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Iranian Gold Traders' Strike Spreads

Gold traders are unhappy about the new tax
Gold merchants throughout Iran are joining a strike to protest a new tax on gold that they say severely hurts their business, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The gold bazaar in Tehran went on strike shortly after the government announced on September 26 that it was adding a 3 percent VAT (value-added tax) on gold products.

The strike has since stretched to other cities such as Mashhad, Shiraz, Ghazvin, Qom, and Sabzevar.

A Tehrani gold seller told Radio Farda on September 29 that "we are opposing this law because it shoots the price of gold up and customers will lose their purchasing power."

He added that "we pay our annual taxes and we don't have any problem with that law, but this tax increases the price of gold to a level that [some consumers] cannot afford."

Some gold merchants have suggested the government put a single tax on "manufactured gold" instead of a tax on every step of gold production from when it is mined to the final product.

Iranian Tax Affairs Director Ali Asgari said on September 28 that the government will not back down on the tax.

The VAT has been enforced since last year on some gold traders, but members of the gold guild have strongly protested against the new tax.

The law is to come into full force in October.

Hassan Mansour, a London-based Iran economist, told Radio Farda that the biggest issue among sellers at the Tehran bazaar is the government's interference in their market.

"On one hand they are upset about the increased prices and the impact they have on the gold market in Iran, but traditionally the bazaar is not happy to be fully controlled by the government," he said. "They know this 3 percent tax could rise in the future."

He added that the tax could "easily increase to 17.5 percent like in the United Kingdom or 25 percent, like it is in Sweden."