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Labor and tax laws in Iran

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Labor and tax laws in Iran

The fiscal year begins on March 21 and ends on March 20 of the next year. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs is the government agency authorized to levy and collect taxes. In 2008, about 55% of the government's budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, the rest from taxes and fees.[1] An estimated 50 percent of Iran’s GDP was exempt from taxes in FY 2004.[2] There are virtually millions of people who do not pay taxes in Iran and hence operate outside the formal economy.[3][4]

As part of the Iranian Economic Reform Plan, the government has proposed income tax increases on traders in gold, steel, fabrics and other sectors, prompting several work stoppages by merchants.[5] In 2011, the government announced that during the second phase of the economic reform plan, it aims to increase tax revenues, simplify tax calculation method, introduce double taxation, mechanize tax system, regulate tax exemptions and prevent tax evasion.[6]

Government's budget

Main article: Government's budget

According to the Expediency Council, more than 60% of economic activity in Iran evades taxation: 40% of the economic activity falls under an exemption and the remaining 21% are conducted off-the-books (2012).[7]

The government can increase its tax revenues 2.5 times by enacting tax reforms. As at 2012, taxes account for 43% of the government's revenues and 7% of Iran's GDP. The Expediency Council's report recommended increasing that share to 15% of the GDP.[7]

Income tax

There are five categories of income earned by individuals. Each category is taxed separately and has its own computational rules.

  • Salaries (see below);
  • Income from professions, trades, and miscellaneous sources; (see here [8])
  • Incidental or windfall earnings; (see here [9])
  • Real estate income (see under "Real estate tax" section below)
  • Income derived from agriculture (see under "Tax exemptions" section below)

For taxable income consisting of salary and benefits, employers are required to make the necessary tax deductions from their employees’ payroll and submit them to the tax authorities. However, when calculating taxable income, exemptions and deductions are allowed. As of 2009, only government employees were paying their fair share of income taxes.[10]

Individuals of Iranian nationality resident in Iran are subject to tax on all their income whether earned in Iran or abroad. Foreign nationals working in Iran are also subject to the same income tax based on their salary. Non-resident individuals are liable to pay tax only on their Iranian-sourced income. Foreign employees cannot obtain an exit visa from Iran unless they provide proof that they have paid their due taxes, and since they need to obtain an exit permit when their presence in Iran is based on a work permit, the government can easily enforce this rule. The government assumes a certain salary for employees depending on their position and country of origin. The assumed minimum monthly salaries in 2004 range from US$2,500 for unskilled European workers to US$7,000 for European managing directors.

Salary Tax Rates
Annual Income/Profit in IRR Income Tax Rate[11][12]
Up to 30,000,000 (US$3,230) 15%
30,000,000 to 100,000,000 (US$10,767) 20%
100,000,000 to 250,000,000 (US$26,917) 25%
250,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 (US$107,666) 30%
In excess of 1,000,000,000 (US$107,666) 35%

Islamic taxes

In addition to these mandatory taxes, Islamic taxes are collected on a voluntary basis. These include an individual's income tax (Arabic khums, “one-fifth”); an alms-tax (zakat), which has a variable rate and benefits charitable causes; and a land tax (kharaj), the rate of which is based on the principle of one-tenth ('ushr) of the value of crops, unless the land is tax-exempt.

Real estate tax

Rental income is subject to real estate income tax in Iran. A fixed deduction of 25% of the gross income is extended to all taxpayers to account for income-generating expenses. The net income, which is 75% of the gross rent, is then subject to the same rates as in the above table (max. 35%). Rental income is exempted from real estate tax if the property is a residential property leased as such and measures up to 150 sq. m. if it is located in Tehran (up to 200 sq. m. if it is located in other parts of the country).[12]

In Iran the transfer of land, not the land itself, is subject to taxation. Transfer of properties: 5% of the transaction value (15% for new buildings).[13]

Capital gains tax

As of 2009, Iran has no capital gains tax on the sale of real estate assets. However, a capital gain tax will be introduced with the implementation of the 2010 economic reform plan.[14][15]

