Iran to roll out tax, insurance breaks for virus-hit economy

Bloomberg – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced a series of banking, welfare and tax relief measures to support businesses and families as the coronavirus outbreak puts severe strain on the economy.

Employees can defer health insurance, tax and utility bill payments for the next three months, while the 3 million poorest Iranians will receive an additional cash subsidy starting from March 17, Rouhani said Sunday in a meeting broadcast on state TV.

Banks will also remove restrictions and limits on check payments for businesses. Relief measures covering taxes and insurance for small to medium-sized enterprises were already announced by Iran’s central bank.

The spread of the virus, which has so far killed 724 people in the Islamic Republic, has forced Iran to seek about $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund, its first request for financial support from the lender since the 1960s.

Iran is grappling with the outbreak at a time when its economy is also the target of renewed U.S. sanctions that have devastated oil exports and isolated it from global banking channels.

Rouhani said there were no plans under way to place any part of the country under quarantine and instead urged people to restrict their movements and stay at home.

(Updates with new virus death toll in fourth paragraph.)