Kuwait MPs criticise proposal to tax expat remittances

‘We cannot tolerate making life more economically challenging for expatriates who have been legally recruited’

A proposal to impose taxes on remittances by expatriates in Kuwait has been assailed as “nonsensical” by lawmakers.

“It will have negative impacts on both Kuwaitis and foreigners and will exacerbate feelings of hatred in the community,” lawmakers said ahead of a crucial meeting to be held by the parliament’s legislative committee to discuss the proposal, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Sunday.

“We do understand the significance of discussing the issue of high numbers of foreigners living in Kuwait and the negative effects on the country’s demographics, but we cannot tolerate making life harder and economically more challenging for expatriates who have been legally recruited nor do we accept threatening them every now and them with deportation,” the lawmakers who were not named by the daily said.

“Marginal and free-visa” foreigners are a totally different issue and they should be deported while those who had facilitated their entry into Kuwait should be held accountable, the MPs added.

MP Mohammad Al Hayef said that imposing taxes on remittances was a violation of Islamic principles.

“In Islam, people who make money are requested to contribute 2.5 per cent of their income to the community under the pillar of Zakat,” he said.

“However, Zakat is an annual duty while remittances can be made every month. Therefore, it is not acceptable from a religious perspective. At the same time, we have to appreciate that it is not fair to impose taxes on people who leave their country and live away from their family to make money and then they are asked to pay taxes on their remittances. We really need to be cautious because by imposing such a tax, we might be opening a window for money smuggling,” he said, quoted by the daily.

The Kuwaiti parliament will on Thursday hold a special session to discuss the increasingly high numbers of foreigners living in the country.

Earlier this month MP Safa Al Hashem called for the increase of taxes on foreign expatriate workers.

The session is expected to be stormy amid deep divisions among lawmakers on the issue, especially after an MP referred to them as “settlers”, a term reserved in Kuwait for Israelis who live on Palestinian lands.