ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is suggesting moving to a value added system tax used in France, as an alternative to SVAT, a simplified value added tax credit system for exporters which avoided delays in tax refunds.
Sri Lanka is scrapping SVAT as part of streamlining the VAT system under an International Monetary Fund backed program.
Delays in refunds could further hurt cashflows of exporters, who are already seeing sales fall due to slowing export markets.
“This comes at a critical time when Sri Lanka has seen a significant dip in exports of over 10% in 2023 so far, along with a staggering 19% decrease in apparel exports with expectation for weak external demand to continue,” the Chamber said in a statement.
“Eliminating SVAT would affect exporters and disrupt cash flow in various downstream industries and suppliers, leading to a ripple effect of financial challenges.
A backlog of outstanding refunds under the SVAT system itself still remains unaddressed, the Chamber said.
“This raises questions about the Government’s capacity to efficiently handle new refund claims in the absence of the SVAT system, thereby casting doubts over the operational feasibility of the planned move,” the statement said.
“The abolition of SVAT is unlikely to enhance revenue and plug leakages. It would be more prudent to improve the existing inefficiency in the RAMIS system particularly regarding VAT returns and invoice matching.
“The administrative impact of such a move could create more inefficiencies and stretch the IRD with a new wave of refund claims, leading to administrative gridlock and significant delays in VAT refunds.
“We urge the Government to consider alternatives such as reverting to the Suspended VAT system that was operational from 2005 to 2011, serving as a transitional arrangement.
Adequate resourcing for the IRD — both human and technological — was necessary for efficient high-volume refund transactions, the chamber said.
“Given the current economic climate and the potential ramifications on the export industry, we strongly recommend that the Government engage in … a consultative approach that includes all stakeholders before making such a significant change.” (Colombo/September11/2023)