Taxation in Iran
|An aspect of fiscal policy|
The fiscal year begins on March 21 and ends on March 20 of the next year according to Iranian calendar. 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. An estimated 50% of Iran’s GDP was exempt from taxes in FY 2004. There are virtually millions of people who do not pay taxes in Iran and hence operate outside the formal economy.
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. 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.
- 1 Government's budget
- 2 Income tax
- 3 Real estate tax
- 4 Capital markets
- 5 Inheritance tax
- 6 Corporate income tax
- 7 Appeals procedure
- 8 Indirect taxes
- 9 Customs
- 10 See also
- 11 References and notes
- 12 External links
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. As of 2014, the share of direct taxes from the total tax revenues was around 70%.
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). Iran is losing between $12–20 billion a year through tax avoidance and evasion. Starting in 2015, Iran's parliament decided to tax Setad and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Tax evaders typically are either involved in activities in the gray sector of economy or in the underground market which they do not divulge. Others are engaged in smuggling and the black market. The loses are equivalent to 20% to 25% of the country’s gross domestic product revenue.
There are five categories of income earned by individuals. Each category is taxed separately and has its own computational rules.
- Salaries (tax rate for public sector employees: 10%; other sectors: 10-35%);
- Income from professions, trades, and miscellaneous sources; (More info here)
- Incidental or windfall earnings; (More info here)
- Real estate income (see also under "Real estate tax" section below)
- Income derived from agriculture (see also 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.
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.
|Income in IRR||Income Tax Rate|
|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%|
In addition to these mandatory taxes, as of 2007, Islamic taxes were collected on a voluntary basis. These included 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).
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).
Capital gains tax
- Cash dividend: none (22.5% at source from Company).
- 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.
- 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.
- Capital gain: no tax (bonds or equities).
- Interest income: no tax.
- Participation papers: Profit and awards accrued are tax exempt.
- Listed companies: 10% tax exemption, companies holding 20% free loat shares are provided 20% tax exemption.
- Foreign investors: Foreign investors in TSE are tax-exempt.
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$5,383).
The inheritance tax rates are as follows:
|Tax base, IRR (US$)||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 income 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.
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 – 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.
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:
- 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.
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.
[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.
Expenses incurred in Iran by Iranian registered branches and representative offices of foreign companies that are not authorized by their head offices to engage in any trading activity but are only authorized 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.
- In the agricultural sector, by virtue of Article 81 of 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% 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.
- Profit and awards accrued to participation papers are tax exempt.
- 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.
- Starting in 2014, foreign investors, who establish production lines in Iran and export 30 percent of their products, will be entitled to tax exemptions.
Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA)
|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:
- If investment located out of a 120-kilometer radius from the center of Tehran,
- If investment located out of a 50-kilometer radius from the center of Isfahan,
- If investment located out of a 30-kilometers radius from the centers of provinces (except for the Industrial Estates within this radius)
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.
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.
The 50 per cent tax exemption previously granted to tourism enterprises has been extended to include five-star hotels. Since 2014, foreign companies who set up business in Iran will receive corporate tax breaks of up to 50%, if they export at least 30% of their products.
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.
Algeria, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, France, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.
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.
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 book-keeping systems with international standards. Iranian banks use interest-based transactions and retain the accounting standards of conventional banking. Following international sanctions, KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, RSM, Crowe Horwath and Grant Thornton have suspended their activities in Iran in recent years. The main professionals and representative organization in Iran is the Iranian Institute of Certified Accountants.
Value added tax (VAT)
In 2008, sales tax rate in Iran was 3%. Value Added Tax Act (VATA) was put into effect since mid-year 1387 (2008). Its implementation was suspended following 10 days of widespread demonstrations across Iran in October 2008. 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%, but the VAT rates of certain goods such as "cigarettes and tobacco products" and "gasoline and jet fuel" are respectively 12 and 20%. 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:
|Item||Additional duties (2009)|
|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 (by 2015). As of 2010, VAT for goods and services (except oil and tobacco products) was 3%.
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. 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.
This tax only applies to companies, which are subject to a municipal tax at the rate of three per cent of their taxable income (2006).
Neither the Electronic Commerce Law of 2004 nor any other Iranian legislation deals specifically with taxation arising from e-commerce.
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.
