The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has found that a number of foreigners working at four companies in Bangladesh have not been paying income tax, sources say.
However, the revenue authorities have declined to disclose the names of the companies as well as the number and identities of the foreigners evading taxes.
Foreigners working in Bangladesh have to pay 30% tax on their income. It is estimated that the foreigners remit between $4 billion and $5 billion annually.
The NBR found the tax evaders after inspection as a part of its ongoing drive to find out tax evasion by foreigners working in the country.
A 12-member taskforce set up by the NBR has detected the tax dodging during its drive at five companies in Dhaka. With the exception of the oil giant Chevron, foreign employees at all the companies were found to be dodging taxes.
The drive started from October 18 last year and will continue throughout this year. The NBR issued a public notice last asking all companies to ensure tax compliance of the foreign workers and obtain licences by October 15, 2017.
Two task forces were formed by the NBR in 2016 for operations in Dhaka and Chittagong to bring foreign nationals working in Bangladesh under the tax net.
NBR’s Member for Legal and Enforcement of Taxes Md Serajul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “We have found that foreigner employees at four companies have not been paying income taxes. The process of collecting the outstanding tax is underway.”
He hoped such drive by the NBR would help to create awareness among other non-compliance business organizations employing foreign nationals.
“We are conducting the drive in a way that will have no effect on foreign investment in our country,” he said, adding that the drive would continue at other companies.
How many foreign workers evaded tax?
About 12,000 foreigners receive permission each year to work in Bangladesh, according to Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) data.
Any business house wanting to employ foreign nationals needs 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 face a jail term of up to 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 working in non-government organizations (NGOs), hotels, restaurants, education institutions, garments, hospitals and other sectors. Only 11,000 of them are regularly paying income tax, NBR sources said.
Besides, many of them are working without any work authorization. They are able to leave the country without paying their due tax 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 determine the number of all foreigners working in the country, legally or illegally. The process to appoint a firm for the task is underway,” he said.
“We have already set up income tax booths at immigration check posts to prevent foreigners from leaving the country without showing tax clearance certificates,” he added.