FRI 5 - 6 - 2020
Date: Oct 17, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon: Cabinet meets as backlash grows over tax proposals
BEIRUT: Cabinet convened Thursday to discuss a 36-item agenda in a session headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The meeting comes as ministers face backlash over a series of government proposals to increase taxes and impose fees in the draft 2020 state budget.

Before entering Thursday's session, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah said a proposal was being discussed to raise the value added tax (VAT) by 2 percentage points in 2021 and an additional 2 percentage points in 2022 to reach 15 percent “like most world countries.”

The global average rate for indirect taxes, of which VAT is one kind, is 15.4 percent, according to KPMG, an auditor.

Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair also confirmed media reports that the government will impose $0.20 on calls made through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which is used by applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, FaceTime and others.

Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish said he and other Hezbollah ministers opposed the “WhatsApp call fee and we said more than once that we are against imposing taxes on people, and the VAT tax must be imposed on luxuries.”

In Wednesday’s Cabinet session, ministers endorsed a raft of decrees, decisions and reforms, as well as other measures to increase the state’s revenues and cut costs, Jarrah announced after the session.

These include a decision issued by the Finance Ministry to levy a new fee on tobacco products, both local and imported, and a decision to place more scanners at border crossings in order to crack down on smuggling.

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