The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sri Lankan expats will have to pay duty on household items

Beginning Aug. 1, Sri Lankan expatriates will have to pay a duty on electronic and household goods they ship home, according to an advisory by Customs officials in Colombo.

Members of the Sri Lankan community in Saudi Arabia have lambasted the move, while at least one shipping company in the Kingdom has complained that the government gave neither prior notice of the duty nor a grace period for goods that have already been purchased by Sri Lankans abroad and are on their way to the country.

Some of the items, such as televisions, will face a 20 percent levy upon arrival in Sri Lanka.

The size of the duty is based on the types of products being shipped. Items that will now be taxed include: air conditioners, refrigerators with two or more doors and with capacities over 500 liters, dish washers, deep freezers, four burner cookers with ovens, fully automatic washing machines, CRT televisions exceeding 29 inches and LCD TVs exceeding 32 inches. The cost of the levy depends on the item.

Andrew Sinnen, country manager for Trico International, a shipping agent in the Kingdom, said that the news has come as a shock to the Sri Lankan community.

“The expatriates, including housemaids, purchase these items over a period of time prior to their vacation and store them in our warehouses. Some of these goods are currently aboard cargo vessels,” Sinnen said, pointing out that notice should have been given for such a move in the interest of the poor workers.

Fazli Sameer, an IT consultant working in Riyadh, said it is bad news for all Sri Lankan overseas workers. Previously, they were given baggage allowances that waived import duties on personal goods.

“Removing the duty free concession on several items of household electrical goods under the prevailing passenger baggage allowance is certainly a step backward in the motivation of expatriates who look forward to return home either for their vacation or on completion of their work overseas contracts,” Sameer said.

Most expatriates, especially those living and working in the Middle Eastern region, are used to these household electrical items and would certainly want to continue using them in their own homes in their native land, he added.

“These items are not luxury for those who live abroad and they are essentials for all those who live in Sri Lanka too,” Nihal Gamage, former president of the Sri Lankan Expatriates Society said.

Source: arabnews