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Tuesday May 28th, 2024

Sri Lanka budget 2021 key tax changes and relief

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will give a 100,000 rupee a month tax relief for personal income tax payers who invest in government securities, shares of listed companies and housing loan and medical insurance will also be deductible, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

“To encourage private savings, I propose to treat medical insurance, interest on housing loans, investments in Government Securities and shares of listed companies incurred up to Rs.100,000 per month as deductible expenditures in the calculation of personal income tax,” PM Rajapaksa told parliament presenting a budget for 2021.

Sri Lanka will also introduce a special Goods and Services tax for, alcohol, tobacco, gaming, telecommunications replacing several different taxes, he said.

Other tax changes and relief proposed are as follows.

*For the benefit of the country, I request from all entrepreneurs to utilize the funds hidden locally or internationally in order to evade laws relating to taxes and foreign exchange. It is expected to make legal provisions to provide a tax pardon to entrepreneurs thus utilizing funds for any investment facilitated by this budget under the payment of taxes amounting to 1 percent.

*In order to promote investments in the housing market through the Sri Lanka Real Estate Investment Trust (SLREIT) regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, I propose to exempt such investments from capital gains tax and dividends free from income tax, and to reduce the stamp duty up to 0.75 percent.

*So as to promote the listing of local companies with the Colombo Stock Exchange, I propose to provide a 50 percent tax concession for the years 2021/2022 for such companies that are listed before 31 December 2021 and to maintain a corporate tax rate of 14 percent for the subsequent three years.

*I propose to simplify the Taxes on Capital Gains, where such taxes will be calculated based on the sale price of a property or the assessed value of a property whichever is higher.

*I propose to exempt the tax on dividends of foreign companies for three years if such dividends are reinvested on expansion of their businesses or in the money or stock market or in Sri Lanka International sovereign bonds.

*On instances when the commercial banks in Sri Lanka purchase Sri Lanka International sovereign bonds subject to a minimum of USD 100 million, I propose to suspend the risk weighted provisioning under Central Bank Regulations for three years and to free the profits on capital and interest income of this investments from taxes.

“In order to encourage the recycling and re use of material from construction, I also propose a ten year tax holiday for investments in selected recycling sites.

*Investments exceeding USD 10 million with potential to change the landscape of the economy, in the areas of export industries, dairy, fabric, tourism, agricultural products, processing and information technology will be provided with concessions up to a maximum of 10 years under the Strategic Development Law.

*In order to encourage savings, I propose to release the interest income of the welfare societies and institutions from income taxes which was imposed by the previous government.

*In order to promote the Colombo and Hambanthota ports as commodity trading hubs in international trading, and to encourage investments in bonded warehouses and warehouses related to offshore business I propose to exempt such investments from all taxes.

*In order to encourage the exports of multi-national companies which are import based for requirements of the domestic market, it is proposed to reduce the tax imposed on their dividends by 25 percent in 2021 and 50 percent in 2023 under the condition that they increase their exports by 30 percent and 50 percent in the respective years.

*In order to maintain a similar amount as the import expenditure in foreign exchange in domestic banks, the interest income of such deposits will be exempted from taxes.

*To develop the latent industries such as mineral sand, phosphate, fertilizer and graphite as high value export industries, I propose to reduce the expenditure on research and development expenses of local entrepreneurs involved with the Institute of Nanotechnology from taxes.

*I propose to provide separate docks, dockyard access facilities and long-term credit facilities to promote boat and shipbuilding activities which has high development prospects due to the rising demand in the fisheries, tourism and shipping sectors and the high production potential of local manufacturers. It is also proposed to grant a tax break of 7 years for local boat and shipbuilding

*We believe that the Colombo Port City will become a prime choice for investors and business community due to the business and investor friendly legal framework and proposed advanced infrastructure. It is expected to provide concessions on required taxes and specific goods trade, banking and foreign exchange with the objective of converting the Port City Economic Zone as one of the hubs for investment promotions in the country.

*It is proposed to establish a shop in all Grama Niladhari divisions where the network of shops has been adequately expanded targeting 25,000 female entrepreneurs chosen from Samurdhi families. Under this network of shops functioning under government sponsorship and bank credit facilities, priority will be given to sell local products. Related expenditure of the local entrepreneurs who contribute to establish these shops will be considered as deductible expenditures in the calculation of personal income tax.

Import Duty>

Sri Lanka has brought in a three band import duty framework and steep CESS as protectionist taxes for an import substitution regime to give extra profits to some domestic companies.

“I propose the to formulate a balanced trade policy yielding long-term returns so as to increase the export earnings of our industrial products and to save foreign exchange through import substitutions that could be produced locally,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa said.

