Argentine Congress moves toward implementing wealth tax to fund COVID-19 aid

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 18 (Reuters) - The lower house of Argentina’s Congress on Wednesday approved 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 Senate was expected to consider the government-backed legislation before the end of the month. The lower house vote was 133 to 115 with two abstentions.

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.

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. More than 36,106 Argentines have died of COVID-19 so far, according to official data.

Money raised by the proposed 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 Walter Bianchi, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama