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Sunday March 26th, 2023

Sri Lanka PAYE tax to be abolished, uniform personal income tax on all earnings

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is abolishing Pay As You Earn (PAYE) on salaries and withholding tax on interest up to 250,000 rupees a month, but income tax has to be paid on total incomes above 250,000 rupees a month, Minister Bandula Gunewardene said.

Personal income tax will start at a monthly income of 250,000 rupees on all incomes at 6 percent. The 250,000 rupees of income will be charged 6 percent, the 250,000 rupees 12 percent, and the next 250,000 18 percent, he said.

“This will benefit a large number of state and private sector workers at executive and management level and doctors,” Gunewardene said.

“The highest rate would be 18 percent.”

Until 2015, the highest personal income tax rate was 16 percent, but under a International Monetary Fund backed program the last administration brought back a strongly progressive tax, with the highest rate at 24 percent.

All kinds of niggling withholding taxes were also brought on interest and royalties, at a heavy political cost, but whose total revenue potential was unknown.

Withholding tax on interest would only be charged over 250,000 rupees a month.

However income tax would be charged on all incomes above 250,000 rupees, Gunewardene said.

Under PAYE tax and withholding tax, which are effectively replacements of income tax, individuals can avoid the hassle of filing income tax returns, and the government also gets cashflow steadily spread out through the year.

It is not clear when the new income taxes would be legislated. Income taxes are usually applicable for year starting April.

Sri Lanka is also cutting value added tax from 15 to 8 percent, which would be effective from December 01, Gunewardene said.

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Sri Lanka seeks to settle India ACU debt, credit lines over 5-years

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has requested India to settle payments due to the country under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism and credit lines given in 2022 over 5 years, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, an advisor the island’s government said.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with India to settle the money over a 5-year period, Coomaraswamy, a former central bank governor told an online forum hosted by the Central Bank.

“Our request from the Indians is to settle it over five years,” he said. “That I think is still in the early stages of negotiation. The same with the one billion line of credit.”

Sri Lanka’s central bank owed the ACU 2.0 billion US dollars to the Asian Clearing Union according to a year end debt statement, issued by the Finance Ministry.

Sri Lanka owned India, 1,621 million dollars according to ACU data by year end, excluding interest.

India has given a 1 billion US dollar credit line to Sri Lanka as well a credit line for petroleum.

Sri Lanka in March 2024 has paid 121 million US dollar out of a 331 million US dollar IMF tranche to settle an Indian credit line.

Indian credits were given after the country defaulted in April 2022 as budget support/import when most other bilateral lenders halted giving money. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices up 1.16-pct

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s coconut auction prices went up by 1.16 percent from a week ago at an auction on Thursday, data showed.

The average price for 1,000 nuts grew to 83,219.45 from 82,260.58 a week earlier at the weekly auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority on March 23.

The highest price was 92,500 rupees for 1,000 nuts up from the previous week’s 90,600 rupees, while the lowest was 76,500 also up from 70,000 rupees.

The auction offered 900,010 coconuts and 583,291 nuts were sold. (Colombo/Mar 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka in talks for billion dollar equivalent Indian rupee swap

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in talks with India for a billion US dollar equivalent Indian rupee central bank swap, to facilitate trade, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, ad advisor to the government said.

“The amount is still uncertain it could be up to the equivalent of a billion US dollars,” Coomaraswamy told an online forum hosted by Sri Lanka’s central bank.

The money will be used to facilate India Sri Lanka trade, he said.

India has been trying to popularize the use of Indian rupees for external trade and also encouraged Sri Lanka banks to set up Indian rupee VOSTRO accounts.

However the first step in popularizing a currency for external trade is to get domestic agents, especially exporters, to accept their own currency for trade, like in the case of the US or EU, analysts say.

India’s billion US dollar credit to Sri Lanka given during the 2022 crisis is settled in Indian rupees (transaction need).

However the Indian government itself has chosen to denominate it in US currency for debt purposes (future value).

In most South Asian nations, receivers of remittances are willing to accept domestic currencies, leading to active VOSTRO account transactions.

Sri Lanka is expected to repay a 400 million US dollar swap with the Reserve Bank of India next year under an International Monetary Fund backed program for external stability and debt re-structuring.

Central bank swap proceeds sold to banks, which are then sterilized with inflationary open market operations, can trigger forex shortages and currency crises, analysts warn.

Sri Lanka went to the International Monetary Fund after two years of inflationary monetary operations by the central bank’s issue department (money printed to suppress interest rates) triggered the biggest currency crisis in its history and external sovereign default.

Sri Lanka had gone to the IMF 16 times with similar external troubles except for the April 2003 extended fund facility under Central Bank Governor A S Jayewardene which was a purely reform-oriented program with the World Bank (PRGF/PRSP) program at a time when he was collecting reserves with deflationary monetary policy and perhaps the lowest inflation since the Bretton Woods collapsed. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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