Capital markets

As of July 2010, taxes on TSE transactions are as follows:

  • Cash dividend: none (22.5% at source from Company).[16]
  • Share transfers: the Tax Amendment has changed the regulations regarding calculation of tax on transfer of shares and their rights in Iranian corporate entities.
    • In the case of shares listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) the tax on transfer of such shares and other rights is 0.5 per cent of the sales price.[17]
    • In the case of transfer of the shares and their rights to other corporate entities (i.e. those not listed on the TSE) a flat rate of four per cent of value of the shares and rights transferred applies. No other taxes will be charged. The Amendment has removed the requirement to value the shares in this category.[17]

Exemptions

Inheritance tax

Inheritance taxes are levied at progressive rates depending on the relationship between the deceased and the heir.

  • Category I: (first degree heirs) parents, spouse, children, grandchildren
  • Category II: (second degree heirs) grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews
  • Category III: (third degree heirs) uncles, aunts, children of uncles and aunts

A deduction allowance of IRR30 million (US$3,230) is extended to each first degree heir. First degree heirs who are below 20 years of age or are incapacitated are entitled to the maximum deduction allowance of IRR50 million (US$5,383).

The inheritance tax rates are as follows:[20]

Tax rates on different categories
Tax base, IRR (US$) I II III
Up to 50 million (US$5,383) 5% 15% 35%
50 million – 200 million (US$21,533) 15% 25% 45%
200 million – 500 million (US$53,832) 25% 35% 55%
Over 500 million (US$53,832) 35% 45% 65%

Corporate profit tax

A new flat rate corporation tax of 25 per cent payable on the profits of corporate commercial entities has been introduced. This rate replaces the old corporation tax of 10 per cent and progressive rates of income tax (12-54 per cent) on reserves and distributable income. Apart from the 25 per cent corporation tax and the 0.3 per cent Chamber of Commerce tax no more taxes will be payable by the corporate entity or the shareholders.[21]

The new rate of corporation tax will also apply to joint venture corporate entities registered in Iran. The tax incidence will therefore be on the corporate entity and not on the shareholder. The calculation of the tax has been simplified.

All contracting work performed by foreign contractors, whether or not the company is registered in Iran, is taxed. For contracts signed before March 21, 2003, gross taxable income is calculated as gross contract receipts less the cost of imported material. Income is then taxed at 12% of gross taxable income less contract retention. For contracts signed after March 21, 2003, taxable income is the gross contract receipts less contract expenses. Income is taxed at 25 per cent less 5 per cent taxes withheld at source.

Taxation of foreign companies

Taxation in Iran generates particular unease among foreign firms because they appear to be arbitrarily enforced[22] – tax bills are initially based on 'assumed earnings' calculated by the Finance and Economy Ministry according to the size of the company and the sector in which it operates. Factors such as the quality and location of a company's offices are also widely believed to have an impact on tax assessment.

All foreign investors doing business in Iran or deriving income from sources in Iran are subject to taxation. Depending on the type of activity the foreign investor is engaged in, various taxes and exemptions are applicable, including profit tax, income tax, property tax, etc.[23]

Generally speaking, Iran has two types of laws concerning foreign companies. The first are laws that address issues concerning foreign companies directly such as the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA) and the second are general laws of which certain articles or by-laws address foreign companies, for instance the Taxation Law and the Labor Law. The Tax Act had divided the source of income earned by foreign companies either direct or through their branches in Iran into three main categories:[24]

  • Income earned in Iran by way of contracting operations
  • Income earned from Iran by way of royalties and licensing fees
  • Other activities - trading operations, etc.

[Note: The Amendment has introduced certain changes in the tax treatment of the above activities.]

