Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in conversation with President Maithripala Sirisena. Also in the picture is State Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena
It is up to the people to decide whether to obtain more foreign loans as the previous regime did or to increase government revenue in order to reduce tax burden currently being put on them, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake told a gathering in Colombo.
The minister stressed that the government is not prepared to further increase the tax burden on the people. He also pointed out what should be done under the existing situation is to trap the non-tax payers in the net.
He also said no advice is necessary from international organizations to strengthen the country’s economy as the current administration has been maintaining the necessary financial discipline.
The minister expressed these views at the 22nd annual conference of the Inland Revenue Service Association. The conference was held with the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena recently at the Sri Lanka Foundation recently.
“At the time we took over power of the government on January 8, 2015, the state revenue was 10.2 percent of the gross domestic product. With the contribution by Sri Lanka Customs, Excise Department and Inland Revenue Department, revenue has been increased up to 15.3 percent,” the minister said.
He also assured that the new Inland Revenue Draft Bill will not contain anything harmful to the country and it is not being prepared to please any foreign organization or country.
“I will say with responsibility that the International Monetary Fund is not an entity that takes people hostage but an organization constantly prepared to assist needy countries,” he stressed.
The minister reiterated that the government doesn’t want to increase the tax burden on the people but get the current tax evaders into the tax system.
“Out of the 23 million population, only 48, 000 are direct tax payers When we assumed office in 2015, the total number of tax files including Nation Building Tax and VAT were 609,000. With your commitment, this has risen up 1.5 million today.
When the VAT percentage was increased to 15 percent, I saw it as a crime. We imposed it with discontent. If we continue to increase tax revenue in this manner, by end of this year or possibly at the beginning of next year, we will be able to reduce VAT to 9-10 percent,” Karunanayake said.
State Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena and Director General of the Inland Revenue Department Kalyani Dahanayake were also present at the event.