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Income Tax, Professionals and Migration

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by Naomal Goonewardena

I am a lawyer by profession who also happens to have an interest in the subject of tax. My tax liability and income tax payments for the year of assessment 2023/2024 would be more than 300% of that in 2021/2022. Not great by any means.

I have been watching in silence the continuous agitation by professionals in particular with regard to the Inland Revenue (Amendment) Act No.45 of 2022 (“2022 Amendment”) and the additional tax which is payable thereunder by individuals. Almost all of the arguments against the increased tax is accompanied by an implied threat that the high tax rates would accelerate the rate of migration of professionals from the country and the dire consequences which would arise therefrom.

It would be pertinent to analyze the marginal tax rates which have been applicable for individuals from the year 2000 to present and the level of income at which the highest marginal rate would have become applicable. The last column set out above is indicative of the level of income which a person should have on a monthly basis after which he would be liable to pay income tax at the maximum rate specified in the table.

The aforesaid table is clearly indicative that for the period 2000 -2010 the marginal rates of tax were relatively high and therefore, largely comparable to what is going to apply from 2023 onwards. The real problem seems to be that from 2011 onwards, the rate of tax for professionals in particular has fallen down dramatically (other than for 2018/2019) with the result that professionals for all intents and purposes have “forgotten” to pay tax.

The enhanced threshold at which the maximum tax was applicable even at the lower rate increased dramatically from 2020 – 2022 and that seems to be the starting point for any entitlements which are now being spoken of. For example, during this period a person with an income of Rs. 500,000 per month would have only paid about Rs. 10,000 per month as income tax (i.e 2% of income). This is clearly unacceptable. The aforesaid table is clearly indicative that society in general has borne the brunt of this for the benefit of professionals at large very specially between 2011-2017. In my view there is absolutely no justification for professionals to be given any tax concessions which are not available to the other tax paying persons in this country.

I am well aware that in view of inflation in particular, affordability of the tax is in question. The personal reliefs and the level at which the maximum marginal tax rate would apply are also debatable. The real question is as to whether a person having an income of approximately Rs. 300,000 per month should or should not be contributing tax at the rate of 36% on his excess income in the context of large segments of our society being unable to eke out a bare existence for their very survival.

It is easy to say that a large part of government revenue is either wasted or subject to corrupt practices. However, the reality seems to be that major part of government revenue goes towards debt service (i.e interest expenses on borrowing) for which we are all responsible, government salaries and pensions. It is also ironic that persons who are the beneficiaries of these expenses or who have failed miserably in their basic obligation to ensure price stability are also among those who are agitating for a reduction in revenue by way of reduced tax.

It is a fallacy for employees who are subject to Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) tax to think that in view of the automatic deduction that they are subject to more tax than others or that other individuals in society who are liable to tax do not pay their tax. The latter pay their tax through the quarterly payment mechanism under the Inland Revenue Act of No.24 of 2017 (“IRA”). The often quoted reason for being reluctant to pay tax is that large parts of society are evading tax and therefore, one should not pay taxes. This in my view is too simple a presumption and it is for any person who says that there are other tax evaders to take the necessary steps to report them specifically to the authorities in a manner that they could share the tax burden of all. However, based on my professional training, pointing to other tax evaders and providing that as a justification for not paying your own taxes is an argument unworthy of a professional.

With regard to migration, the following table illustrates the marginal tax rates for individuals in the countries which are often mentioned as being attractive for migration by professionals.

Subject to any differences arising from permissibility of expenses in computing the taxable income, it is clear that any migrant would walk into higher taxes. The migrant would not dare to evade tax in those countries either since the migrant will be summarily thrown out or put behind bars. If a professional wishes to migrate, please do so but do not cite excessive tax in your home country or insufficiency of personal reliefs in computing your taxable income, since any reasonable man in those countries would think that such arguments are hollow to say the least.

We are a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and each of us must understand the implications of this. Whichever political party is in power, the government needs revenue. We have exercised our franchise and elected idiots in the past. In 2015 we voted for public sector salary increases which were totally unrealistic which drained the public coffers. In 2019, we the professionals voted for tax cuts, pocketed the additional monies and deprived the State of its due share of revenue. It is now pay-back time for the professionals. In the short term, the increased tax rates should be bearable and in the medium and long term will become palatable.

Increased government revenue is a necessity with current VAT rate of 15% and the marginal income tax rates for individuals and corporates of 36% and 30% being reasonable in a global sense. If any politicians seek your vote or mine on the basis of reducing these tax rates in the absence of alternative concrete revenue generating proposals, let us classify them appropriately as mentioned above and treat them with the contempt which they deserve.



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Softlogic Life’s FY22 results grows to LKR 23 Bn GWP amidst tough macroeconomic challenges

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Softlogic Life recorded a superior full year performance in a crisis-affected business landscape, posting Gross Written Premium (GWP) of Rs. 23,083 million for the year ended 31 December 2022 with an increase in top-line growth of 15% compared to the corresponding period of last year. The Company has stood firmly with its policyholders in the face of the tough macroeconomic conditions, paying claims of Rs 8,264 million for the period.

During the period in review, Softlogic Life’s market share is at 16.87%, in comparison to 16.08% as of 31 December 2021. The market share increase continues to rank Softlogic Life as the second-largest in the life insurance market, overtaking much older players to establish strong growth momentum. Compared to the estimated Industry GWP growth, which was 9.6% during 2022, Softlogic Life recorded GWP growth of 15%.

