

Updated 19 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia clarifies travel rules on students studying abroad

  • General Directorate of Passports says all students are exempt from requiring permit from guardian
  • Exemption applies even if they are under 21 and traveling abroad to study

RIYADH: All Saudi students studying oversees will no longer need a permit from their guardians when they travel, even if they are under the age of 21.

Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports announced Monday that students will only require proof of their scholarship from the Ministry of Education.

The clarification comes after a sweeping set of reforms announced in a royal decree last month gave the right of every Saudi citizen to obtain a passport. A guardian’s approval is only needed for children.

Ther passports directorate also said Monday that after the death of both parents, a sibling above the age of 21 can provide a travel permit to a minor, provided he or she has been designated the legal guardian by a judge’s order.

The July 30 royal decree was widely welcomed in both the Kingdom and around the world. Among the most important changes to the law was that Saudi women no longer required permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.