By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

Artists’ tax exemption a just decision? 

December 6, 2019 - 18:50

Cultural and artistic activities are one of the eight categories exempted from paying basic tax under Iran’s tax law.

However, in the country’s budget bill for the upcoming year, the government announced its plan to reduce the tax exemption to 50 percent.

A number of cultural figures and artists criticized the plan and said that by the elimination of the tax exemption, artists and others working in the cultural fields would be squeezed by the consequent higher living expenses more than ever.

Meanwhile, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyyed Abbas Salehi officially asked the government to continue the tax exemption for cultural and artistic activities.

Following the request, the administration retracted its decision and Vice-President Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht, who is also the director of the Management and Planning Organization, said that the government is extending the tax exemption for artistic and cultural activities.

The retraction of the decision was also criticized by a number of people working in the artistic and cultural activities.

“Many people working in these fields are not artists or cultural figures at all,” actor Payam Dehkordi has said in an interview.

“These people earn high incomes in other fields, while pretending to work in the artistic and cultural activities in order to evade tax,” he added.  

Film producer Manijeh Hekmat also attacked the decision.

“If the artists’ tax exemption is not an election bribe, it is absolutely the government’s confusion and its misunderstanding of tax functions and aims,” she said.

“Making this decision during the deep economic recession in the country is sign of the government’s misunderstanding of this situation,” she lamented.

“This extravaganza will lead into widening the already-growing gap between rich and poor and an increase in poverty, while only people with a high income will make a huge profit from the exemption,” she noted.

Addressing Nobakht, Hekmat said, “Mr. Nobakht! We are facing a serious situation; don’t make it harder by your inept decisions. Collect taxes and spend them     properly like all other countries in the world with prudence, if there still remains any prudence.”

The storm of criticism caused the Culture Ministry to comment on the issue. Deputy Culture Minister for Legal Affairs Ali-Asghar Karandish said last Wednesday that artists and cultural organizations with high incomes are excepted from any tax exemption.

“We as the major cultural organization of the country believe actors, singers, institutes or any other organizations with a high income must pay tax,” he added.

Everybody knows that taxes are levied to lead society toward justice and balance. In Iran, there are people who live in houses, one of which is valued at about 10 trillion rials (about $240 million) and there are also many people who cannot afford to eat a loaf of bread.  

In such a society, the tax exemption should be more specific. The tax exemption for cultural and artistic activities may include people working in the entertainment industry, which makes enormous profits for them. Many of these people live in houses located in Busty Hills, a neighborhood in the town of Lavasan near Tehran, which is called the Beverly Hills of Iran.    

The government lacks the necessary measures to prevent tax evasion activities by members of the private sector. However, workers and others with low incomes must pay their tax before they receive their salaries!  

Photo: People visit the exhibition of the 7th Tehran Auction at the Parsian Azadi Hotel on July 4, 2017. (Honaronline)

MMS/YAW

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