Sri Lanka in tsunami tax crackdown

COLOMBO, March 9, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s finance ministry said Friday it was planning action against charities that are using vehicles imported duty-free for tsunami relief operations beyond the agreed tax shelter period. The government had allowed duty-free imports on condition that they would re-shipped once relief work was over, and aid groups wanting to keep the vehicles now have to pay the tax.

“Accordingly, 105 passenger vehicles including double cabs, jeeps, vans, buses and 66 utility vehicles such as ambulances, caterpillars, tippers, trucks were imported free of duty,” the ministry said.

Cars are extremely expensive in Sri Lanka, with import duties ranging from 200 to 300 percent.

Despite several reminders, the ministry said, some charities continued to “violate the law” and the government has asked the customs department to take legal action against them. The offending charities were not named.

Sri Lanka was one of the worst hit countries by the Asian tsunami. An estimated 31,000 people were killed while another million were left homeless.

About 400 state, local and international charities received pledges of up to 3.2 billion dollars to rebuild tsunami-hit areas.

However, the