Foreign legal entities must pay taxes on all taxable income earned through investments in mainland Iran or from direct or indirect (through agents, branch offices, etc.) activities in mainland Iran, at the flat rate of 25% as mentioned in Article 47 of the Amendment law.[25]

Income from royalty and licensing fees received from industrial and mining companies, government ministries and municipalities, and income from film-screening rights are subject to a deemed taxable coefficient on income of 20 per cent. All other income from royalties and licences from foreign companies is subject to a deemed taxable coefficient on income of 30 per cent. The coefficients are based on the standard corporate tax rate of 25 per cent, so that the effective tax rate is either 5 per cent or 7.5 per cent.[21]

[Note: The Amendment has removed the confusion surrounding 'technical assistance contracting' by including 'technical assistance' and 'transfer of technology' in contracting operations subject to tax on the basis of 12 per cent of annual fees.]

Tax on Liaison, Representative and Branch Offices

The same corporate and profit taxes will be applied to the taxable income of branches of foreign companies (contractors, consultant engineers, et al.)

Other income earning activities of foreign branches will be subject to taxation on an actual basis, i.e. based on their income tax return as filed and supported by their statutory accounting books.[21]

Expenses incurred in Iran by Iranian registered branches and representative offices of foreign companies that are not authorised by their head offices to engage in any trading activity but are only authorised to conduct marketing and market research in Iran are tax deductible upon presentation of receipts from their head office.

Tax advantages & exemptions

  • Income tax exemptions are available to new factories established in "special areas", and last from four to eight years, from the first day of operations. In addition, 80% of the reported profit of all manufacturing, mining, assembly plant and related engineering companies are exempt from income taxes. Tax incentives, meanwhile, are available to manufacturing, mining, agricultural activities, exports and investment in special areas.[24]
  • In the agricultural sector, by virtue of Article 81 of[26] the revenues of activities in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry and livestock, pisciculture, apiculture, raising poultry, hunting, fisheries, sericulture, and restoration of forests, pasturage, orchards, trees and palms of whatever kind are exempted from taxation.
  • The income of rural, tribal, and agricultural cooperative societies and those of fishermen, laborers, employees, students and their unions are 100 percent tax exempt.
  • The revenues from hand woven carpets and handicrafts and the related production cooperative companies and unions are exempt from taxation.
  • The revenues of inventors or discoverers from their innovations and discoveries are exempt from taxation. Also revenues of research and development activities of institutes which have obtained licenses for such activities from the relevant ministries will be exempt from taxation for 10 years as of the entry into force of the Amendment, according to the provisions of the relevant circular of the Council of Ministers.
  • All housing production projects for the low-income groups and housing production in the dilapidated urban fabrics will enjoy a discount of around 50% on construction tariffs and construction density fees. The remaining amount can be paid in installments and will not be subject to any commission fees.[13]

Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA)

Protection through Enactment of FIPPA[13]
Activity Level of Exemption Duration of Exemption
Agriculture 100% No Time Limit
Industry and Mining 80% 4 Years
Industry and Mining in Less-Developed Areas 100% 10 Years
Tourism 50% No Time Limit
Exports 100% No Time Limit

Location requirement for tax-exemption:

  1. If investment located out of a 120-kilometer radius from the center of Tehran,
  2. If investment located out of a 50-kilometer radius from the center of Isfahan,
  3. If investment located out of a 30-kilometers radius from the centers of provinces (except for the Industrial Estates within this radius)

100% of taxable income of all units located in less developed areas shall be tax exempted for a period of 10 years.

Tax exemption - major changes

The exemptions on exports of manufactured and agricultural goods remain in force, but an ambiguity has occurred in the amendment regarding exemptions extended to the public sector (Iranian Government owned entities). Government owned enterprises and their shares in the private sector entities were excluded from all exemptions granted under the Tax Act.[27]

This exclusion has been removed from the relevant texts in the amendment. Until clarification is provided, it is not certain whether or not the government minority shares in the private sector manufacturing, mining and exports activities would enjoy the exemptions granted.[27]

The 50 per cent tax exemption previously granted to tourism enterprises has been extended to include five-star hotels.[27]

Losses

Losses sustained by all taxpayers engaged in trading and other activities, who are required to keep proper books of account, provided they are accepted by the tax authorities; will be carried forward and written off against future profits for a period of three years.[21]

Appeals procedure

It is noteworthy to point out that the Amendment has removed the second stage of appeal process. Appeals to the High Council of Taxation could only be made on questions of non-compliance with the provisions of the Tax Act rather than questions of fact.

