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Top UN official says digitizing tax system vital for Sri Lanka.

By: Staff Writer

January 04, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s tax base will be broadening with increasing the number of taxpayers and simplifying the registration process for taxpayers the United Nations Assistant Secretary General Kanni Wignaraja said

During a brief discussion held with Finance State Minister Shehan Semasinghe this morning (Jan.03), Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, the UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director, highlighted that it is imperative to digitalize the taxpayer registration process to improve voluntary tax compliance.

Ensuring that every person who obtains a Tax Identification Number (TIN) is not liable for income tax will encourage members of the public to expeditiously register to secure a TIN, Ms. Wignaraja continued.

The UN Assistant Secretary General said Sri Lanka should take note of the tax policy reforms followed by Bangladesh, which was once labelled as a country plagued with corruption, to boost its tax revenue.

Digital transformation and expansion of the tax system to regional levels helped Bangladesh’s National Revenue Board to become more a productive and efficient institution, she explained.

In a similar vein, the Sri Lankan government is also making efforts to digitalize the tax system by incorporating District Secretariats, State Minister Semasinghe noted.

Further, the lawmaker pointed out that no specific group can be given relief at the moment as the country is in the middle of a rigorous reform process.

The two sides also discussed the ongoing social dialogue on the Value-Added Tax VAT). Attention was also paid to further educating the general public on the new VAT hike, taxpayer registration, and TIN registration, as well as the services and goods exempted from VAT.

The Inland Revenue Department was also asked about the current functioning of the RAMIS system linking this data system with other government institutions.

The tax officials mentioned that this data system will be made functional by January 2024 by avoiding the existing deficiencies.

Sri Lanka’s pay as you earn (PAYE) tax files had increased to 242,679 in 2023, from 41,636, Commissioner at the Department of Inland Revenue A M Nafir has said.

At total 500,196 persons were registered as individual tax-payers by end November 2023, up from 204,467, a statement quoted Nafir as telling reporters at the Presidential Media Office.

Partnerships registered for tax had gone up to Rs15,579 from Rs 13,776.The number of companies registered had increased to 81,909 from 73,444.

“In 2019, IRD revenue was Rs 1,025 billion, in 2020 it decreased to Rs 500 billion. Last year it was possible to raise it to Rs 1,500 billion by widening the tax base and by changing tax rates,” Nafir was quoted as saying.

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