The minister claims (a) there are nearly 1,000 tax files registered with the Department of Inland Revenue (IRD), and (b) there are over 10 million credit cards in issue in the country, with each credit card holder performing transactions of over Rs. 1 million. FactCheck.lk interpreted the minister’s statement in context as referring to the value of transactions per annum per credit card rather than the combined annual transactions on all credit cards held by an average credit card holder.
To evaluate this claim, FactCheck.lk consulted the IRD and Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).
On claim (a), according to the IRD Annual Performance Report for 2019, the total number of registered taxpayers amounted to 1,705,233 (see Exhibit 1). Even if the minister was referring to only individuals and employees who pay tax (and not corporates and other bodies), they each substantially exceed the minister’s claim of 1,000 (Exhibit 1).
On claim (b), according to CBSL Payments Bulletin for 2021Q2, the total number of credit cards in issue were 2,045,716, or only about 20% of what the minister claims. The total value of credit card transactions for 2020 was Rs. 221.8 billion. The average annual transactions value per credit card was 111,765. This figure is hugely less than the claim of Rs 1 to 1.5 million (Exhibit 2).
On all the claims: the number of credit cards, the number of tax files and transaction value per card, the minister figures are grossly exaggerated.
Therefore, we classify his statement as BLATANTLY FALSE.
Note: Despite the flow of the statement, if the minister meant to distinguish card holders as a much smaller subset, each credit card holder would have to hold at least 10 credit cards on average, and spend an average of over Rs. 100,000 per year on all those 10 cards, for the numbers stated by the Minister to be valid.
**FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment.
Department of Inland Revenue, Sri Lanka, Publications, Annual Performance Report 2019, available at: http://www.ird.gov.lk/en/publications/Annual%20Performance%20Report_Documents/IR_PR_2009_E.pdf [last accessed 5 October 2021]
Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Financial System, Financial Infrastructure, Payments and Settlements Systems, Payments Bulletin Second Quarter 2021, available at https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/sites/default/files/Payments_Bulletin_2Q2021_e.pdf [last accessed 5 October 2021]