Official accountants

The Amendment has for the first time after 1979 reintroduced the concept of the tax audit to be undertaken by 'official accountants' and their designated firms. The taxpayer or the tax administration can choose to appoint an official accountant or a designated firm of official accountants to examine his records and report to the tax authorities.

The accounting profession is not particularly organized in Iran. However, the influence of the foreign accounting practices implies an evolution and a relation between the Iranian accountants training and the American one. Thus, an increasing number of accountants and Iranian auditors receives an American training and apply it in Iran. This will contribute to strengthen the harmonization of Iranian .

Indirect Taxes (sales, VAT)

In 2008, sales tax rate in Iran was 3%.[28] Value Added Tax Act (VATA) was put into effect since mid-year 1387 (2008).[29] Its implementation was suspended following 10 days of widespread demonstrations across Iran in October 2008.[30] This Act has substituted all previous laws and regulations dealing with indirect taxes (including sales tax). According to the VATA, supply of commodities and services, as well as their imports and exports, shall be subject to the provisions of this Law.

According to article 16 of this Act, the VAT rate is 1.5 percent, but the VAT rates of certain goods such as "cigarettes and tobacco products" and "gasoline and jet fuel" are respectively 12 and 20 percent. In addition to the VAT rates just mentioned, article 38 of VATA levies the following duties on goods and services which are subject to this Act:[11]

Item Additional duties (2009)[11]
all types of cigarettes and tobacco products 3%
all types of petrol (gasoline) and jet fuel 10%
kerosene and gas oil 10%
on fuel oil 5%
all other goods and services 1.5%

The fifth development plan stipulates that VAT is to be increased by 1% each year, in order that it reaches 8% by the end of the plan. As of 2010, VAT for goods and services (except oil and tobacco products) was 3%.[31]

VAT tax exemption

VAT will not apply to free trade zones in Iran. However, goods and services entering Iran's customs territory will be subject to payment of VAT according to the law.[32] Articles 12 and 13 stipulate that supply and importation of some commodities and services including the following shall be exempt from the VATA:

  • a) Unprocessed agricultural products;
  • b) Livestock and live poultry, aquatic products, honey bees and silkworms;
  • c) All types of fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and saplings;
  • d) Bakery flour, bread, meat, sugar, rice, cereals and soya, milk, cheese, shortening and baby formula;
  • e) Books, press, notebooks and all types of printing papers, writing pads and papers and press papers;
  • f) Passenger goods for personal use, as exempted under the Export-Import Regulations ;
  • g) Immovable property;
  • h) All types of medicine, medical consumables, medical services (human, animal or plant) as well as rehabilitation and other supportive services;
  • i) Services subject to payment of salary taxes envisaged in the Direct Taxation Law;
  • j) Banking and credit services rendered by banks, credit institutes and cooperatives, authorized interest-free loan funds and cooperative funds;
  • k) Public transportation services and urban and inter-city roads, railway, air and sea passenger transport services;
  • l) Hand woven carpets;
  • m) All types of research and training services, as stipulated in a By-Law to be approved by the Council of Ministers;
  • n) Animal and poultry feed;
  • o) Export of goods and services from official exit points. Any tax paid on account of such exports shall be reimbursed (as regards commodities) upon submitting a certification of the customs certifying the export of goods. Value Added Tax (VAT) does not apply to free trade zones (FTZ) in Iran. However, goods and services entering Iran's customs territory from FTZs will be subject to payment of VAT according to the law.[32]

Municipal tax

Municipal tax in Iran is 3%.[33] (plan to replace it with VAT tax)

E-commerce

Neither the Electronic Commerce Law of 2004 nor any other Iranian legislation deals specifically with taxation arising from e-commerce.[34]

