|Thursday, 23 September 2004|
Tax Amnesty Reform Bill passed by majority of 50 votes
by Bharatha Malawaraarachchi and Ranil Wijayapala
The Inland Revenue (Regulation of Amnesty) Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday by a majority of 50 votes with 112 voting for and 62 against.
The main Opposition United National Party and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress voted against the Bill while Tamil National Alliance was absent at the time of voting.
This was the first piece of legislation passed in Parliament by the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government which was elected in April this year and had the full backing of the Ceylon Workers Congress the new entrant into its fold. The Jathika Hela Urumaya also voted with the Government.
A UPFA MP said the Government would have received several more votes if all of its MPs were present in the country. Several Ministers and MPs are abroad on official visits.
The Inland Revenue (Regulation of Amnesty) Bill was presented in Parliament, seeking to withdraw amnesties granted with regard to indirect taxes. The new Bill would provide provision for the repeal of the Inland Revenue (Special Provisions) Act, No. 10 of 2003 and thereby withdrawing any amnesty granted with regard to indirect taxes such as Customs Duties, Excise Taxes Fines, Exchange control Fines/Forfeitures, Import and Export control Fine/Forfeitures, Turnover Taxes, Goods and Services Taxes, Stamp Duty. Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama said the previous UNF regime presented this tax amnesty in an unprecedented manner.
"This was an unprecedented tax amnesty. In the past, tax amnesties were introduced only to the income tax, but this UNF tax amnesty was given even to indirect taxes." He said this was the most corrupt and vicious Bill presented to the Parliament.
While claiming that the tax amnesty Bill was very dangerous to the country, Minister Amunugama said the UNF introduced this amnesty only to safeguard their good friends and class structure. "This amnesty gave relief only to racketeers who had defaulted tax payments to the state," he added.
Presenting the Bill earlier on behalf of the Finance Minister , Chief Government Whip and Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said this tax amnesty given by the previous UNF regime had caused an enormous loss of revenue to the State. "The Tax Amnesty given by the previous regime had greatly affected State revenue. Rs. 68,000 million was lost to the State while the loss to the Customs Department is yet to be determined," the Minister said.
He said all successive Governments in the country had given tax amnesties. "But this was an unprecedented tax amnesty which resulted in loss of millions of Rupees to the Government through indirect taxes. This was a severe mistake," added the Minister.
Produced by Lake House