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Import Taxes & the Cost of Living

In Sri Lanka, most of our daily necessities, from food to household products are imported. This should allow us to take advantage global efficiencies to source the cheapest or best products, depending what people want. Unfortunately high taxes and poor trade policies drive up end-costs for consumers in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka imposes a variety of taxes on imports: customs duty, VAT, Port and Airport Levy, Nation Building Tax and Cess. Although the maximum customs duty is only 30%, once these other taxes are added the total tax can increase to anywhere from 50% to 100%.

An overview of taxes on food, personal care and household  care items are as follows:

Food Items

DecsriptionGen DutyVATPALNBTCESSExciseSCLTotal
Meat: fresh, chilled, frozen30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%
Milk & cream: unsweetened30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%
Milk & cream: sweetened20% or 225/= per kg15%7.50%2%0%0%0%51%
Full Cream Milk Powder, Low Fat Milk Powder, Non- Fat (Skimmed) Milk Powder15%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%45%
Sweetened condensed milk30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%
Yoghurt30% or Rs.550/= per kg15%7.50%2%0%0%Rs.625/kgRs.625/kg
Butter / dairy spreads30% or Rs.550/= per kg15%7.50%2%0%0%Rs.880/kgRs.880/kg
Fresh cheese30% or Rs.240/= per kg15%7.50%2%15% or Rs.150/= per kg0%0%81.90%
Processed cheese,30% or Rs.240/= per kg15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.300/= per kg101.20%
Natural honey30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%
Tomatoes, fresh or chilled.30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.110/= per kg0%0%101.20%
B Onions0%15%7.50%2%0%0%Rs.40/kg
Leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, beans, peas,30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.110/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Bananas30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.120/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Pineapples30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.120/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Guavas, mangoes and mangoesteens :30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.120/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Mandarin, grapefruit, lemon-fresh30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.120/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Grapes, fresh30%15%7.50%2%0%0%Rs.130/kgRs.130/kg
Apricot, Cherries, peaches, strawberries30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.120/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated30%15%7.50%2%0.150%0%81.90%
Wheat flour15% or Rs.16/= per kg0%7.50%2%Rs.15/= per kg0%0%
Cocoa powder, not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter15%15%7.50%2%0.050%0%51.50%
Pasta, noodles, macaroni30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.80/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Prepared foods obtained by the swelling or roasting of cereals or cereal products (for example, corn flakes);30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.80/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Biscuits and Cookies30%15%7.50%2%35% or 35% of 65% of MRP or0%0%107.60%
Jams, fruit jellies, marmalades, fruit or nut puree and fruit or nut pastes, obtained by cooking,30%15%7.50%2%35% or Rs.125/= per kg0%0%107.60%
Fruit juices, nectars, squashes, cordial30%15%7.50%2%35% or Rs.115/= per kg0%0%107.60%
Sauces and mustard30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.125/= per kg0%0%101.20%


Personal Care Items

DescriptionGen DutyVATPALNBTCESSExciseSCLTotal
Wadding, gauze, bandages and similar articles (for example, dressings, adhesive plasters30%15%7.5%2%Rs.100/= per kg0%0%62.60%
Perfumes, colognes, toilet watersFree15%7.5%2%0%0%0%27.50%
Beauty or make-up preparations and preparations for the care of the skin30%15%7.5%2%Rs.550/= per kg0%0%62.60%
Shampoo (India, due to FTA)0%15%7.5%2%Rs.550/= per kg0%92.30%
Shampoo (Thailand)30%
15%7.5%2%Rs.550/= per kg0%196.10%
Dentifrices (toothpaste)30%
15%7.5%2%35% or Rs.275/= per kg0%0%107.60%
15%7.5%2%20% or Rs.75/unit0%0%88.30%
Pre-shave & aftershave (India, due to FTA)0%
15%7.5%2%Rs.550/= per kg0%0%120.20%
Pre-shave & aftershave (Pre Singapore FTA)30%15%7.5%2%Rs.550/= per kg0%0%117.30%
Soap- tiolet, laundry30% or Rs.60/- per kg
15%7.5%2%25% or 25% of 65% of MRP or 150/-kg0%0%94.80%
Baby soap, Bathing bars30% or Rs.60/- per kg
15%8%2%25% or 150/-kg0%0%94.80%
Wet wipes30%15%7.5%2%30% or Rs.350/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Toilet paper n rolls of a width not exceeding 1530%15%7.5%2%10%0%0%74.30%
Toilet paper - other15%15%7.5%2%10%0%0%49.50%
Handkerchiefs, cleansing or facial tissues and towels30%15%7.5%2%10%0%0%74.30%
Safety razor blades, including razor blade blanks in strips30%15%7.5%2%62.60%
Paper knives, letter openers,30%15%7.5%2%Rs.50/kg62.60%
Manicure or pedicure sets and instruments (including nail files)30%15%7.5%2%Rs.50/kg62.60%
Sanitary towels (pads) and tampons, napkins30%15%7.5%2%0% or Rs.300/kg0%0%54.50%
Diapers - babies and adults30%15%7.5%2%0%0%0%62.60%


Household Care Items

DescriptionGen DutyVATPALNBTCESSExciseSCLTotal
Washing preparations30%15%7.50%2%20% or Rs.25/= per kg0%0%88.30%
Polishes and creams, for footwear, furniture, floors, coachwork, glass or metal,30%15%7.50%2%15% or Rs.30/= per kg0%0%81.90%
Candles, tapers and the like.30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.75/= per kg0%0%101.20%
Mosquito coils30%15%7.50%2%25%0%0%94.80%
Mosquito MatsFree15%7.50%2%0%0%0%27.50%
Hydraulic brake fluids and other prepare liquids for hydraulic transmission,30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%
Trunks, suitcases, rucksacks, handbags etc30%15%7.50%2%Rs.150/= per kg (some at 200/)0%0%62.60%
Exercise books15%15%7.50%2%45%
Waterproof footwearFree15%Free2%15% or Rs.500/- per pair0%0%46.80%
Other footwearFree15%Free2%15% or Rs.600/- per pair0%0%46.80%
Umbrellas30%15%7.50%2%30% or Rs.100/= per unit0%0%101.20%
Spectacle frames - plastic30%0%7.50%2%0%0%0%40.50%
Spectacle frames - Metal15% or 65/- per pair0%7.50%2%0%0%0%25.20%
Wrist watches and other watchesFree0%0%2%0%0%0%2.20%
Toy Tricycles, scooters, pedal cars, dolls30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%
Remote controlled toys, stuffed toys15%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%45.00%
Broom, brushes30%15%7.50%2%20% or Rs.75/unit0%0%88.30%
Ball point pens; felt tipped and other porous-tipped pens and markers;30%15%7.50%2%10% or Rs.15/unit0%0%74.30%
Pencils (other than pencils of heading 96.08), crayons, pencil leads, pastels30%15%7.50%2%0%0%0%62.60%

Source: Sri Lanka Customs Website, Tariff Changes, 2018