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Tea exporters express grave concern over implementation of VAT on tea trade

21 December 2023 04:21 am - 7     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Say VAT on a commodity, of which over 90% is produced and sold purely for exports, could hamper its competitiveness in global market  
  • Call for a mechanism to register all tea manufacturers for VAT in next few days, to ensure that tea supply/tea value chain may not collapse over VAT issue
  • At present, only tea exporters are registered for VAT and SVAT
  • But now 600 tea producers/factories in tea industry should get themselves registered for VAT and SVAT to be eligible for issue of VAT invoices to buyers 

The Tea Exporters Association (TEA) yesterday expressed grave concern over the introduction of the 18 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on the industry and the practical issues it is bound to create, unless a mechanism is put in place to ensure the seamless functioning of the tea value chain, in light of the VAT issue. 

Starting from January 1, 2024, the tea industry, which was previously exempt from the VAT, will be subjected to an 18 percent VAT.

“While it is understood that in order to resurrect the country’s financial stability, we have to widen the tax net and the VAT, the high VAT on a commodity, of which over 90 percent is produced and sold purely for exports, wherein all of the VAT will need to be refunded to stay competitive in the world market, the imposition of the VAT on tea has caused grave concern amongst the tea industry stakeholder,” the TEA said in a statement.

It also urged the Finance Ministry and Inland Revenue Department (IRD) to introduce a mechanism to register all tea manufacturers for the VAT in the next few days, to ensure that the tea supply/tea value chain may not collapse over the VAT issue. 

“The tea industry is a unique industry and needs special attention by the IRD. While the country needs to reform its taxation, the VAT on export commodities at such a high rate of 18 percent only to be refunded after going through a lot of administrative procedures in the private sector as well as the government sector seems to be unproductive.  

Better consultation with the stakeholders, well in time before implementing such sweeping changes, will help the industry to sustain in the current challenging global environment,” the statement pointed out.
The tea industry value chain involves a number of stakeholders – over 400,000 tea smallholder farmers, who account for over 70 percent of the tea production, 21 regional plantation companies, about 600 tea manufactures, who are the sellers of tea as well, more than 300 tea exporters/buyers and eight brokers, who conduct the weekly tea auction. 

Each weekly tea auction sells between five to six million kilogrammes of tea, divided into about 10,000 lots or different types and grades of teas. The buyers are required to settle the full value of tea within seven days from the date of purchase, to ensure the tea farmers/growers get their payment without any delay.  

On behalf of the tea manufacturers/sellers, the invoices are issued by the eight brokers only, making it very much convenient for both the sellers and buyers in respect of administering the weekly tea selling and buying. 

According to the TEA, this transparent system has been there for more than 125 years and secured the best possible prices for Ceylon Tea and enables the country to receive about US $ 1.3 billion of foreign exchange from tea exports annually.    At present, only the tea exporters are registered for the VAT and Simplified Value Added Tax (SVAT) but according to the new VAT Bill approved by Parliament a few days ago, the 600 tea producers/factories in the tea industry should get themselves registered for the VAT and SVAT, to be eligible for the issue of VAT invoices to the buyers of tea. 

As a result, the TEA pointed out that instead of the current system, where the exporters/buyers are dealing with the eight brokers, in future, the exporters would have to deal with about 600 tea factories that may create huge administrative challenges, including additional costs.   The industry stakeholders under the umbrella body of the Colombo Tea Traders Association made a submission to the plantation minister, finance state minister and IRD commissioner general last week, requesting for more time for registration of the tea factories for the VAT and SVAT, as it may be impossible to register all of them by January 1, 2024. They have also requested to allow the brokers to be the contact point for the issue of invoices, for easy communication between the IRD and producers.  

“The last tea auction of the year concluded on December 19, 2023 and the next tea auction is scheduled for January 3, 2024. The exporters are sceptical about the ability of the tea factories getting the VAT/SVAT registration before January 1 and the fate of the first tea auction of 2024.  The tea manufacturers, who are unable to get the VAT registration by January 1, will not be able to issue VAT invoices and may have to keep away from the auctions until the registrations are completed. This may have multiple effects on the tea exports, income of smallholder farmers, etc. Even foreign buyers may keep away from the tea auction temporarily, which could affect the tea prices,” the TEA statement noted.

According to the government gazette notification, even the green leaves are subject to the VAT. However, the tea industry has been assured that green leaves may not be liable for the VAT payment, as it is a basic agricultural raw material. 

 


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  Comments - 7

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  • ERAN Wicks Thursday, 21 December 2023 08:00 AM

    Exporters have been hiding their profits overseas for a long time. At least now pay a little tax.

    Kandiah Balendran Thursday, 21 December 2023 08:01 AM

    Multi millionaires don't want to pay tax, so ordinary people have to pay more tax.

    Sivalingam Thursday, 21 December 2023 08:02 AM

    Pettah businesses no VAT no Tax. Selling smuggled items on cash.

    Shalani Tharaka Thursday, 21 December 2023 08:02 AM

    Uncle Jayantha Dharmadasa could have done better.

    Sokrates Thursday, 21 December 2023 09:07 AM

    VAT/TIN registration for an exporter is a horror in this country. Specially the customs requires a huge number of documents and certificates to be submitted. All stupid. The most idiotic things are, for example, a Google Map photo with the shortest route from the company to the nearest police station and a photo of the company building. A triple confirmation of the company's registered office is required, namely from Grama Niladhary, Municipal Council and Government Agent. The documents that expire (rental agreement) must be resubmitted after extension. Although my company has had registration for several years and one of my employees spent three weeks getting all the documents together, every update wastes more valuable working time. In Germany it takes 10 minutes online. You will then receive the VAT/TIN number in a letter within 3 days and no need for a registration with the customs.

    Jayantha Thursday, 21 December 2023 10:33 AM

    taxes should be fair and put for fair use. Instead the taxes are used by politicians and officials for free fuel and enjoyments and for various functionz. Also they should have increased the 15 to 16 for already exiting items. Then increase for 18 for non essential items. We will loose the income from IT sector too as overseas customers will go for destinations with low cost. It is a sector that did not see an improvement in q3. So this vat will further errode our market share.

    Nalin Perera Thursday, 21 December 2023 05:49 PM

    Most of the tea exporters, even the medium scale ones enjoy luxury life styles. High time they contributed some of the large amounts they earn to the county's coffers. Enough of doctored excuses.


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