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80% of 12,000 millionaires pay up: Argentina raises over $2B with one-off Covid wealth tax

Argentina raised more than $2 billion with a one-off wealth tax to pay for medical supplies and relief for small businesses battered by the coronavirus epidemic, the government said Monday.

Argentina raised more than $2 billion with a one-off wealth tax to pay for medical supplies and relief for small businesses battered by the coronavirus epidemic, the government said Monday.

About 80 percent of the 12,000-odd millionaires targeted by the measure had paid their dues, raising some $2.25 billion on today’s exchange rate, said the AFIP federal tax authority.

A law passed by the Senate in December approved the so-called “solidarity contribution” by Argentines whose assets exceed 200 million pesos (about $2.1 million).

The measure targeted the richest of Argentina’s 45 million inhabitants, seeking to raise money to buy medical supplies, aid small and medium enterprises, fund social aid, and provide natural gas to people off the energy grid.

“The resources generated will be essential to face the health and economic emergencies presented by the pandemic,” said AFIP head Mercedes Marco del Pont.

Some 3,000 people had failed to pay the levy dubbed a “millionaire’s tax,” of whom about 200 went to court to be declared non-taxable, said the AFIP.

They included several well-known business magnates and former Manchester United and Man City star Carlos Tevez, who now plays for Buenos Aires-based Boca Juniors.

The tax authority said it will look into the non-payment by those with no judicial exemption.

The one-off tax bill had passed by a Senate vote of 42-26, opposed by the center-right opposition.

Argentina has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with more than three million confirmed cases and over 64,000 deaths.

The pandemic exacerbated the already high poverty rate in the country in recession since 2018. Two in five people live in poverty, and unemployment is at 11 percent.

In its annual report on economic inequality in January, Oxfam said the world’s 1,000 richest people had recouped their coronavirus-related losses within nine months, while it could take the world’s poorest more than a decade to recover.

“The world’s 10 richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began — more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic,” it said.

Oxfam said “progressive taxation” of the rich is key to any equitable recovery from the crisis, and said Argentina had “showed the way.” (AFP)

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