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PFU Workshop Entitled "Tax Refund is a Right not a Gift"

On Sunday, 27/10/2019, the Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU) with the participation of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Ministry of Finance (MoF), through the cooperation of Oxfam and funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), held a workshop entitled “Tax Refund is a Right not a Gift” as part of the project “Developing Equitable Agricultural Production and Market System for Resilient Economic Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” at the Palestinian Red Crescent Association in Ramallah. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the MoF’s livestock tax refund law, which stated that refunds would be issued at a rate of 50/50% to farmers, MoF, and PADRRIF respectively, but was never implemented.

The workshop was attended by PFU representatives Executive Director, Mr. Abbas Milhem, and Advocacy and Lobbying Manager, Mr. Jamal Juma’a. The MoA was represented by the Deputy Minister, Mr. Abdallah Lahlouh; General Manager of the Farmers’ Financial Support Dept., Mr. Mohammad Abu Baker; and General Manager of NGOs, Mr. Ashraf Anabtawi. The MoF was represented by Mr. Rafe’ Thaher, Assistant Manager of the Added Value Tax Department. The attendees also included a large number of livestock farmers from all governorates, a number of agricultural companies, and representatives of various agricultural councils.

PFU screened a short video spot that showcases farmers’ concerns regarding tax refund law at the beginning of the workshop. Representatives of MoF and MoA both offered their respective ministries’ positions on the subject matter, before opening the discussion to the farmers in attendance. The farmers expressed their dismay with the delays in implementing the law and stressed that quick action must be taken otherwise they would resort to protests and strikes. The farmers, supported by PFU representatives, also emphasized that the Minister of Finance is responsible for the lack of action on this front, and must handle all responsibility moving forward. They asked the MoF representative to relay this message to the minister.

The outcomes:

  1. The MoA, PFU and agricultural councils were in agreement that a new law must be drafted in order to ensure that livestock farmers are treated in an equal manner to regular farmers; meaning they would earn back 75% on their tax refunds under the new law.
  2. A committee will be formed to follow up on the drafting of the new law
  3. All parties agreed that the new law must be presented to the Council of Ministers and then implemented as soon as possible.
  4. The MoF promised to implement the proposed new law as soon as it is passed, and all tax refund files currently stuck will be processed.
  5. Farmers agreed with encouragement and offers of guidance from PFU and both ministries to open new tax refund files.

As a further result, on 30/10/2019, PFU followed up with the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the freezing and amendment of the current livestock refund law, in order to ensure that the amended version will treat all farmers equally.