“In ensuring that the production economy is geared to fulfill the above objectives, the following proposals will be implemented.

1. To limit importation of agricultural commodities except the items that cannot be produced domestically (negative List).

2. To impose the Special commodity levy to balance the supply and demand of domestic production for selected agricultural products

3. To impose CESS to provide the required protection on the imports and exports of domestic production.”


Sri Lanka publishes trade taxes for import substitution economy, new duty list

Sri Lanka protectionism to continue, three band tariff for some

*I propose to exempt import tax on the import of machinery with modern technologies.

*In ensuring that the production economy is geared to fulfil the above objectives, the following proposals will be implemented to remove import taxes on the raw materials not available in the country, machineries and equipment with modern technology, to boost exports, and also to encourage domestic industries to produce value added goods

*I propose to reduce the import taxes levied on vehicle spare parts required for new production sectors to incentivize entrepreneurs in automobile industries engaged in vehicle repairing and vehicle assembly.

*Certain raw materials such as cement, premix, iron rods, bitumen that cannot be produced domestically will be imported in bulk without import duties, to be used to for the construction of mega housing schemes, highways and also to ensure the smooth and continuous availability of such materials for small and medium construction activities at a competitive price.

How the latest tax changes will combine with the tax changes announced in December/January 2020

Budget 2021-Taxation

1. Income Tax (Amendments to Inland Revenue Act, No. 24 of 2017)

1.1 Removal of Withholding Tax (WHT)

Following payments are exempt from Withholding tax with effect from January 01, 2020

(i). Interest, specified fees, dividend, charge, natural resource payment, rent, royalty, premium or retirement payments made to residents.

(ii). Employment income.

(iii). Partners’ share of a Partnership profit. The taxable income of the partnership excluding Rs. 1 million per annum is subjected to Partnership Tax at the rate of 6%.

1.2 Exemptions from income tax

(i). Profits and income earned by any person from farming including agriculture, livestock and fish farming, with effect from April 1, 2019.

(ii). Profits and income earned from providing Information Technology and enabling services, with effect from January 1, 2020. The enabling services will be prescribed by regulations by the Minister in charge of the subject of Finance.

(iii). Profits and income earned from services rendered to persons outside Sri Lanka, including the income earned from foreign sources if the payments for such services or income from such sources are received in foreign currency, through a bank, with effect from January 1, 2020.

(iv). Interest income earned on Non-Resident Foreign Currency (NRFC) and Resident Foreign Currency (RFC) accounts, with effect from January 1, 2020. (v). Interest paid on loans obtained from any person outside Sri Lanka, with effect from April 1, 2018.

(vii). Interest or discount paid or allowed to any person on Sovereign Bonds denominated in foreign currency, with effect from April 1, 2018.

(viii). Funds received by any Public Corporation out of the funds voted by Parliament from the Consolidated Fund or out of any loan arranged through the Government, with effect from April 1, 2018.

(ix). Dividends paid by a resident company to any non-resident person, with effect from January 1, 2020.

(x). Dividends distributed by Commercial hub Enterprises, with effect from January 1, 2020.

(xi). Dividends from and gains on the realization of shares in a non-resident company where derived by any person with respect to a substantial participation in the non-resident company with effect from January 1, 2020 (xii). Amounts derived by any non-resident person from laboratory services or standards certification services, with effect from January 1, 2020.

(xiii). Amounts received by any religious institution by way of grants and donations, with effect from January 1, 2020.

(xiv). All aircraft related payments, software licenses and other overseas payments made by SriLankan Airlines with effect from April 1, 2018.

(xv). Exemption or variation of the applicability of the provisions of the Inland Revenue Act, No. 24 of 2017, in respect of projects approved under the Strategic Development Projects Act, No. 14 of 2008

1.3 Qualifying Payments

(i). Personal relief for residents or non-residents but citizens for each year of assessment is Rs. 3,000,000/- with effect from January 1, 2020.

(ii). Payments made to Consolidated Fund by any Public Corporation is deductible in calculating income tax of such Corporation, with effect from April 1, 2019. 50

(iii). Following payments subject to maximum of Rs.100,000/- per month or Rs. 1.2 million per annum is deductible, with effect from January 1, 2020 in calculating the Personal Income Tax:-

• Health expenditure including contributions to Medical Insurance

• Educational expenditure incurred locally

• Payment of interest on housing loans

• Contribution to an approved pension scheme

• Expenditure incurred for the purchase of equity or security

1.4 Income Tax Rate Changes

(i). Revision of Personal Income tax rates on taxable income with effect from January 1, 2020 as follows

First Rs. 3 Million – 6%
Next Rs. 3 Mn – 12%
Balance – 18%

(ii). Income tax rate applicable on the terminal benefits is revised with effect from January 1, 2020, as follows:

