Sri Lanka tax appeals process seen flawed, unjust

Sept 23, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lankan tax payers are at the mercy of an unfair system with no proper appeal mechanism and aging members of a review board not bothering to turn up for hearings, an expert said. “Some members do not bother to turn up for the hearing of an appeal and delegate the function of preparing the determination of the Board of Appeal to its legal advisor, despite the practice being frowned upon by a supreme court order.”

Though nominally a democracy, Sri Lanka has a fascist-style oppressive income tax regime where the salaries and pensions of rulers and state workers are exempted.

Critics have said discriminatory laws can be passed in parliament as the country has weak constitutional guarantees of absolute equality. “There is no justification for the violation of a taxpayer’s rights of due process when recovering fiscal levies,” said Attorney-at-Law Shivaji Felix.

“The protection of a person’s process rights is the minimum obligation expected from any society committed to the rule of law.”

There were doubts whether appeals to the Commissioner General of Inland Revenue serve any useful purpose, Felix told a seminar on tax, customs and exchange control law organised by th