Connect with us

Business

Special goods and services tax: Issues and concerns

Published

on

By Dr Roshan Perera & Naqiya Shiraz

The new bill titled ‘Special Goods and Services Tax’ was published by gazette dated 07 January 2022.1 The Special Goods and Services Tax (SGST) was originally proposed in Budget speech 2021 but was not implemented. It has once again been presented in Budget 2022. The SGST aims to consolidate taxes on manufacturing and importing cigarettes, liquor, vehicles and assembly parts, while also consolidating taxes on telecommunication and betting and gaming (see table 1 for existing taxes on these products and table 2 for taxes consolidated into the SGST as per the schedule in the gazette). The rationale for this new tax as per the bill is “…to promote self-compliance in the payment of taxes in order to ensure greater efficiency in relation to the collection and administration on such taxes by avoiding the complexities associated with the application and administration of a multiple tax regime on specified goods and services.”

Given the multiplicity of taxes and the complexity of the current tax system as a whole, rationalising taxes is necessary to improve collection. However, whether the proposed SGST simplifies the tax system, while ensuring revenue neutrality or even improving revenue collection, needs to be carefully examined.

The SGST Bill is silent on the treatment of the existing VAT on these goods and services. However, according to the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill also gazetted on 07 January 2022,1 liquor, cigarettes and motor vehicles will be exempted from VAT while telecommunications and betting and gaming services will still be subject to VAT.

While the gazetted Bill sets out some of the features of the proposed SGST there are many important areas not covered in the Bill. These are expected to be gazetted as and when required by the Minister in charge.

Issues & Concerns

The motivation behind SGST is the simplification of the tax system. Although the objective of introducing the SGST is to improve efficiency by reducing the complexity of the tax system there are many issues and concerns with this proposed tax.

Revenue

Tax revenue which was 13% of GDP in 2010, declined to 8% in 2020. Ad hoc policy changes and weak administration contributed to the decline in tax revenue collection. This continuous decline in tax revenue has led to widening fiscal deficits and increasing debt. One of the main reasons for the current macroeconomic crisis is low tax revenue collection. Hence, any change to the existing tax system should be with the primary objective of raising more revenue.

According to the budget speech the SGST is estimated to bring in an additional Rs. 50 billion in revenue in 2022.1 Revenue from taxes proposed to be consolidated under the SGST has significantly declined over the past 3 years. Given the already difficult macroeconomic environment, along with ad hoc tax policy changes raising the additional revenue estimated at Rs. 50 billion seems a difficult task.

Tax Base and Rate

For the SGST to raise taxes in excess of what is already being collected through the existing taxes, the rate and the base for the SGST needs to be carefully and methodically calculated. Further, the existing taxes have different bases of taxation. For instance the basis of taxation of motor vehicles is both on an ad valorem1 basis and a quantity basis while the basis of taxation of cigarettes and liquor is quantity.2 In light of this, the basis of taxation on which SGST isapplied becomes an issue. Having different bases and different rates for various goods and services would complicate the implementation of the tax These issues need to be carefully considered to ensure the new tax is revenue neutral or be able to enhance revenue collection.

Efficiency

One possible revenue benefit of this proposal is the inability to claim input tax credits on the sectors exempted from VAT. However, the issue is the cascading effect that would result where there would be a tax on tax with the end consumer paying taxes on already paid taxes. If the idea was to raise additional revenue by limiting tax credits, it would have been simpler to raise the tax rates on the existing taxes rather than introduce a new tax.

4. Administration

According to the bill, SGST will now be collected through a new unit set up under the General Treasury where a Designated Officer (DO) will be in charge of the administration, collection and accountability of the tax. The existing revenue collection agencies, such as the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) or the Excise Department will not be primarily responsible for the collection of this tax. By removing the IRD and Excise Department, a parallel bureaucracy will be created, at a time when public spending needs to be carefully managed. The General Treasury also has no previous experience and expertise in direct revenue collection. Weak administration is one of the key reasons for the low tax collection and success of this tax would depend on the strength of its administration.

In addition to the above mentioned concerns, as per the Bill the minister in charge of the SGST has been vested with the power to set the rates, the base and grant exemptions. Accordingly, Parliamentary oversight over fiscal matters is weakened under this proposed Bill.

It could also lead to a time lag between the gazetting and implementing of changes to the SGST (such as the rate, base etc) and obtaining Parliamentary approval for those changes.

Dispute resolution

The SGST Bill also focuses on the dispute resolution mechanism. Under the present tax system, with the enactment of the Tax Appeals Commission Act, No. 23 in 2011 the Tax Appeals Commission has the “responsibility of hearing all appeals in respect of matters relating to imposition of any tax, levy or duty”.1 The most recent amendment to the Tax Appeal

Commissions act (2013)1 seeks to address the large number (495) of cases pending before the Tax Appeals Commision2 by increasing the number of panels to hear the appeals.

Under the proposed SGST disputes will be handled through the court of appeal. However, the time period by which specific actions need to be taken is not provided in the bill. In addition, disputes have to be taken to the court of appeal. Hence, the entire process will be more time consuming. This could result in revenue lags and difficulties in revenue estimation until disputes are resolved.

Additionally, in the case that no valid appeal has been lodged within 14 days, any remaining payments would be considered to be in default. Thereafter, the responsibility is shifted to the Commissioner General of the IRD to recover the dues. Given the IRD is completely removed from the normal collection process, the rationale for bringing defaults under the IRD is not clear.

III. Policy Recommendations

As discussed, the SGST Bill has several limitations and much of this is due to the ambiguities in the Bill.

