Argentina seeks wealth tax to help COVID-19 hit families

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The lower house of Argentina’s Congress on Tuesday began debating a bill seeking to raise 300 billion pesos ($3.75 billion) through a tax on large fortunes to finance programs aimed at helping families hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government-backed bill may be approved late on Tuesday if debate does not continue past midnight, as some local media predicted. The Senate was expected to consider the legislation before the end of the month once it is passed by the house.

People with more than $2.5 million - about 12,000 individuals - would get hit by the 2% flat tax. The levy would increase progressively as equity increases, under the proposal.

More than 35,700 Argentines have died of COVID-19 so far, according to official data.

President Alberto Fernández took office in December amid a recession that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. He has sharply increased public spending to protect hard-hit families over recent months.

Money raised by the tax is to be used to buy health equipment, fund welfare subsidies and loans for small and medium-sized companies with the aim of increasing employment.

Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Bill Berkrot