A task force, set up by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to seek out tax evading foreign nationals working in Bangladesh, is likely to start field visits from Tuesday.
The 12-member task force of the Dhaka division is all set to visit five business organisations by this month as part of the drive.
"The drive may start from Tuesday or Wednesday. The visit is like conducting a survey. Our drive will continue for the next few months. In the first phase, we have decided visiting five companies in Dhaka," NBR Member (Taxes Legal and Enforcement) Md Serajul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune on Monday.
The drive is aimed at collecting unpaid taxes from foreign workers and their employees in Bangladesh.
Last year, the NBR formed two task forces in Dhaka and Chittagong, aiming to bring the foreign nationals working in Bangladesh under the tax net.
According to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) data, about 12,000 foreigners receive work permit from the authorities each year.
All the foreigners are bound to pay 30% tax on their income.
As per existing law, if any business house wants to employ foreign nationals, it will have to take prior permission from BIDA.
Violators of this rule will have to pay Tk500,000 or 50% of the errant employees' income tax as fine, or will be jailed for upto three years with or without the Tk500,000 fine.
The companies may also lose tax holidays or other exemption benefits.
Records from different ministries show that around 450,000 foreign nationals, mostly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, South Korea and some European and African countries are currently working in Bangladesh.
They are employees of different non-governmental organisations (NGOs), hotels, restaurants, education institutions, garments, hospitals and other various industries.
Only 11,000 of them are paying income tax regularly, according to NBR sources.
Besides, many of them are working without any work authorisation. They are able to leave the country without paying their due taxes with the help of some unscrupulous employers.
Md Serajul Islam admitted that the tax authority does not have any database to come up with the exact number of foreigners now working in Bangladesh. "We have a database on the legal foreigners. However, we are working to create a database to fix the number of all foreigners working in the country, legally or illegally. We will appoint a firm for the task very soon."
"Meanwhile, the NBR has already set up income tax booths at immigration check posts to prevent foreigners from leaving the country without showing tax clearance certificates," he added.