If the tax is implemented, the rate and basis of taxation needs to be revenue neutral to ensure tax collection is maximised and administrative costs minimised.

The rates, basis of taxation, exemptions etc should be specified in the Bill, as done in most other Acts. This would avoid the power for discretionary changes to the tax being placed in the hands of the minister in charge.

Given the already weak tax administration, it would be more sensible to strengthen the existing revenue collecting agencies and address the weaknesses in the existing system without creating a parallel bureaucracy.

In the case where VAT is consolidated into the proposed GST, the issue of cascading effect of input tax credits needs to be addressed. This is relevant particularly in the case of capital expenditure.

Given the critical state of revenue collection in the country the question to ask is whether this is the best time to introduce a new tax. Focus should be on fixing issues in the existing tax system to ensure revenue is maximised. The VAT is the least distortionary tax and it is the easiest to administer. Given these features it can be a very efficient revenue generator for a country. Therefore instead of introducing a new tax, capitalising on systems that are already in place and amending the VAT rate, threshold and exemptions may be a more practical solution to the revenue problem that the country is currently facing.

Dr. Roshan Perera is a Senior Research Fellow at the Advocata Institute and the former Director of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Naqiya Shiraz is a Research Analyst at the Advocata Institute.

The opinions expressed are the author’s own views. They may not necessarily reflect the views of the Advocata Institute, or anyone affiliated with the institute.



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

Mahindra Ideal Finance One of Sri Lanka’s Great Places to Work

Published

on

MIFL team at the Great Place to work® Awards ceremony for Best 10 companies in the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance industry held at the Hilton Hotel, Colombo.

Mahindra Ideal Finance is not only one of Sri Lanka’s leading finance companies, but also one of Sri Lanka’s top employers of choice, attested to by the Company being certified as a Great Place to Work for 3 consecutive years, most recently in 2021.The Company has also been recognized amongst the Best 10 companies in the banking, financial services and insurance sector in 2021 by the Great Place to Work® Sri Lanka. As a result, Mahindra Ideal Finance has attracted a diverse group of individuals at the top of their game to be a part of the Company’s various teams. Having embarked on a landmark islandwide network expansion strategy, Mahindra Ideal Finance is also creating new opportunities for aspiring Sri Lankan professionals looking to build solid careers in financial services.

Duminda Weerasekara – Chief Executive Officer said, “As we are growing our presence around the country through the expansion of our branch network, we are looking for driven and passionate people to reinforce our teams. As we have been a dedicated, caring and trustworthy employer since our inception, Mahindra Ideal Finance is the ideal platform for dynamic young professionals looking to launch or grow their careers.”Great Place to Work®, headquartered in the USA, is the global authority on high-trust, high performance workplace cultures. Great Place to Work provides the benchmarks, framework, and expertise needed to create, sustain, and recognize outstanding workplace cultures.

Continue Reading

Business

Daraz Cares introduces ‘Buy one Give One’ initiative – To support families in vulnerable communities

Published

on

The unfolding economic crisis in the country has presented Sri Lankans with unprecedented challenges, including scarcity of essentials, escalating living expenses and deteriorating living standards. The impacts of the crisis are graver and more ominous for those in vulnerable communities, where families struggle to make ends meet amidst mounting financial difficulties.As part of its commitment to give back to the community, Daraz Cares has come forward with a social initiative that pledges support for families in vulnerable communities. The initiative themed ‘Buy One, Give One’ will support Sri Lankan families faced with financial challenges with a pack of selected daily essentials. The selected items for the ‘Buy One, Give One’ initiative are, a 1kg pack of CIC Sudu Suduru Rice,a 500g of Orient Mysoore Dhal, a 300g pack of Maggi Coconut Milk Powder, 500g of Orient White Sugar, and 500 g packs of Sunlight Lemon and Rose Detergent Powder, which are all available for purchase via Daraz Mart.

The initiative will be implemented in a manner that, each time an individual purchase any desired quantity of one of the nominated items on the Daraz app, Daraz will donate an equal quantity of the same product to a family in vulnerable communities.Daraz invites everyone to purchase a preferred quantity of the selected items via www.daraz.lk/dmart/ and become a part of the ‘Buy One, Give One’ social initiative.

Continue Reading

Business

DIMO partners with Allianz to provide innovative insurance scheme to its TATA customers

Published

on

DIMO together with Allianz recently introduced a state-of-the-art motor insurance & claim settlement scheme designed exclusively for DIMO’s TATA customers.The partnership is focused on assisting the customers to reduce costs incurred during conducting accident repairs through exemption of the owner’s payable portion for TATA vehicles within 5 years of date of manufacture. This innovative facility also offers all TATA customers of DIMO special insurance premium rates at the time of renewal of insurance. DIMO’s TATA customers will enjoy the utmost convenience and zero hassle as both DIMO and Allianz will coordinate all tasks from towing the vehicle to the nearest DIMO-TATA workshop, quick and efficient estimation & approval process, repairing of the vehicle according to exact manufacturer’s specifications, settlement of repair bills to handing over of the vehicle to the customer in original condition.

Ranjith Pandithage, Chairman & Managing Director of DIMO, said, “This partnership will further assist us in offering an enhanced service for our valued customers. As a company, DIMO has always stood for fuelling the dreams and aspirations of the communities we serve in, and it is a pleasure to be able to offer an innovative insurance scheme at a time like this, in collaboration with Allianz.

Gany Subramaniam, CEO of Allianz Insurance Lanka Ltd, said “We are extremely pleased to be partnering with DIMO to offer a customer-centric product, ensuring a vehicle is repaired and restored with minimum hassle.”

Continue Reading

Trending