His Excellency Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, the Finance Minister inaugurated last Tuesday morning in Riyadh, the Fifth Meeting of the Middle East/North Africa Tax Forum. His Excellency welcomed in his speech at the opening ceremony the participants for their presence in Saudi Arabia, and expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the International Tax and Investment Center in the preparation and arrangement of the forum. His Excellency the Minister of Finance indicated the strong growth of the Kingdom's economy in the recent years, especially in the non-oil sector and to the continuation of the Kingdom's policy in giving priority to the expenditures on human development sectors and infrastructure for more diversification in the economy and finding jobs for the citizens. His Excellency Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf said in the opening speech that Saudi Arabia had "strengthened the position of the general finance by building reserves and reduce the ratio of public debt to the Gross Domestic Product to less than 3 percent." His Excellency Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf praised the advanced status of the Kingdom's attraction of foreign investment as indicated by the reports of the International Monetary Fund. As with regard to taxation, the Finance Minister said: The income tax system in Saudi Arabia was issued in its new version, reflecting the economic developments and in line with the best international practices in terms of inclusiveness, transparency and clarity, taking into account the ease of application and fairness of the tax rates and the Zakat collection system is also subject to a comprehensive review for the aim to be revised. Dr. Al-Assaf said that the Kingdom is keen on continued development of the tax administration, where the Department of Zakat and Income Tax conducted a review of its mechanisms and procedures, and implemented a comprehensive update plan of its organizational structure, automation of its operations and development of the information technology, which has resulted in the provision of a comprehensive and flexible services to the taxpayers, such as registration, filing and payment electronically and exchange of information with the concerned government agencies," he added that "the Kingdom is keen to promote cooperation in the field of taxation with other States" where (36) Tax Convention were signed with other States and (20) other agreements are pending the signature. The Minister pointed out in his speech to the importance of the subjects addressed by the forum and the challenges discussed, particularly in relation to tax and Base erosion and profit shifting. He added that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the G20 Countries prepared an action plan to meet these challenges, and formed working groups and technical committees working on this plan, where the Kingdom participates in a number of them.
In conclusion of his speech, he wished the forum the success and to contribute to useful discussions and recommendations to face the challenges in the area of taxation and its procedures.