The company reported a 10-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28% of GWP, while the industry 10-year GWP CAGR growth was at 14%. Softlogic Life also notes that its contribution to increasing insurance penetration in the country has increased during the period in review with 133,872 policies issued, insuring more than 1.5 million Sri Lankan lives.

Profit after tax (PAT) for the period in review rose to Rs. 2,683 million, an increase of 27% YoY. Profit before tax (PBT) grew by 36% compared to last year at growth of Rs. 1,065 million. The company’s operating expense ratio remained at 22% irrespective of the inflation hike during 2022 as a result of prudent and efficient expense management initiatives adopted. Furthermore, Softlogic Life maintained a healthy Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 287%, well above the regulatory CAR requirement of 120%.

The company recorded impressive Return on Equity of 25% and Earning per share of LKR 7.15 after providing one off provision for impairment. Recurring Earning per share for the year 2022 increased to LKR 12.85 from LKR 5.61 per share.

Commenting on the financial performance of the Company, Ashok Pathirage, Chairman of Softlogic Life Insurance PLC, stated, “Despite numerous challenges in a tough business landscape, we have performed well to maintain our position as the second-largest life insurance company in Sri Lanka, growing our market share further to 16.87% by the end of 2022. These accomplishments were facilitated by the strategies we deployed and the strong execution of those strategies that have enabled the Company to sustain momentum in spite of the prevailing macro challenges.”

Since its inception, Softlogic Life has been striving to improve the quality of life of Sri Lankans through relevant disruptive innovations and digitalization. Industry-first innovations such as one-day automated claims settlement, hospitalization claim settlement, 100% digitalized sales platform, automatic policy issuance and mobile based micro products has helped the company to deliver a superior customer experience, which has been instrumental in enhancing its competitive position.

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Foreign investors bullish and local counterparts bearish at CSE; year-to-date net foreign inflows hit Rs. 2 billion

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

Foreigners remained bullish on Sri Lanka’s listed equities as year-to-date net foreign inflows crossed the Rs. 2 billion mark, while local investors appeared bearish at the CSE yesterday.

JKH was the major driver for foreign inflows to reach more than Rs two billion, without any specific reason, since last week, market analysts said. However, shares fell in mid-day trade over the need for further positivity on the International Monetary Fund loan being secured, an analyst said.

Both indices moved downwards. The ASPI fell by 125.28 points, while the most liquid S&P SL20 fell 43.82 points. Turnover stood at Rs 2.2 billion with four crossings. Those crossings reported in Lanka Tiles, which crossed 1.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 54 million, its shares traded at Rs 45, JKH 300,000 shares crossed for Rs 43.65 million, its shares traded at Rs 145.50, HNB 468,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 43.3 million, its shares traded at Rs. 92.50 and Chevron Lubricants 200,000 shares crossed for Rs 24.1 million, its shares fetched Rs 107.

In the retail market, seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, JKH Rs 721 million (4.9 million shares traded), Aitken Spence Rs 302 million (two million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 126 million (664,000 shares traded), Softlogic Capital PLC Rs 91 million (5.6 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 82.1 million (13.5 million shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 63.3 million (512,000 shares traded) and Tokyo Cement (Non- Voting) Rs 49.1 million (1.45 million shares traded). During the day 56.2 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 transactions.

“The overall market was pulled down because the market ran on banking shares in the past sessions, but news on domestic debt restructuring moved the market into the red yesterday, an analyst said.

Any domestic debt restructuring will be part of a negotiation process with creditors, which will take place after a program with the International Monetary Fund is in place, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

First, financial assurances from bi-lateral creditors have to be received to qualify for the IMF program.

It is said high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Expolanka Holdings, JKH and Sampath Bank. Mixed interest was observed in Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka IOC, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, LOLC Finance and Ex-Pack Corrugated Cartons.

It said the Capital Goods sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to JKH and Aitken Spence), while the sector index gained 0.19 per cent. The share price of JKH gained 75 cents to reach Rs. 145.50. The share price of Aitken Spence closed flat at Rs. 150.

The Transportation sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Expolanka Holdings), while the sector index increased by 1.02 per cent. The share price of Expolanka Holdings increased by Rs. 2 to Rs. 194.

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 359.99 and selling rate as Rs 370.18.

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Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs visits Port of Colombo

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SLPA Chairman Keith D. Bernard presents a token of appreciation to Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs - TAKEI Shunsuke. SLPA vice chairman - Gayan Algewattege, SLPA managing director - Susatha Abeysiriwardena and harbour master capt. Nirmal Silva were present.

Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs TAKEI Shunsuke visited the Port of Colombo to learn about the ongoing developments in the Port of Colombo. The visit took place on 03rd February 2023. During the visit the Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs also met with the Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) – Keith D. Bernard and other higher officials at the main control tower of the Port.

The Chairman of SLPA explained to the Japanese state minister of foreign affairs of the progress of the developments of the East Container Terminal (ECT), the West Container Terminal and the North Port Development Project. The SLPA Chairman thanked the Japanese Government and the people of Japan for the invaluable support extended by them for development of Port sector in Sri Lanka, particularly towards the Jaya Container Terminal and the developments at the Port of Trincomalee.

The high level Japanese delegation at the Port of Colombo also comprised MIZUKOSHI Hideaki – Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, TUTSUMI Tarou – Director, Southwest Asian Division, ANDO Toshiaki – Executive Assistant to the state minister of foreign affairs, TOKITA Yuji – director, second country assistance planning department, IWASE Kichiro – assistant to minister /director-general Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs Department, MATSUYAMA Miina – third secretary, Embassy of Japan in India, KATSUKI Kotaro – Minister Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka and OZAKI Takeshi, first secretary – Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka.

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