• First Rs. 10 Million – Exempt
• Next Rs. 10 Milion – 6%
• Balance – 12%

(iii). Payments to non-residents where such payments has a source in Sri Lanka is treated as final withholding payments, with effect from January 01, 2020 and subjected to tax as follows:

• Interest payments – 5%
• Any other payment – 14%

(iv). Corporate Income Tax Rate is revised, with effect from January 1, 2020, as follows:-

• Exports, Tourism, Education, Medicare, Construction, and Agro processing 14%

• Manufacturing 18%

• Trading, Banking, Finance, Insurance, etc. (Standard Rate) 24%

• Liquor, Tobacco, Betting and Gaming 40% 51

1.5 Advance Income Tax

(i). Advanced Personal Income Tax can be deducted from regular fixed income (remuneration, interest etc.) of individuals, subject to the written consent of such individual with effect from April 1, 2020.

(ii). Advanced Income tax can be collected at the source, subject to the written consent of the tax payer with effect from April 1, 2020.

1.6 Tax Relief Measures to Facilitate Post COVID – 19 Economic Recovery

(i). Consideration of the income generated from the supply of Health Protective Equipment and similar products by BOI companies on the request of Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, Department of Health Services, Tri Forces and Sri Lanka Police as “Deemed Exports” and to consider the said quantities for the calculation of 80% export requirement for the tax purposes, to become eligible for reduced tax rates.

(ii). Waiver of Income tax in arrears, payable by the SMEs as defined in the Inland Revenue Act, No. 24 of 2017, on the assessments issued up to the year of assessment 2018/2019 by the CGIR, where he is satisfied that there is no fraud or wilful neglect involved in the disclosure of income or any claim for any deduction or relief.

(iii). The income tax return furnished by the SMEs for the year of assessment 2019/2020 is proposed to be accepted and additional assessment not to be issued for that year on tax payers, who furnish the Income Tax Returns for the year and pay the tax declared in the Return.

(iv). A grace period is proposed to be granted to settle the taxes in arrears/default, as agreed with the Legacy Unit, Default Tax Recovery Unit and the Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) Unit of the Department of Inland Revenue.

(v). The payment or/and submission of the returns of any tax administered by the CGIR, which is due for the period from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, proposed to be treated as paid or/and submitted on the due date if such payment/submission is made on or before December 31, 2020.

2. Value added Tax (VAT) Amendment to VAT Act 14 of 2002

i. Increase of threshold for the Value Added Tax (VAT) from Rs. 3 million per quarter or Rs 12 million per annum to Rs75 million per quarter or Rs 300 mn per annum with effect from January 01, 2020.

ii. Granting permission for the voluntary registration of VAT upon a written request made by any person who carries out a taxable activity, even if such a person is not within the VAT registration threshold

iii. Exemption of the sale of Condominium housing units from VAT with effect from December 1, 2019.

iv. Exemption of information technology and enabling services with effect from January 1, 2020.

v. Reduction of VAT Rate on the import and/or supply of goods or supply of services other than financial services from 15% to 8% with effect from December 1, 2019 vi. Exemption of the supply of services in respect of inbound tours, by a travel agent registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority with effect from April 1, 2020. vii. Exemption of quantities supplied/donated of health protective equipment and similar products by export oriented BOI companies to the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, Department of Health Services, Tri Forces and Sri Lanka Police on their request.

viii. Exemption of Importation or importation and supply or importation and donation of machinery and equipment including medical, surgical, surgical and dental instruments, apparatus, accessories and parts thereof, hospital/medical furniture and drugs, chemical and similar items required for the provision of health services to address the COVID 19 Pandemic from May 20, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

ix. Reduction of piece based VAT Rate applicable on domestic sale of certain garments by – to Rs. 25/-in line with the removal of Nation Building Tax and reduction of VAT rate.

x. Removal of the provisions permitting to treat the supplies made by the suppliers who are not registered for VAT as VAT inclusive supplies, introduced in respect of the wholesale and retail trade, in line with the increase of threshold for registration for VAT and introduction of voluntary registration.

3. Technical Rectifications

Relevant amendment will be made to the Inland Revenue Act, No. 24 of 2017 and Value Added Tax Act No. 14 of 2020 to rectify certain ambiguities (including differences in translations).

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    Will the Finance Minister also ensure that the Stock Market fraudsters will also be brought to book, both, the past and present. There are also companies that were floated during the stock market boom, who have neglected the minority shareholders and have disgracefully siphoned out such investment to a privately owned company of the directors. No dividends, depreciated stock value and into a junk status.

