AMMAN - Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Knowledge Forum (TAG-KF) hosted Director General of the Income & Sales Tax Department (ISTD), Mr. Husam Abu Ali in a digital dialogue session entitled ‘Government Tax Measures under the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis’, in a live broadcast through the Forum’s Facebook page.

Abu Ali affirmed that the ISTD seeks to become a leading department at the regional level; with an efficient management to collect taxes for the Treasury by strengthening voluntary commitment, raising awareness, promoting tax culture and improving business environment. 

He also stated that the Corona pandemic had a major negative impact on the tax revenues, where the government public finances were badly affected due to two months of lockdown of all economic sectors, noting that taxes constitute more than 60% of public revenues.

Regarding the negative effects of the pandemic, the government, according to Abu Ali, made many decisions to deal with these losses, taking into consideration the economic impact on the impact of the closure on citizens and institutions. Therefore, Abu Ali stated that facemasks and hand sanitizers were exempted from the 16% sales tax to reduce their prices and make them  available, affordable and accessible to all. Yet, to be considered as some of the production inputs of factories working in this field, they were subject to only 1% tax as per the request of the industrial sector. 

Additionally, the period for submitting income tax returns was extended to two additional months (to June 30, 2020 instead of April 30, 2020) in accordance with Defense Orders Nos. (5) and (10), without imposing any tax burdens during the two months of lockdown where there were no commercial activities. 

Furthermore, Abu Ali confirmed that all the Department’s services are available electronically, urging taxpayers to use them for tax filing, updating personal data, submitting tax return applications, obtaining tax return statement, tax number, inquiring about transactions, submitting applications that incorporate information, deductions, receipts, ..etc., applying for settlements and reconciliation, e-payment, tax clearance certificate, tax refund and money can be transferred to taxpayers' bank accounts, among other services, noting that taxpayers would receive a text message on their personal phones once any action is taken by the Department regarding their tax files. 

During the meeting, Abu Ali announced the launch of the so-called program  “Golden List of Taxpayers” which aims at protecting taxpayers from being subject to tax fines, ensure the compliance with policies and procedures, ensure taxpayers get their tax refunds as soon as possible. He pointed out that the program aims also at building and enhancing trust between taxpayers including companies and enterprises and the ISTD, in addition to strengthening principles of real partnership between private and public sectors in applying tax collection legislation without delay. 

Additionally, he emphasized that the program assists in depositing tax refund to each taxpayer who is eligible to joining the Gold List within 30-days of reviewing his income tax, provided that the was paid.
According to Abu Ali, the program is characterized by giving members on the Golden List the opportunity of postponing payment of the General Sales Tax on the company’s imports. The membership of the Golden List will be considered instead of the tax clearance certificate for the purpose of obtaining tax return for the taxpayers at other ministries and departments, Abu Ali said.

 “The ISTD will publish the names of the Golden List Taxpayers on its official website, to enable financial staff at different departments and ministries to verify the names for the purpose of promptly completing their transactions in accordance with the legislation in force,” Abu-Ali further clarified. 

He also pointed out that the Department is seriously and tirelessly carrying out tax reforms, solving problems and overcoming challenges it faces including tax evasion, weakness in some administrative aspects, lack of using technical tools at tax administration, in addition to a structural imbalance between direct and indirect taxes; which forced the government to make more than 38 amendments to the last Income Tax Law of 2019.

Additionally, Abu Ali stated that the reform plan which started this year was prepared according to risk management standards and a new methodology that defines sectors and activities targeted for audit, noting that the Implementing Regulations for applying billing and control system have been developed, and the ISTD has reached an agreement with all concerned sectors on the appropriate mechanism for implementation including from chambers of industry and trade, professional unions and associations. 

For his part, Executive Director of TAG-KF and TAG.Global Education and Youth Consultant, Mr. Fadi Daoud, who moderated the session, pointed out that the digital talk with Mr. Husam Abu Ali was organized as part of a series of digital meetings and discussions in the time of Coronavirus crisis, conducted in a live broadcast through TAG-KF Facebook page.

Daoud stated that the timing of the digital meeting is highly important since it was held during the period the government offered   citizens to submit their tax returns before the end of this month, indicating that the complete discussion session is available on TAG-KF Facebook page, along with answers to a number of questions and inquiries raised by followers and interested people.