Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Saudi Arabia approves an end to tax-free living

The cabinet 'decided to approve the Unified Agreement for Value Added Tax' to be implemented throughout the six-member GCC, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Arab region. Pictured, towers under construction at the King Abdullah Financial District in the Saudi capital Riyadh. AFP
Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Arab region. Pictured, towers under construction at the King Abdullah Financial District in the Saudi capital Riyadh. AFP

Tax-free living will soon be a thing of the past for Saudis after its cabinet on Monday approved an IMF-backed value-added tax to be imposed across the Gulf following an oil slump.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter and the largest economy in the Arab region, but the collapse in crude prices since 2014 sparked cutbacks and a search for new revenue.

It froze major building projects, cut cabinet ministers’ salaries and imposed a wage freeze on civil servants to cope with last year’s record budget deficit of US$97 billion.

It also made unprecedented cuts to fuel and utilities subsidies.

The kingdom is broadening its investment base and boosting other non-oil income as part of economic diversification efforts and aims to balance its budget by 2020.

The cabinet “decided to approve the Unified Agreement for Value Added Tax” to be implemented throughout the six-member GCC, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

“A Royal Decree has been prepared,” it said.

A five-per cent levy will apply to certain goods following a GCC agreement last June.

The move is in line with an IMF recommendation for Gulf states to impose revenue-raising measures including excise and value-added taxes to help their adjustment to lower crude prices which have slowed regional growth.

The GCC countries have already agreed to implement selective taxes on tobacco, and soft and energy drinks this year.

* Agence France-Presse

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Updated: January 31, 2017 04:00 AM

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