Iran plans to tax religious foundations

Khamenei can annul such decisions

TEHRAN - Iran's parliament has adopted a law to tax religious foundations and military-linked companies, a first for the Islamic republic that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, media reported Thursday.
The government is seeking to tighten spending and raise taxes to offset the negative effect on the state budget of sharply lower oil prices and international sanctions.
The revenue resulting from the new law could amount to 10 billion rials (more than $377 million at the official rate/307 million euros), said the budget committee's Mousalreza Servati, cited by the reformist Shargh newspaper.
The money raised from the foundations and army-linked businesses that control large parts of the economy would go towards building schools in disadvantaged areas, a lawmaker was cited as saying.
Media outlets said the new legislation refers in particular to the Astan Qods Razavi Foundation, which manages the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shiite imam, in the northeastern city of Mashhad, which draws millions of pilgrims each year.
It also mentions EIKO, which the United States says is a network of 40 companies run by the office of the supreme leader in control of billions of dollars in investments.
"Given the fall in the country's oil revenues and the continuation of this trend for next year, it is necessary to obtain alternative income," Gholam-Ali Jafarzadeh Imenabadi, another budget committee member, was quoted as saying.
But the law is unlikely to take effect, according to MP Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, cited by the Tabnak news website.
The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic and its first supreme leader, exempted Astan Qods Razavi from taxes, Pourebrahimi said. Only his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can annul such decisions, which he generally refuses to do, the lawmaker explained.