The Inland Revenue Department's (IRD) 6-year old scheme (since 2007) of issuing Gold and Silver privileged cards as an incentive to high-net and consistent taxpayers for regular compliance has become a worthless exercise, disheartened taxpayers said. Many told the Business Times that though these cards guarantee special treatment from key government bodies like Customs, Police and the airport as well as several other concessions, including leasing facilities for purchase of vehicles and office equipment at reduced interest rates from Peoples Bank and the Bank of Ceylon, these don't exist. One such taxpayer said the only privilege they get is entitlement to 75% tax free vehicle permits.
This concession was suspended by the Treasury last year but has now been lifted. Taxpayers revealed that their Gold and Silver cards have not been recognized by any of the stipulated government institutions and they have not been given any privileges by them ignoring the directive issued to them by the department.
The department has issued around 500 privileged cards for consistent taxpayers whose annual assessment is not less than Rs. 250,000. Another 25 such cards were issued at an informal ceremony held at the IRD headquarters in Colombo on Friday, the Business Times learns. One Silver cardholder said that he had been treated shabbily at the Katunayake international airport officers even after he showed them his privileged card. He noted that the situation at customs and the police is the same.
"There is no value for the Silver card issued to us by the IRD," he said, adding "So what is the point in paying taxes on due dates?" A taxpayer whose income tax liability in respect of any period of five years of assessment of not less than Rs. 250,000 a year is eligible for such reduced vehicle tax permits in accordance with the Finance Act No.11 of 2006 as amended by the Finance Act No. 13 of 2007. Tax liability should be settled in full and returns should be submitted on or before the due date, a senior official of the IRD said.
Responding to the criticism, the official pointed out that the department is unable to monitor the activities of state institutions like Customs, Police and the airport to ascertain whether or not they provide special treatment for Gold and Silver cardholders. However he agreed that officials of these institutions need to be aware of this scheme to recognize Gold and Silver privileged cardholders. "The problems in the implementation of the scheme should be settled to provide benefits for taxpayers," he said.
Meanwhile further action is underway to establish cordial relations between the Inland Revenue Department and taxpayers. He said that only 700,000 tax files have been maintained at the IRD and action has been taken to open more tax files by creating awareness and motivating Inland Revenue officers to collect direct taxes to boost the national economy.