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Special court to resolve legal issues in tax collection?

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State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya stated that a series of unique recommendations including the establishment of a special court will soon be submitted for the President’s approval to resolve the legal problems emerging in tax collection.

The State Minister stated that the plan incorporates several particular topics to address practical challenges linked to tax collection.

According to the Minister, raising state income is a key economic concern in the country, thus it is critical to collect taxes legally in order to enhance state income. As a result, the Minister instructed the liquor manufacturing companies that have already defaulted to pay the related amount within 14 days. He also mentioned that a special order has been issued.

The Minister stated that the country still has a voluntary tax system, which should be rectified immediately.

State Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya expressed these views while attending the press conference organized by the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) today (28) under the theme ‘One path to a stable country’.

The State Minister of Finance further commented;

By 2022, the country would have the lowest tax revenue in relation to GDP. This amounts to 7.3%. However, Government spending ranged between 19 and 20%. The Government at the time attempted to compensate for this difference. There, the country was in a financial crisis. It was even necessary to print money. The decline in Government revenue became a vital component in the recent economic crisis.

Increasing Government revenue is a crucial concern in the country’s economy. Government revenue can be increased only by increasing taxes. Tax collection, whether direct or indirect, is a difficult undertaking. However, the current tax system has been brought to a suitable level. I would like to congratulate everyone who has paid their taxes despite the country’s economic problems. To some extent, the people have recognized the importance of the Government.

State revenue increased from 7.3% of GDP in 2022 to 15.8% in the first quarter of 2023. It is a crucial junction. In general, a Government attempts to raise direct taxes. The Government’s goal is to keep the existing tax rate constant. The administration does not intend to levy new taxes on citizens.

When possible, the Government attempts to offer help to the people. The Government is well aware of the recent increase in bank interest rates. The Government reduced the bank interest rate by 2.5% last week. Similarly, we intend to make certain tax-collection concessions to the people in the future.

Only 300,000 persons are now paying taxes. The amount of income files should be 1 million in order to enhance state tax collection. If this occurs, it will be possible to cut the amount of taxes levied on specific individuals in the country.

Tax filings foster better Government ties. The Government has invited 14 eminent groups of experts in the society to open the tax files. Taxpayers are considered as strong citizens of the country.

Also, the Government spends people’s tax money with proper management. Six circulars have been issued concerning the use of tax money. No Government has ever managed tax money as well as the current administration. So there should be no issues. The Government has taken steps to secure the taxpayers’ money.

For example, under the ‘Aswesuma’ welfare benefit payment program, the Government makes every effort to offer welfare benefits solely to those who deserve. True information should also be provided while supplying information under ‘Aswesuma’. Furthermore, the person obtaining the information is obligated to receive accurate information. These are disliked by many people. In the midst of multiple accusations and challenges, the Government is attempting to provide eligible individuals with ‘Aswesuma’ welfare benefits. The system of granting social benefits depending on political ties should be abolished immediately.

So far, plans have been put in place to collect taxes from persons who have evaded  from paying their taxes. Our country has a tax structure that is entirely voluntary. For example, we might query about someone’s earnings. That is where the tax collection process begins. Some resort to court in order to collect taxes. There will thereafter be years of court proceedings. Many cases remain unresolved. There are numerous practical issues with the tax collection process. A proposal has been sent to President Ranil Wickremesinghe in order to find solutions to the practical challenges of tax collection. It has been proposed to establish a special tax court.

Meanwhile, excise duty has been raised by 20%. In addition, the liquor manufacturing companies were given a special order to pay the unpaid taxes within 14 days.

We currently owe 83 billion dollars as a country. Of that, 41 billion dollars have been paid as foreign loans and 42 billion dollars as local loans. Everyone must make some sacrifices in order to make the country stable. In the future, we can talk about technical aspects of domestic debt restructuring. But now is the time to try to rebuild the fallen country.

How many scapegoats wandered in this country when the assistance from the International Monetary Fund was sought? This is such a country. Banks are closed for a few days to prepare this structure with proper management. Account holders, bank stability, and pension funds will be unaffected. Now some people are trying to destabilize the country through ‘Aswesuma’. We must contend with a classic opposition. Sri Lanka is an ordinary country. Nothing new will be accomplished if conspiracies are made again. This will cause the country to regress even worse. The Government follows a well-planned and a visionary strategy.

