Syria president orders new tax breaks amid rising hardship

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria’s president decreed a new income tax exemption Wednesday intended to provide relief to low-income earners at a time of deepening economic hardship in the war-ravaged country.

The decree exempts those making 50,000 liras ($40) a month or less from paying income tax. The limit was previously set at 15,000 liras ($12). It also reduced the level of taxes paid in the lowest bracket to 4% from 5%.

“The new amendment reduces the tax burden on those with low incomes,” the decree said.

It was not clear how many people would benefit from the tax break.

The Syrian economy, already battered by years of conflict and corruption, has suffered in recent months from an unprecedented plunge in the value of the local currency. That has led to increasing shortages of imported basic goods such as oil and wheat. Economic activities were hard-hit by restrictions imposed to face the coronavirus pandemic.

The cash-strapped government has meanwhile progressively removed subsidies on fuel. This week, the price of industrial fuel doubled as subsidies on high-octane fuel for vehicles were lifted.

Many Syrians are struggling to meet basic needs, with long lines outside bakeries while many shut down because of wheat shortages. Rare protests against the government and corruption erupted last summer, reflecting rising public anger.

Syria has been under heavy U.S. and European sanctions for years. The sanctions, most imposed because of the government’s bloody crackdown on protests in 2011, have recently been tightened to include senior officials of the government of President Bashar Assad, as well as family members.

Separately, Syrian state media reported an overnight rocket attack in the country’s south, blaming Israel. State news agency SANA said the rocket hit the roof of a school in southern Quneitra province, damaging the building. The attack took place shortly after midnight.

The Israeli army declined to comment. Israel rarely comments on reports in the Syrian media, but officials there have occasionally reported on their military campaign against Iranian and Iranian-backed fighters operating in Syria. Israel says it is bent on curbing Iran’s influence along its borders.

A Britain-based war monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the school was used by the Lebanese Hezbollah group and Iranians, who have a heavy presence in Quneitra.

Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory, said three people, including one Syrian, were believed killed in the attack. There was no word from the Syrian government on casualties.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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