2.6 Taxation and Universal Basic Income

It is important to get the taxation right because it is not just about government revenue but also about promoting investment. The government revenue base is extremely vital to deliver services to the community.

It is important to consider having a tax file number for each and every person in the country. This can be easily done since everybody has a national ID card. Everybody above and on the threshold income needs to send a tax return every year. Those who are below the threshold and exempted from paying tax can choose to send their tax returns as well. For example, the threshold could be set to Rs. 1,250,000 indexed per annum. People at and above the threshold need to pay taxes on a scale plus the 2 percent levy on healthcare.

We believe when it is affordable the government should make arrangements to provide a universal basic income (UBI) to all those who are on low or receive no income.

Our long-term vision given the way technology is heading is about a world without work! It may be too idealistic/theoretical to grasp or difficult to envision presently, but even Sri Lanka is fast moving in the direction of automation and digitalisation, making UBI a necessity.

First, automation in society should be guided and determined by Parliament on the behest of society and not solely by the market. Second, the implementation of UBI should not dismantle the existing welfare measures but reinforce and supplement the welfare of all citizens. We would also consider putting in place measures such as ‘volunteering for income’ to discouraging people spending their lives in idleness.

Therefore, it is important for everybody to have a tax file. The amount of tax to be paid will be determined from time to time based on the government revenue base. UBI will be linked to the individual’s tax file number.

It is necessary to look at a land tax to the value of just the land, if land is not the primary residence of the tax payer. This will not only provide revenue for the government but also encourage owners to utilize land to generate an income rather than just holding on to it for capital gains. The land tax threshold would be placed around Rs 1 million and will be indexed.

The government will also work with the relevant taxation experts in government to set up a capital gains tax structure.

People who are employed should be able to start their own lateral business using the same tax file rather than setting up a new tax account for the business. This will provide an incentive for working people to start their small business without the fear of becoming unprofitable and incurring a total loss in the first couple of years as they can claim tax benefits to minimise the loss.

Tax avoidance will be taken seriously, and necessary resources will be provided for policing irregularities and tax declarations. The government will expand the regular desk checks regime and make sure those who claim losses continuously will be monitored thoroughly and the rogue operators will be brought to justice. Random tests need to be carried on for all taxpayers, including those who claim to be below the threshold.

IBAC will have the powers to scrutinise the activities of the taxation office. Taxation staff that breach the law will be prosecuted with no mercy.

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