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French Version

Finance Ministry unveils computerized tax... - The Daily Star

Finance Ministry unveils computerized tax system database project aims to improve collection - The Daily Star

In order to combat evasion, boost coffers, taxpayers will be tracked digitally.

The Finance Ministry on Tuesday unveiled the details of a new computerized tax-collection system intended to boost state revenues.

'The Income Tax Project aims to improve the collection of taxes and create a database of all the taxpayers in Lebanon,' the director-general of the Finance Ministry, Alan Bifani, told representatives from the private sector gathered at the Finance Institute in Beirut.

'We are not raising any taxes; we are merely making tax collection more efficient and organized,' Bifani said.
He added that tax collection is still far from its desired efficiency, adding that many people are still not paying taxes.
'We have collected only LL132 billion in income taxes last year, while in reality this figure should be LL500 billion,' Bifani said.

According to the ministry, there are 350,000 registered taxpayers in the private sector, 52,000 in the public sector and 53,000 retirees.
Bifani said these figures prove that revenues from income taxes should be higher.
'I don't want to say there is tax evasion. It seems that many of the taxpayers are not paying the correct amounts to the ministry. This problem can be solved,' Bifani said.
Bifani said that taxes in Lebanon represent less than 17 percent of the country's gross domestic product, while in other countries this ratio is higher. The taxes to GDP ratio in Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region is higher than 20 percent.

Bifani said income tax collection represents 0.32 percent of government tax revenues, adding that it should be 4.5 percent.
'The new tax system will allow us to reach gradually the LL500 million target. All the preparations have been adopted to ensure that this target is attainable,' he said.
The objective of the new tax system is to end tax evasion by issuing financial cards with serial numbers to every employee and pensioner in the country.
Bifani added that a taxpayer will not be entitled to a family discount if he or she holds more than one job.
Some economists said that many Lebanese in the private and public sector hold more than two jobs, due to the country's high cost of living.

Income taxes here range from 2 percent to a maximum 20 percent, depending on the size of the income.
The government pledged not to increase taxes this year due to the difficult economic conditions in the country.
Individuals with incomes of less than LL1 million a month are exempted from paying taxes.
Bifani said that the new tax cards will allow the ministry to improve its database and determine if individuals are paying the taxes they owe.
He added that the ministry will soon distribute application forms to all companies and institutions to register their staff for the new cards.

Bifani said that taxpayers will in the future be able to access the ministry's website to find all the necessary information about these forms: 'We hope one day that taxpayers can complete all his tax payments though the internet.'
He added that the ministry is currently upgrading its computer system and connecting it with other ministries and public departments.
Most government revenues come from customs duties and telephone bills.

Apart from taxes and the value-added tax, the government is counting on privatization and $5 billion in soft loans from Europe, Asia and Gulf states.
The International Monetary Fund, which sent a team to Lebanon this month, indicated it was satisfied with the Lebanese government's measures to reduce the deficit.

Beirut 04-11-2002
Osama Habib
The Daily Star

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