(President’s Media Division)

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Lanka to take up bottom trawling

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When Indian Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visits Colombo next week, the government is to take up the issue of Indian fishermen entering Sri Lanka’s northern territorial waters three days a week and engaging in illegal bottom trawling, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda said.

The Indian fishermen are expected to be back in Sri Lankan waters after a two-month-long annual breeding ban was lifted on Friday.

When President Ranil Wickremesinghe visited New Delhi last Sunday to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the matter was raised at a meeting with Minister Dr. Jaishnakar.

“As a nation, we have to protect our resources, interests, and the livelihood of our fisherfolks. I hope to raise the issue in the next Cabinet meeting (June 19) as well,” Minister Devananda said.

Days before the Indian authorities lifted the annual breeding ban, a group of fishermen’s unions based in the North handed over a petition on Tuesday to officials at the Indian consulate office in Jaffna requesting India to take immediate steps to prevent Indian fishermen from coming into Sri Lankan waters at the expense of their livelihood.

The fishermen’s unions, which formed a collective called the Northern Fishermen’s Alliance, requested President Wickremesinghe

in a petition to urge Indian authorities to “expedite their maximum efforts to monitoring and preventing the daily incursion of thousands of Tamil Nadu trawlers every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings.”

The two-month-long ban, which came into effect on April 14 and was lifted on Friday, is enforced to facilitate the breeding of fish banks in the ocean and maintain the equilibrium of marine sources for sustainability.

Currently, Indian fishermen who engage in fishing in Sri Lankan territorial waters are arrested by the Navy and Coast Guard and subjected to legal action after their trawlers are seized.

Following the legal action in which the magistrate courts hand in a suspended sentence of eighteen months for engaging in fishing without a licence, fishermen are released and repatriated with the assistance of Indian diplomatic missions.

(sundaytimes.lk)

(This story, originally published by sundaytimes.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Sri Lankan Youth to Be Freed from Cyber Camps in Myanmar

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State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasooriya said on his visit to Myanmar, he came to know that more than 100,000 youth from different countries are forcibly housed in the cyber camps in Myanmar, and 53,000 of them are Chinese nationals.

He was speaking to reporters at the Bandaranaike International Airport yesterday after completing an official visit to Myanmar and Thailand.

State Minister Balasooriya said, “We are confident that the 49 Sri Lankans who are forcibly held in cyber camps in Myanmar will be freed in the near future.” In addition to his visit to Myanmar, the State Minister also visited Thailand and discussed bilateral issues with the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, as well as several Non-Governmental Organisations. They also discussed the forcible holding of youth from different countries in the cyber camps in Myanmar. They agreed that regional Governments should work together to secure their release.

(sundayobserver.lk)

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by sundayobserver.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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IMF proposes new imputed rental income tax for Sri Lanka

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has proposed the introduction of an imputed rental income tax on owner-occupied and vacant residential properties in Sri Lanka, to be implemented by April 1, 2025. 

This recommendation comes as part of the IMF’s latest report on Sri Lanka, highlighting the need for sustained revenue mobilization efforts amid institutional challenges that hindered the initially planned property tax for 2025.

The IMF report emphasizes the importance of establishing a comprehensive property valuation database by August 2024, which will include assessed values, the latest assessment dates, and property types for all municipal councils. 

This database is a crucial step towards the effective implementation of the new tax.

Additionally, the report calls for the full operationalization of a nationwide digital Sales Price and Rents Register (SPRR) by the end of March 2025. 

This register will be accessible by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), the valuation department, the land registry, and the public, serving as a key resource for assessing property values and the imputed rental income tax.

The IMF recognizes ongoing vulnerabilities and uncertainties in Sri Lanka, particularly concerning debt restructuring and the upcoming elections. 

The IMF directors have urged Sri Lankan authorities to continue strengthening macroeconomic policies to restore economic stability and debt sustainability while maintaining the momentum of reforms to promote long-term inclusive growth.

In support of Sri Lanka’s economic policies and reforms, the IMF Executive Board has completed the 2024 Article IV Consultation and Second Review under the 48-month Extended Fund Facility. 

This completion provides Sri Lanka with immediate access to SDR 254 million (approximately USD 336 million).

Moreover, the IMF has highlighted the importance of enacting the Asset Recovery Bill, following necessary public consultations, by November 2024. This bill is expected to play a significant role in enhancing fiscal responsibility and transparency within the country.

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