Sri Lanka’s Literary Sector Fights Against Enforced Book Sales Tax

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Sri Lanka’s Predicament: VAT on Books Causes Concern

The recent government decision in Sri Lanka to impose a 18% Value Added Tax (VAT) on book sales, an area previously without such impositions, has thrown the country’s literary landscape into chaos. Critics suggest that this move might pose a significant barrier to the intellectual growth of the nation as it will likely increase book prices and restrict the public’s access to education and knowledge.

Alarm Bells Ring in Publishing Industry

Dinesh Kulatunga, the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Book Publishers Association (SLBPA), openly expressed his disagreement with the government’s decision. He underlined the unfairness of the decision, as such a temporary financial fix could seriously hamper the nation’s educational progress. He also pointed out that the decision seems to violate the UNESCO Florence Agreement, of which Sri Lanka is a signatory. The Agreement advocates for the non-taxation of educational, scientific, and cultural materials to promote global intellectual development.

Accusation of Double Taxation Sparks Outrage Globally

The local publishing industry, which already significantly contributes to government tax revenue, has denounced the new tax as double taxation. Their outcry has not just sparked local disputes, but has also drawn international attention and criticism. Notably, organizations such as the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) have appealed directly to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, asking him to reconsider this tax decision.

Merging Voices Demand Reversal of VAT Imposition

Various representatives from local book industry bodies, writers, educationists, and academics alike have come together in a joint demand for the VAT imposition to be revisited. The consensus amongst these stakeholders is that the tax, if not rebuked, could critically underserve Sri Lanka’s knowledge economy and place unnecessary limitations on access to information. Such a scenario could irrevocably hamper the socio-economic development of the country, with severe long-term implications.


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