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
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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.”


Egypt aims to tap debt markets for up to $7 bln in new financial year

Updated 1 min 13 sec ago
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Egypt aims to tap debt markets for up to $7 bln in new financial year

  • Officials are considering different programs under IMF
  • Egypt may sell up to $7 billion in int’l bonds in 2019-2020

LONDON: Egypt will tap debt markets for between $4 billion and $7 billion in the coming financial year starting in July and is in talks with the IMF about a non-financial deal to help entice investors, its finance minister said on Tuesday.
The country was considering all options for debt instruments, including sukuk, green bonds and Asian currency bonds, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Reuters on the sidelines of an investment conference at Bloomberg in London.
“This time last year I said we would go for between $4 to $7 billion and eventually we went for $6.2 billion,” he said. “Let me repeat what I said last year: between $4-7 billion (for this coming financial year). It depends on market conditions, demand and whether we can diversify to other instruments as we are hoping for green bonds, sukuk.”
The Egyptian parliament on Monday approved the government’s budget for the coming 2019/2020 financial year, targeting a 7.2% deficit for the year and 6% GDP growth.
Now that the budget was approved, Egypt will start talks with banks in the first quarter from July to September about a potential bond issue, Maait said, adding that the period from November to February was the normal time for any issuance.
Depending on financial conditions, the country could also consider tapping finance from other sources, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and European governments such as France and Germany, he added.
“In the Middle East, development partners find Egypt as somewhere to go for as other places have problems. Egypt needs funding for infrastructure and the development partners have the money,” Maait said.
Egypt signed a three-year, $12 billion loan program with the IMF in late 2016, seeking to attract back international investors who pulled out after an uprising in 2011.
Maait said the government was in talks with the IMF about a new non-financial program that could last around two years with a plan to reach a deal by October. “It would give comfort to international investors and international institutions.”