President Putin raises tax for wealthy Russians ahead of vote on his rule

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President Vladimir Putin raised income tax for wealthy Russians and offered new state handouts to families with children on Tuesday, days before the country votes on reforms that could keep him in power until 2036.

In a televised speech to the nation, Putin, 67, said Russia’s response to the coronavirus crisis had saved tens of thousands of lives and he ordered the extension of several support measures to cushion the economic fallout.

Deviating from a flat 13 percent tax he himself introduced almost two decades ago, Putin said the wealthy would now pay 15 percent on annual income over 5 million roubles ($72,833) and that the additional cash would go towards helping sick children.

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The move, to be introduced from January, is likely to play well with voters frustrated by years of falling incomes. Many also dislike the class of wealthy businessmen which sprang up after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin’s speech came ahead of a seven-day national vote starting on Thursday in which Russians will approve or reject an array of reforms, including one that could allow Putin to serve two more terms in the Kremlin instead of stepping down in 2024.

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Putin promised to expand a program to help families with mortgages and to offer a one-off payment next month of 10,000 roubles for each child they have aged up to 16, measures he said would help them weather the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Russia, which has registered the world’s third largest number of coronavirus cases, has largely ended its lockdown, but the crisis is expected to cause a 6 percent economic contraction this year.

Putin also proposed cutting tax on IT companies’ profit to 3 percent from 20 percent. Though short on details, the proposal prompted Russian internet giant Yandex’s shares to rise more than 3 percent.

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