Syria president orders new tax breaks amid rising hardship

Syria's president decreed a new income tax exemption on 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.