CoPF urges tax on companies earning super gains due to ‘Midnight Gazette’



The Committee on Public Finance (CoPF) issued a directive to Ministry of Finance officials, instructing them to impose income tax on companies that exploited the ‘midnight gazette’ to make significant profits, which CoPF refers to as ‘super gains,’ in order to compensate for lost revenue. 

The Committee also tasked officials with developing and implementing mechanisms to collect these taxes or providing detailed explanations if they are unable to do so, along with proposing remedial actions to prevent such incidents in the future.

The seriousness of the situation became evident when CoPF obtained essential data related to sugar imports for the past three months from the Department of Customs. CoPF questioned Ministry of Finance officials about the suspicious timing of this tax increase and the surge in sugar imports by certain companies just before the tax hike.

In response, Ministry of Finance officials stated that the tax increase was part of the fiscal-based revenue consolidation program linked to an IMF initiative. Furthermore, they highlighted that the sudden increase in sugar imports was a seasonal occurrence. In light of these claims, the Committee insisted on a comprehensive comparative analysis of previous years to verify these assertions.

The Committee sounded the alarm about specific companies importing unusually large quantities of sugar without concrete evidence supporting the necessity for such massive imports. For example, a company that typically imported 2,000 metric tons of sugar monthly inexplicably imported 10,000 metric tons in October, just before the tax increase, reaping substantial gains as the tax jumped 200-fold from 25 cents to 50 rupees.

Chairman Dr. Harsha de Silva stressed the importance of ending the use of ‘midnight gazettes’ related to special commodity levies. These practices provide the Minister of Finance with unchecked authority to change tax rates or grant tax exemptions to specific companies. This concern aligns with the recommendations made by the IMF in their Governance Diagnostic Report, urging Sri Lanka to eliminate ‘midnight gazettes’ due to their potential for fostering corruption.

State Minister Dr.Suren Raghavan as well as Members of Parliament M. A. Sumanthiran, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Nimal Lanza and Isuru Dodangoda, were present at the Committee meeting held.


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