Depending on tax consultants for filing of tax returns may soon be a thing of the past, with the introduction of electronic filing or e-filing by the Inland Revenue Department this year, a first time in Sri Lanka.
Commissioner General of Inland Revenue Mahinda Medagoda told the Business Times that the department will introduce the e-filing process shortly making it convenient and user-friendly for taxpayers. He disclosed that the new system will be introduced to 500 selected taxpayers including corporates. Taxpayers opting for e -filing, need not stand in long queues or visit local income tax offices to submit the signed copy of the return, he said. With this facility, income tax returns can be filed through the Internet and even a number of statutory forms can be filed this way. Earlier only paper forms had to be filled for filing tax returns.
E-filing will be the Inland Revenue Department’s (IRD) 2010 New Year bonanza for taxpayers, he added. One of the main advantages of online filing of tax returns is that it can be done from anywhere, anytime and it saves time. Besides, it gives an instant acknowledgment of receipt, the tax chief said. He also revealed that the department has already achieved the revised tax revenue target of Rs. 270 billion for the year 2009 .
The computerization and modernization of the current computer system of all sections of the Inland Revenue Department is now underway and the department expects to begin full operations by March this year once the reconstruction of its head quarters building in Colombo is completed, Mr Medagoda said.
The building was damaged in a LTTE suicide aircraft attack early last year. Many taxpayers are having difficulties in reconciling their tax liability with the department’s current computer records. Due to non-availability of integrated computer systems, the department is unable to assess the taxable earnings from different sources. There had been many delays in resolving taxpayer disputes due to non availability of timely information. All these issues would be settled, with the modernization of the system, he said.
Outlining the IRD’s immediate plans for the New Year, Mr Medagoda said that taxpayers will be provided facilities to remit tax payments at any branch of the People’s Bank soon. However any individual or an institution was now free to remit tax payments through branches of the Bank of Ceylon, he added. The IRD is also planning to streamline tax collection in the North and action has been taken to create awareness on taxation and tax laws among businessmen in war-torn areas who have no knowledge of the sate tax system.
These persons had paid taxes to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran during the last 30 years, he said. The department is conducting seminars to create awareness among these businessmen. He urged taxpayers in the North to follow normal procedures to pay tax. They could do so voluntarily, he said. The department had collected Rs.40 million as tax from the North during the past two years.