By Charumini de Silva
The Excise Department has increased its revenue by 49% in the first five months of 2015 to Rs. 41,819 million.
The high growth has been propelled by a record intake in March of Rs. 9 billion and higher collection in other months as well.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake confirmed that the Excise Department had recorded an all-time high revenue of Rs. 9,490 million by end March this year.
“In June the department had collected Rs. 8,100 million,” he noted.
Karunanayake pointed that Excise Department revenues had continued to increase since the new Government took over in January this year.
He made these remarks addressing a special media briefing held last week at the Finance Ministry.
Highlighting a comment made by former President and Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claiming that Karunanayake had issued 28 new ethanol permits, he explained that it was all done in a very transparent manner.
“I have issued all these 28 permits to companies that pay due taxes and not for cronies. We have issued new permits to companies that pay over Rs. 150 to 200 million as tax. All these payment methods are very transparent,” he pointed out.
Clarifying his point further, he said that during the period of November and December last year, the Government could only collect Rs. 3,800 million as revenue to the Excise Department. However, post the change in government in January, revenues increased significantly.
“The Excise Department collected Rs. 7,800 million in January 2015 — an increase of 45% compared to Rs. 5,420 million recorded in January 2014. This is the change we made,” he added.
He questioned if the revenue had increased only by issuing new permits, as alleged by Rajapaksa, then they also want to know what happened to the revenue collected during his tenure.
The Minister went on to say that on an average around Rs. 5,500 million could be collected from the Excise Department per month as revenue to the Government and if the previous regime had collected these revenues they could have brought down the prices of the essential goods.
“I challenge that they did not collect these revenues properly, because these revenues went into their pockets,” he stressed.
He charged that these monies had only gone into the pockets of the people who ruled the country then and asserted that with the transparent procedure of this Government all the collectable revenues had been collected accordingly benefiting the people of this country.
When asked what action the authorities would take to find where the revenues were, he said that they were now going through a trend analysis. “We saw variations of each company and we see that there is some collusion in the areas between tax collection and avoidance. We will be able to provide the details may be in the next couple of days. We are looking into how such huge variants can take place.”
Commending the Government’s transparent procedures, he said: “Now we can say with satisfaction that we are getting increased revenue of Rs. 5,500 million. But we want to push it further to Rs. 12 to 13 billion. Thus, we are seeing where the avoidance is. I’m still not happy. The more we collect on behalf of the Government, the less the people need to pay. That’s our happiness.”