Income Tax Fair-2018 kicked off in Dhaka and other divisional headquarters across the country for the ninth consecutive year
The week-long Income Tax Fair 2018 has kicked off across the country with the aim of increasing the number of tax payers, and with them government income from tax revenue – reducing the gap between tax and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The fair will run for seven days at divisional headquarters between November 13 and 19. During this time, it will also run for four days in 56 districts, two days in 32 upazilas, and one day in 70 upazilas.
The fair offers registration services for potential taxpayers everyday from 9am to 5pm. There will be training in returns submission, tax payment, and other tax-related issues as well. November 30 has been set as the last day for individual taxpayers to submit income tax returns.
At the inauguration ceremony of Income Tax Fair 2018, held at Officers Club in Dhaka on Tuesday morning, huge crowds gathered in long lines to pay their dues to the government.
However, some of the people were critical of the long lines as they had to stand for a long time.
Asked why they came to the fair despite this inconvenience, one of the taxpayers, seeking anonymity, said: “Paying taxes at the Fair is better, as tax officials often ask for bribes when we try to pay it at regional tax offices.”
Md Alamgir Hosen Minu, an income tax lawyer, said he paid the taxes of 15 different people. “If the taxes were payable digitally, it would have been much more convenient. The online system still has many issues that need to be addressed,” he said.
Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, who was the chief guest at the event, said even though there was a time when many people were unconcerned about paying taxes, now, the young generation is more active about their duties.
The senior minister also said: “There was also a time when 70% of the people of Bangladesh were poor. Now, that number stands at only 22%. This means only around 30 million people of the country are poor now.”
"We expect more people to pay taxes. It is not satisfactory to have only 10 million taxpayers in a country with a population of over 160 million," he added.
Muhith further said: “You are paying taxes to support the country. You pay taxes to the government, and the government is working for the development of the country. As a result, both the rich and the poor will enjoy the benefits.”
“Come forward and pay taxes in order to help the country’s economy flourish. Only then can we reach our goals as a country swiftly," the senior minister said.
Only around 3.5 million people in the country have Tax Identification Numbers (TIN). Of them, two million file income tax returns. The current aim of the revenue board is to up the number of taxpayers to 3.5 million and the number of e-TIN holders to five million.
The tax-free income limit for general taxpayers did not change for the current fiscal year, which means those earning less than Tk2.5 lakh a year are exempted from paying taxes. Any individual taxpayer having a disabled child or dependant will have more tax-free coverage.
However, the NBR has set a target of Tk1 trillion as income tax during the FY2018-19. In contrast, the target was Tk777.36 billion in FY2017-18.
On November 12, the NBR presented awards to the highest and longest-standing taxpayers at the district level. Tax cards were given to 76 individuals, 53 companies, and 12 in ‘others’ categories for paying the highest taxes based on the 2017-18 fiscal year.
According to the NBR, Tk218.4 crore was collected on the first day of the fair on Tuesday. In the fair’s 2017 iteration, the number was Tk208 crore.
National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, visiting the fair for the ninth consecutive year said many people are now paying taxes, but the tax-to-GDP ratio is still less than 10%, whereas it is 15% in neighbouring countries.
According to a study, the gap between tax revenue and GDP in Bangladesh is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. Trade analysts blame the 7.5% gap recorded by the “Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific-2018” on weak administration, a narrow tax net, strong lobbying by business groups in the setting of the tax rate, and corruption of tax officials.
Conducted by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the survey found the actual levels of tax collection are below their potential in 17 Asia-Pacific countries. Bhutan is in second position behind Bangladesh with a 6.7% gap, while the gaps in Afghanistan and the Maldives are also over 6%. Malaysia is the lowest with 1.3%.