Customs

As of 2006, imports to Iran valued at more than IR500,000 ($50,000) must undergo pre-shipment quantity and quality inspection in their country of origin by an internationally recognised inspection organisation (such as SGS S.A.). Goods exported to Iran must be subject to invoices authenticated by the Iranian Embassy and by a nominated Chamber of Commerce operating in the supplier's country.[35]

Tariff rates


Indicative listing of import tariff rates in 2006[35]
Item Tariff rate
chemical products 10%
ordinary metals 10%
measurement instruments 10%
medical equipment 10%
food industry 15%
mining raw production 15%
leather industry 15%
paper and wood fabrics 15%
mechanical machinery 15%
agricultural raw production 25%
electric machinery 25%
automotive vehicles 100%

Smuggling

One third of the imported goods in Iran are delivered through the black market, underground economy, and illegal jetties.[38] Iran is modernizing the customs to prevent the smuggling of contraband in and out of the country worth $12 billion annually.[39] Other estimates put the value of smuggled goods into Iran alone at $5.5 billion-$6 billion annually. In 2010, Police in Iran estimated about $16 billion worth of goods is smuggled into Iran each year. $12 billion worth of goods are illegal to have or own in Iran, with the remaining $4 billion being legal goods that are legal to own in Iran.[40]

Largest black markets in Iran are those of:[40][41]

One Majlis member recently stated that IRGC black-market activities alone might account for $12 billion per year.[38] Iranian commander Mohammadreza Yazdi has stated that all IRGC economic activities are legitimate.[42] Besides the IRGC, rogue elements within the Government of Iran, Bonyads and the Bazaar are allegedly involved in the smuggling activity.[43]

Up to 80 percent of these goods enter the country through unregistered ports and jetties in the Persian gulf, thus undermining the domestic industries in agriculture, garment, textile, home appliances, electronics, etc.[44][45][46]

Dubai and Khasab in the Persian Gulf are important foreign centers of smuggling into Iran.[43][47] These imports enter Iran through major ports such as Bandar-e Abbas or free trade zones such as the islands of Kish and Qeshm.[43] Excessive import tariffs (for items such as clothing for example) also contributes to smuggling in Iran.[43]

Effect on employment

As per 2010 Iranian customs report $14.43 billion worth of goods were smuggled in and out of Iran out of which $13.25 billion was the value of goods smuggled into Iran leading to loss of some 600,000 jobs.[48]

"Dumping"

Economic dumping by countries like China stem from a combination of factors such as overpriced/low-quality of comparable Iranian goods (i.e., lack of competitiveness) in most cases and low Iranian tariff rates for those goods.[49] Iran has since passed a law that bans the import of foreign goods and services when similar products or capacities already exist in Iran.[50][51][52][53] Iran says that 200 thousand new jobs are created with every one billion dollar reduction in imports.[54] It has been noted that adaptation by domestic suppliers to the Iranian consumer tastes and the marketing process needs also to be developed and improved. In this regard, the Supreme Leader of Iran has urged Iranians to consume more domestic products over imported ones.[55]

Modernization

In an effort to streamline and harmonize the customs procedure with other governmental and private partners, the As of March 21, 2010, all imported goods must have barcode stickers Irancode that meet the national and international standards.[57]

Free trade zones and re-export

See also

References and notes

External links

Taxation
  • World Bank
  • (English) Ministry of Finance in Iran - Direct tax laws
  • Central Bank of Iran, including macro-economic data, sectoral activity and labor statistics.
  • Corporate Income Tax in Iran - Iran Trade Point
  • Summary of Principal Iranian Taxes (Note: document has not been updated)
  • Tehran Chamber of Commerce - Offers free tax consulting for companies intending to invest in Iran
  • (English) Nur Law - Database on Iranian laws and regulations
  • US Social Security Administration - Iran's entry (details on Iran's social security laws)
Customs
  • Islamic Republic of Iran's Customs Administration
  • Iran's Export-Import Regulation Act (2002)
  • Iran's list of countries which have signed double taxation convention, or bilateral reciprocal promotion & protection of investment agreements
  • Australian trade: Doing business in Iran - Many practical information including importation procedure to Iran.
Videos
  • PressTV (2012)
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