Saudi officials downplay talk of taxing expats

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Saudi Arabia’s minister of finance, Ibrahim Al-Assaf, has sought to play down reports that the Kingdom will soon impose income taxes on either Saudis or expatriates living there.

According to media reports out of Saudi Arabia, Al-Assaf told a press conference in Ryadh on Tuesday evening that the idea of imposing a tax was merely a proposal, and that for now, there were no plans to introduce an income tax regime.

The talk of an income tax being introduced emerged during lengthy recent discussions taking place in the Gulf state about how Saudi Arabia is to restructure its economy, as it seeks to raise the revenue it receives from non-oil sources, such as tourism and financial services, in the wake of the recent fall in the price of oil.

As reported, the restructuring plan, or National Transformation Programme (NTP), was formally released earlier this week. It is seen as the means by which Saudi Arabia will realise its “Vision 2030” objectives, which is a set of goals the Kingdom’s rulers have established to be met by the year 2030.

According to the online English-language Saudi Gazette, Al-Assaf on Tuesday “downplayed analysts’ skepticism that the NTP plan is overly ambitious” and that it would “fail to break the cultural and bureaucratic resistance to the deep-seated change” in a country in which the nationals are accustomed to generous handouts and benefits.

He also confirmed plans for the Ministry of Finance to launch its debut international bond, but said its size would be determined by government needs, the Saudi Gazette reported.