Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

Jordan’s cabinet approved major IMF-guided proposals that aim to double the income tax base, as a key part of reforms to boost the finances of a debt-burdened economy hit by regional conflict. (Photo courtesy of PETRA)
Updated 21 May 2018
0

Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

AMMAN: Jordan’s cabinet on Monday approved major IMF-guided proposals that aim to double the income tax base, as a key part of reforms to boost the finances of a debt-burdened economy hit by regional conflict.
“When only 4 percent of Jordanians pay (personal) income tax, this may not be the right thing,” Finance Minister Omar Malhas said in remarks after the cabinet meeting, adding the goal was to push that to eight percent. The draft legislation was submitted to parliament.
The IMF’s three-year Extended Fund Facility program aims to generate more state revenue to gradually bring down public debt to 77 percent of GDP in 2021, from a record 95 percent.
A few months ago Jordan raised levies on hundreds of food and consumer items by unifying general sales tax (GST) to 16 percent — removing exemptions on many basic goods.
In January subsidies on bread were ended, doubling some prices in a country with rising unemployment and poverty among its eight million people.
The income tax move and the GST reforms will bring an estimated 840 million dinars ($1.2 billion) in extra annual tax revenue that will help reduce chronic budget shortfalls normally covered by foreign aid, officials say.
Corporate income tax on banks, financial institutions and insurance companies will be pushed to 40 percent from 30 percent. Taxes on Jordan’s phosphate and potash mining industry will be raised to 30 percent from 24.
The government argues the reforms will reduce social disparities by progressively taxing high earners while leaving low-paid public sector employees largely untouched.
“This is a fair tax law not an unfair one,” said Malhas, who shrugged off criticism the law is lenient on many businesses connected to politicians whose transactions are not subject to tax scrutiny.
Husam Abu Ali, the head of the Income and Sales Tax Department, said a proposed IMF-recommended Financial Crime Investigations Unit will stiffen penalties for tax evaders. Critics say it will not tackle pervasive corruption in state institutions.
Abu Ali said the government could be losing hundreds of millions of dollars through tax evasion, which is as high as 80 percent in some companies.
The amendments lower the income tax threshold and raise tax rates. Unions said the government was caving in to IMF demands and squeezing more from the same taxpayers.
“It is penalizing a group that has long paid what it owes the state,” the unions syndicate said in a statement.
“It imposes injustice on employees whose salaries have barely coped with price hikes rising madly in recent years.”


Sri Lanka calls for global coalition to tackle rising dollar

Updated 23 October 2018
0

Sri Lanka calls for global coalition to tackle rising dollar

  • The island’s currency bottomed out at a record-low 174.12 rupees to the dollar
  • The rupee has shed more than 12 percent of its value this year and Sri Lanka fears it could slide further

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Tuesday called for a “coalition of the willing” to help stabilize free-falling emerging market currencies around the globe, as the beleaguered rupee slumped to fresh lows.
The island’s currency bottomed out at a record-low 174.12 rupees to the dollar, resisting a slew of measures by policymakers to arrest its steady decline.
The rupee has shed more than 12 percent of its value this year and Sri Lanka fears it could slide further as US sanctions squeeze Iran, the island’s chief source of oil.
A stronger dollar has made it difficult for emerging markets to repay debts and battered global currencies from Turkey to India and Argentina.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera invited those nations experiencing currency crises to visit Colombo and hash out a strategy.
“The rise of the dollar is having a serious impact on our currencies. We are not the only one affected,” he told reporters in the Sri Lankan capital.
“I want to build a coalition of the willing to deal with this problem. I don’t see the global situation improving any time soon.”
Washington pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May and has been reimposing punishing sanctions on the Islamic republic, targeting in particular its financial system.
Iran not only supplies Sri Lanka with most of its oil, but is one of its chief buyers of the island’s celebrated tea.
Samaraweera has warned that blockading Iran will have ripple on effects on Sri Lanka, which has been unable to stop the rupee from nose diving.
Last month, Colombo curbed its state institutions and public servants from importing cars to reduce the outflow of foreign capital.
Banks were also ordered to restrict lending for purchasing overseas and consumer goods, but the rupee has continued its decline.
In August, the government substantially increased taxes on small cars to discourage imports, but officials said there was still pressure on foreign exchange reserves to finance big-ticket imports.