As of 2015, there are a variety of items which are exempt from taxes being imported into Iran, such as:
- unprocessed agricultural products
- flour, bread, sugar, rice, milk, cheese
- livestock and animals
- feedstock and pesticides.
|mining raw production||15%|
|paper and wood fabrics||15%|
|agricultural raw production||25%|
Iran has passed a law that bans the import of foreign goods and services when similar products or capacities already exist in Iran. The government says that 200 thousand new jobs are created with every one billion dollar reduction in imports. Reported issues are increasing the quality of domestic products, adaptation by domestic suppliers to the Iranian consumer tastes and marketing. As part of the resistive economy, the Supreme Leader of Iran has urged Iranians to consume more domestic products over imported ones.
In an effort to streamline and harmonize the customs procedure with other governmental and private partners, the Government of Iran has selected ASYCUDAWORLD as a tool for its customs administration in order to move toward e-commerce and e-customs. This project is a technical cooperation project between the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and UNDP. As of March 21, 2010, all imported goods must have barcode stickers Irancode that meet the national and international standards.
Free trade zones and re-export
Value added tax (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. In accordance with Article 12 of the Export-Import Regulations Act, the pre-exportation entry (temporary importation) of materials and goods to be used in producing, finishing, processing and packaging of exported goods are exempted from all import duties.
One third of the imported goods in Iran are delivered through the black market, underground economy, and illegal jetties. Iran is modernizing the customs to prevent the smuggling of contraband in and out of the country worth $12 billion annually. 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. In 2013, smugglers imported $17 billion of goods. Nearly $3 billion of goods were also imported, using tariff exemptions, while the total import reached $50 billion in value.
- Drug smuggling ($8.5 billion),
- Petroleum smuggling (>$1.3 billion); 20 million liters of fuel per day as of 2014.
- Alcohol smuggling ($912.5 million),
- Cigarette smuggling ($2 billion),
- Arms trafficking,
- Pirated movies and software piracy.
- Cash ($1 billion),
One Majlis member recently stated that IRGC black-market activities alone might account for $12 billion per year. Iranian commander Mohammadreza Yazdi has stated that all IRGC economic activities are legitimate. Besides the IRGC, rogue elements within the Government of Iran, Bonyads and the Bazaar are allegedly involved in the smuggling activity.
Dubai and Khasab in the Persian Gulf are important foreign centers of smuggling into Iran. These imports enter Iran through major ports such as Bandar-e Abbas or free trade zones such as the islands of Kish and Qeshm. Excessive import tariffs (for items such as clothing for example) also contributes to smuggling in Iran.
Damage to the economy
Up to 80% of the goods enter the country through unregistered ports and jetties in the Persian gulf, thus undermining the domestic industries in energy, agriculture, garment, textile, home appliances, electronics, etc. As of 2014, 75% of the cell phones in the market were smuggled into the country.
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.
- Iranian labor law
- List of major economic laws in Iran
- Economy of Iran
- International Rankings of Iran in Economy
- Tax rates around the world
- Constitution of Iran
- Bonyad - Iran's foundations which control 20% of Iran's GDP.
- Fiscal policy in Iran
- Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance (Iran)
- Iranian calendar
- Social class in Iran
References and notes
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- OIETAI. "Tax Holidays - Organization for Investment Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran". Retrieved 11 June 2015.
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- As’ad Abdul Rahman (February 13, 2015). Gulf News, ed. "Iran: A financial empire untouched by sanctions".
- A Review of the Iranian Tax System -2014. Organization for Investment Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
- Aug 26, 2008 (2008-08-26). "Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs". Atimes.com. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
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- Iran Investment Monthly. Turquoise Partners, June 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- Tehran Stock Exchange: FACT BOOK. Retrieved July 31, 2010
- "Iran Profile - Doing business - For Australian Exporters - Export assistance, grants, and help. - Australian Trade Commission". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
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- A Review of the Iranian Tax System - Organization for Investment Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran
- Paying Taxes in Iran - World Bank
- (English) Ministry of Finance in Iran - Direct tax laws
- Annual Reviews - Reports by the 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)
- Islamic Republic of Iran's Customs Administration
- Iran's Export-Import Regulation Act (2002) & Export-Import Guide (2014)
- Market Access Map, an online database of customs tariffs and market requirements.
- Australian trade: Doing business in Iran (2006) at the Wayback Machine (archived October 4, 2006) - Many practical information including importation procedure to Iran.
- Iran's tax reform plan - PressTV (2012)
- New year's tax plan in Iran - PressTV (2015)
- Govt. measures against contraband in Iran PressTV (2015)
- How to Export Goods to Iran (all procedures explained)
- How to Import Goods to Iran (all procedures explained)