|Reply to Minister Choksys letter
This is a reply to Minister Choksys letter dated 14.03.2002 in the Opinion Column of The Island.
I would like to thank Minister Choksy for having replied my letter dated 25.02.2002. But I regret to inform him that the reply is far from satisfactory.
He has quoted the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the USA Constitution and the Indian Constitution of 1950 and its origins in Sri Lankan constitution of 1972 and 1978.
Could Minister Choksy please state clearly whether in applying this clause to taxation in the USA and India whether they have (Ministers, M.PP. and Govt. Officials) help themselves to tax free salaries and other privileges?
If not, why does he feel that the Sri Lankan Constitution is different to those of the US and India. Actually his reference to the constitutions of the above two countries only proves my point that the legislators and the citizens are equal when it comes to taxation, for the simple reason that these two countries do not have the tax exemption which is in question in Sri Lanka.
He comes up with the assumption that the public officials, Ministers and M.PP. are persons who serve the state. They are, therefore, in a category different to persons who are self-employed or in the private sector, or who practise professions. Accordingly, their exemption from taxation could be justified on the basis of classification referred to above. (Doctrine of reasonable classification!)
I dont agree, Mr. Choksy. Taxation has nothing to do with the nature of ones work or any other classification. Taxes are on ones income. Whether its private or state, income makes no difference. After all, this classification came into force introduced by Finance Minister Ronie De Mel during the term of the UNP government led by President J. R. Jayewardene. Surely Mr. Choksy werent the Ministers, M.PP. and Govt. Officials taxed at a common level together with the other citizens prior to this day? Didnt this so-called reasonable classification exist prior to that? Corner stone of taxation is equity. I dare say Minister Choksys interpretation is not acceptable.
I would refer this query to another legal luminary Minister G. L. Peiris (Minister of Constitutional Affairs) of the present UNF government who was very keen to introduce a bill of equal opportunities when he was in the PA government which unfortunately never saw the light of day.
If Professor G. L. Peries could kindly take some time off his busy schedule, would he kindly clarify whether present discrimination is constitutional or not?
His reply will be eagerly awaited by many like me.
I feel income tax should be on ones income and nothing else, be he be a Minister of State, MP or private sector Mudalali or even a Kasippu Mudalali or a brothel owner. Commissioner of Inland Revenue I am sure would give a ruling whether this basis is acceptable or not.
Minister Choksy mentions benefits like Samurdhi financed by the state and mentions that all citizens are not entitled to merely because of their being citizens. The benefits of the scheme are enjoyed by the sections of the community who are under privileged. I was speaking of those who earn taxable incomes.
I dare say even if a ministers income falls to that stipulated for Samurdhi benefits he too could apply for such benefits. In fact this statement of his proves the very point I am challenging.
Samurdhi is for the poor. Unfortunately 80 percent of the population are Samurdhi beneficiaries. On the other hand taxation is just a reverse. The only consideration for taxation is the earning level of each individual be a Minister, Member of Parliament or private citizen. It is this discrimination of taxation that I am opposed to.
I repeat taxes should be fair, simple, equitable and easily administered. The present tax system is a joke. Those who pay are fools.
Concerned Sri Lankan
|NEWS | FEATURES | BUSINESS | EDITORIAL | CARTOON | SPORTS|