Only listed companies targeted to raise Rs 114 bn
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has declared that his proposals to impose 25 percent retrospective tax surcharge on listed persons or companies that earned over Rs 2 bn 2020/2021 and increase VAT (Value Added Tax) to 18 percent from the current 15 percent wouldn’t be abandoned.
Appearing on ‘Salakuna,’ a weekly political programme telecast Monday night live on ‘Hiru’ FM Rajapaksa emphasised that he wouldn’t succumb to pressure from those affected by his proposals. Responding to ‘Hiru’ anchor Chamuditha Samarawickrema, the FM said only President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Preme Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet could intervene.
FM Rajapaksa said that he discussed the issue at hand with the chambers and didn’t object to the imposition of the surcharge for a year or two in view of the devastation caused by the pandemic, though they opposed haphazard changes in taxes.
However, those companies that hadn’t been listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange were left out of the tax net in spite of them, too, being cash rich, much to the surprise of the business sector.
Rajapaksa urged the media not to engage in a campaign to pressure the government to do away with the proposals.
Presenting the Budget for 2022, Minister Rajapaksa proposed (a) one-time tax surcharge of 25 percent on persons or companies with taxable income over Rupees 2,000 million for the year of assessment 2020/2021. The government expected to recover Rs 100 bn through this tax and (b) VAT on banks and financial service providers to be increased to 18 percent from 15 percent. Minister Rajapaksa stressed that this tax should be paid monthly from 01 January 2022 to 31 December 2022 and not passed onto customers. The government expected to raise Rs 14 bn through the tax.
When some Opposition members interrupted Minister Rajapaksa immediately after he announced the 25 percent surcharge on a selected group of companies, the FM said that he would like to see who represented the interests of the targeted companies.
The Inland Revenue Department says the following companies are likely to be levied proposed one-off tax surcharge: LOLC Holdings (Rs.23,075 mn), Commercial Bank (Rs 16,940 mn ), Ceylon Tobacco (Rs. 15,578 mn ), ExpoLanka Holdings (Rs. 14,830 mn), HNB (Rs 14,096 mn), Dialog Axiata (Rs. 12.034 mn), Ceylinco Insurance (Rs.8,880 mn), Sampath Bank (Rs.8,442 mn), Vallibel One (Rs. 8,117 mn), Sri Lanka Telecom (Rs.7,880), Hayleys (Rs.7,637 mn), Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka (Rs. 6,962 mn), LB Finnace (Rs. 6,807 mn), Royal Ceramics Lanka (Rs. 6,135 mn), Central Finance Company (Rs. 5,544 mn), Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka) (Rs.5,425 mn), People’s Leasing and Finance (Rs. 5,295 mn), Dipped Products (Rs.5,140 mn), National Development Bank (Rs. 5,117 mn), John Keells Holdings (Rs.5,026), Carson Cumberbatch (Rs.4,804 mn), Richard Pieris and Company (Rs. 4,680 mn), Melstacorp (Rs. 4,425 mn), LOLC Finnace (Rs.4,365 mn), Nations Trust Bank (Rs. 4,055 mn), Hemas Holdings (Rs. 3,621 mn), Bukit Darah (Rs. 3,541 mn), Cargills (Ceylon) (Rs.3,481 mn), CIC Holdings (Rs.3,132 mn), Haycarb (Rs. 3,047), SeylanBank (Rs. 3,039 mn), Lanka Walltiles (Rs. 2,960 mn), Nestle Lanka ( Rs.2,947 mn), DFCC Bank (Rs. 2,745), Ceylon Guardian Investment Trust (Rs. 2,721 mn), Citizens Development Business Finance (Rs.2,554), Lanka Tiles (Rs. 2,475 mn), Lion Brewery Ceylon (Rs.2,471 mn), Singer Sri Lanka (Rs.2,452 mn), Ceylon Cold Stores (Rs.2,334 mn), CT Holdings (Rs.2,288 mn), Chevron Lubricants Lanka (Rs.2,225 mn), Commercial Leasing and Finance (Rs. 2,216 mn), Access Engineering (Rs. 2,173 mn), Teejay Lanka (Rs.2,139 mn), Pan Asia Banking Corporation (Rs.2,048) and Commercial Credit and Finance (Rs, 2,005).
Former banker and Samagi Jana Balavegaya lawmaker Eran Wickremaratne strongly opposes the budget proposal. Asked for his stand on FM Basil Rajapaksa’s move and whether the latest proposal is similar to the tax imposed by the UNP but not implemented, MP Wickremaratne told The Island: “The private sector is not averse to paying taxes. They want a predictable tax environment so that they can plan and execute business plans. A one-off tax is arbitrary and unpredictable. It destroys business confidence. It weakens planning as well as foreign investors’ confidence in the country.”
Referring to the doing away with one-off super gains tax declared in 2015 but never implemented, SJB lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva stressed that two wrongs did not make a right.
Sources said that the cash strapped government could have targeted unlisted companies too. However, the decision makers had conveniently restricted the targeted group from among the listed group.
Responding to ‘Salakuna’ queries, Minister Rajapaksha strongly defended sharp tax cuts imposed immediately after the change of government in 2019. The minister said that sharp reduction of taxes saved many private companies, including the one that employed the ‘Salakuna’ team of journalists. The minister said so when Chamuditha Samarawickrema asserted that the government caused unnecessary revenue issues by reducing a range of taxes amounting to well over Rs. 500 bn.