The Inland Revenue Department is urging all professionals to make self-declarations of income and to pay taxes, to repay the public welfare systems that helped create them.
The Inland Revenue says public money is used to produce qualified professionals, but practising professionals do not re-pay the system by paying taxes.
“The bulk of resources on higher education go towards people that end up as professionals but unless they are employed in a company, they do not enter the tax net. But we know that most professionals like doctors, lawyers, architects and others engage in private practice,” said the Commissioner General of Inland Revenue, S. Angammana, speaking at a budget seminar last week organised by the Society of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka.
“The courts and police, however corrupt, are maintained by public funds. This gives lawyers the framework to practice their profession. Similarly, other facilities are provided, by the state, to all professionals to allow them to make money. So they have an obligation to re-pay the system,” said Mr Angammana.
The Inland Revenue says at this point the total number of individual tax payers registered with the department comes to only 165,000 persons. This is seen as an unhealthily low figure of self-employed persons in the country.
“One challenge in going after professionals like doctors and lawyers, is that they don’t keep records of transactions. So unless there is a proper method to bring them in, it is difficult to get them into the tax net,” said Mr Angammana.
To round up errant professionals, the Inland Revenue is suggesting that professional bodies consider introducing licensing systems for professional practitioners. “If professional bodies can coordinate with the Inland Revenue, it would make things easier. You could bring in something like an annual licensing system to monitor activities of your members,” said Mr Angammana.