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    Will the Finance Minister also ensure that the Stock Market fraudsters will also be brought to book, both, the past and present. There are also companies that were floated during the stock market boom, who have neglected the minority shareholders and have disgracefully siphoned out such investment to a privately owned company of the directors. No dividends, depreciated stock value and into a junk status.

Sri Lanka president’s UNP proposes postponing elections by two years

The UNP party headquarters in Pitakotte/EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s United National Party (UNP) has called for a referendum to postpone both presidential and parliamentary elections by two years to extend President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s term to continue ongoing economic reforms.

UNP general secretary Palitha Range Bandara called on the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the leftist opposition formation National People’s Power (NPP) to support the move.

At a press conference on Tuesday May 28, Bandara said postponing the two elections would not be undemocratic as it would be the result of elected representatives in parliament passing a motion, followed by a referendum.

Defending the proposal, he recalled the controversial decision by then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to postpone elections in the 1970s, which resulted in the decimation of her Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led alliance.

Bandara said that all parties must understand that now is not the time for elections as the economy has yet to emerge from bankruptcy and that President Wickremesinghe must be permitted to carry out his reforms which have already brought stability.

The UNP’s latest statement is a far cry from its pronouncements as recently as last weekend that the presidential election would definitely be held between September 17 and October 18 this year, followed by the parliamentary elections in early 2025.

UNP spokesmen also boasted that Wickremesinghe would not only contest the presidential poll but would also win it.

Tourism and Sports Minister Harin Fernando told reporters that Wickremesinghe would definitely contest the election, in response to some speculation that the president may opt to sit out.

“I think President Wickremesinghewill himself reveal his plans next week or one of these days,” said Fernando.

“He will definitely contest. I said he would for sure. Not only will he contest, he will also win,” he added.

Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara concurred.

“President Wickremesinghe will definitely win the election,” he said, adding that the president has provided much relief and that the economy continues to recover having fallen to its lowest point. (Colombo/May28/2024)

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Sri Lanka reforms have started to yield positive outcomes: State minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe says reforms have lead to positive incomes, including an increase in reserves.

“The reforms have started to yield positive outcomes, reflecting significant progress in multiple areas. Sri Lanka’s gross official reserves have seen a significant increase, reaching USD 5.5 billion by the end of April 2024,” Semasinghe said on social media platform X (twitter).

“Additionally, the Sri Lankan rupee has appreciated by approximately 8 % against the US dollar so far in 2024. This will boosts investor confidence and enhances the country’s ability to manage external shocks and meet international obligations and enhance confidence on the economy.

“The appreciation of the rupee can help lower inflation and reduce the overall cost of living and make it easier for the government and businesses to service foreign debt, thereby improving our financial reputation globally. Further, will improve the trade balance by potentially reducing the trade deficit.”

Sri Lanka’s inflation was 1.5 percent in the 12-months to April 2024, measured by the widely watched Colombo Consumer Price Index, data from the state debt office showed.

The CCPI Index fell 0.8 percent, to 195.2 points in the month of April after falling 1.9 percent in March.

Sri Lanka’s central bank has been operating largely deflationary policy, since September 2022, except perhaps in December 2023, and also allowed the rupee to appreciate in the balance of payments surplus it created.(Colombo/May28/2024)

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Sri Lanka risks foreign retaliation over VFS visa deal

ECONOMYNEXT – The Maldives could take reciprocal action after Sri Lanka’s new system of outsourcing its visas, which requires the payment of “processing” and “convenience” charges of 26 dollars, even though the government does not collect any fees.

Maldivian authorities have reminded Sri Lanka of the long-standing bilateral agreement under which their citizens could travel freely between the two neighbours without any charges or bureaucratic barriers.

A one month stay is available without a fee.

Maldivians, who consider Sri Lanka their second home, often spend more than a month in the larger country, but are now required to pay 26 dollars to VFS Global, which has controversially been contracted to handle Sri Lankan visas.

“The Sri Lankan government will not charge a fee, but Maldivians still have to pay VFS after applying online for a visa,” a Maldivian government official said in the capital, Male. “This violates the spirit of our agreement.”

He said the new administration of President Mohamed Muizzu was taking up the issue with Sri Lankan authorities in both Male and Colombo.

In a worst-case scenario, the Maldives will be compelled to reciprocate the new cost of a Sri Lankan visa and charge Sri Lankans traveling to the archipelago. There are also expat Sri Lankans in the Maldives.

There are only a handful of countries to which Sri Lankan passport holders can travel without any visa restrictions.

Singapore is another country which could take action against Sri Lanka if the bilateral deal is found to be violated, according a source said.

Opposition parties have said in parliament that outsourcing the visa handling to VFS Global and their partners was a bigger corruption scandal than the bond scam of 2015 and 2016, when billions of rupees were stolen through insider deals. (COLOMBO/May 28, 2024)

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