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Govt. loses tax revenue due to foreigners’ on-field gem purchases

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It was disclosed at the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Sustainable Development that there is a tendency of the government being deprived from receiving the expected tax due to the Chinese and Thai nationals illegally buying local gemstones at very low value from the market. It was further discussed that due to this, injustice is being done to gem businessmen who run their business fairly by paying taxes to the government.

This matter was taken into discussion at the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Sustainable Development as it met to discuss issues related to import, export and re-export in the Gems and Jewellery sector recently in Parliament under the Chairmanship of MP Ajith Mannapperuma.

Representatives of business associations engaged in the Gems and Jewellery sector, officials including the Chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Authority, officials from the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization & National Policies, officials from the Sri Lanka Customs and the President’s Senior Additional Secretary (Agriculture and Environment) were called before this Committee.

MP Ajith Mannapperuma, Chair of the Committee, pointed out that the main expectation of these discussions is to work to restore the prestigious name of Sri Lankan gems among foreign countries and to get foreign exchange from the export and re-export of gems.

2.5% social security tax scrapped
Officials representing the Ministry of Finance pointed out that an amended Bill has already been submitted to Parliament to exempt the process from the 2.5% social security tax imposed on the importation of gems for re-export, and the relief is to be given to businessmen in the future. It was also revealed that even if you have to pay a tax of 2.5% while importing gems for re-export by courier, you can bring a lot of precious gems as hand luggage by paying only 200 US dollars. The businessmen also asked gem traders to consider the possibility of levying 2.5% on turnover from the 30% income tax levied on profits on gem exports.

In order to avoid the tax levied by the government on cash transactions of more than Rs.500,000/=, the gem businessmen in the field are often tempted to carry out such high value cash transactions in cash and as a result, the businessmen who transact money fairly through banks and pay taxes properly to the government have to leave the field. The Chair of the Gems and Jewellery Authority told the committee that policies are currently being formulated to regulate the encroachment of foreign nationals into the gem industry in the country, and the committee emphasized the need for immediate implementation of the relevant policies.

The jewelers demanded that the import of gold be allowed tax-free through a license based on 30% of the exporter’s previous years’ export earnings or foreign exchange earnings. Officials representing the Ministry of Finance pointed out that there is currently no import hurdle for businessmen registered with the Board of Investment to obtain a permit for temporary importation of gold for export processing. Only import of 24 carat gold jewellery has been stopped, they said.

Sri Lanka Customs officials who were present said that under the TIEP Scheme (Temporary Import for Export Processing), gold can be imported into Sri Lanka without tax by registering with the Ministry of Industries as a raw material required by jewellery businessmen. However, due to the complexity of the process, businessmen expressed their reluctance to do so.

The Committee also focused its attention on the proposal received from gem businessmen regarding the establishment of a Sri Lankan bank in China or the establishment of a Chinese bank in Sri Lanka to facilitate their business activities. The official representing the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said that “Bank of China” has been operating in Sri Lanka since 2018 and establishing a Sri Lankan bank in China is difficult in view of the economic crisis that Sri Lanka is currently facing.

MPs Akila Ellawalaa and Waruna Liyanage, were present at this Committee meeting held. 

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Cabinet decision to suspend ‘Parate Executions’

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All Parate Executions have been suspended until Dec. 15, as per a Cabinet decision made today (26 Feb.).

The relevant proposal was furnished by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, following a request made by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, and Minister of Industries Ramesh Pathirana.

Accordingly, the relevant amendments are due to be presented before the Parliament soon.

State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya had informed Parliament last week that steps will be taken to suspend the powers of the ‘Parate execution’ law for a certain period for the purpose of protecting the small and medium-scale entrepreneurs (SMEs).

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Parate execution law to be suspended: Siyambalapitiya

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Deshabandu Tennakoon appointed as IGP

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Deshabandu Tennakoon has been appointed as 36th Inspector General of Police in Sri Lanka.

President’s Secretary, Saman Ekanayake had handed over his appointment letter earlier today afternoon (Feb. 26).

Since Nov. 29, 2023, Tennakoon served as the Acting IGP. Deshabandu Tennakoon joined the police service in 1998 as an Assistant Superintendent of Police.

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Palestinian PM resigns

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has announced the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the occupied West Bank, due to the escalating violence in the occupied territory and the war on Gaza.

“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” said Shtayyeh, who submitted his resignation to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.

“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he said.

Shtayyeh’s comments come as US pressure grows on Abbas to shake up the PA and begin work on a political structure that can govern a Palestinian state following the war.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has on numerous occasions rejected calls for the PA under Abbas to take control of a Palestinian state and govern Gaza.

Last week, Israeli lawmakers backed Netanyahu’s rejection of any “unilateral” recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The Knesset came together in an overwhelming majority against the attempt to impose on us the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would not only fail to bring peace but would endanger the state of Israel,” said Netanyahu.

(Aljazeera)

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