Jordanian travel agents have criticized government moves to slap a 13 percent sales tax on overall sales, claiming that the financial burden will force many to close down their businesses. The government will start imposing a value added tax as of January 1, 2000, at a time when the tourism sector is suffering a major decline in business from the three-month-old Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Bishara Sawalha, president of Jordan Society of Tourist and Travel Agents, told the Jordan Times that the new tax will be calculated on the total of each bill of the travel agencies. The travel agents have since complained about overlapping taxation. “We're already paying a 13 percent tax to hotels, 13 percent to the transport companies and another 13 percent to restaurants; we can't afford to pay more” said Sawalha, who sits on the board of directors for the Jordan Tourism Board.
He added that all other profits are divided into three portions, one given to the government, the second to the guides and the last portion, which does not exceed 10-15 Jordanian dinars, forms the travel agents' only earnings. “We will lose the tourism market,” he said adding that the only salvation for the tourism industry is for the government to retract the decision.
The Jordan Society of Tourist and Travel Agents has handed Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Aqel Biltaji a memo that points out the negative repercussions of the decision. The 120 travel agents, specialized in hosting foreign tourist programs across the country, contribute to the country's national income, the memo said, noting that they create job opportunities and earn the country much-needed hard currency.
Biltaji, who declined to comment, will hand the memo to Finance Minister Michel Marto for consideration. “Tourists will refuse to pay more and head to neighboring countries, like Israel and Egypt, that do not impose such taxes on their travel agents,” Sawalha said.
Khalil Udwan, a travel agency owner, said that the agency has already contracted with its agents abroad for the year 2001, “we cannot change our agreements in the middle of the way—it is already a committed rate.” Sawalha concluded that if the 13 percent tax is implemented, many travel agents will not renew their registration with the ministry and close their offices. — ( Jordan Times )
By Dina Al Wakeel
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )