The National Board of Revenue (NBR) is set to start drive in different business enterprises to locate foreign workers engaged in jobs in the country but not paying taxes.
"A taskforce will inspect some selected business entities in search of foreign nationals who are working in Bangladesh but don't bother to pay income tax," a senior official at the NBR said.
He said if the taskforce team finds any violation of relevant law then the foreigners will be penalised accordingly.
As per the existing law, if any business house wants to employ foreign nationals it will have to take prior permission from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA).
Violators of this rule is will have to pay Tk500,000 or 50% of the income tax (which is higher) as fine.
Besides, one will be jailed for three months to three years and be panelised by Tk5,00,000 or both if he/she appoints any foreigner without prior permission of the authorities concerned. The companies will also lose tax holiday or exemption benefits.
The NBR official said they have information that a good number of foreign nationals are engaged in jobs here without taking prior permission from the authorities concerned.
"They're evading taxes and we've information of some business entities that they've employed foreign nationals without taking permission," the official said.
The NBR has already asked the enterprises to inform and take permission from the authorities concerned over recruiting foreign nationals.
"There're allegations that the foreigners doing jobs here evade taxes by not submitting their income tax returns or showing lower salaries and allowances in their income tax returns," the official added.
To check such irregularities, the NBR chairman has given an instruction to show zero tolerance towards the tax evaders, no matter whether locals or foreigners, he said.
There are also allegations that the employers resort to money laundering to pay the salaries and allowances of the foreign workers. Some foreigners change their addresses after entering the country taking the scope of on arrival visa.
The NBR chairman at a recent meeting asked Central Intelligence Cell (CIC) and Customs Intelligence and VAT Intelligence to work in a coordinated and integrated way in this regard.
Currently, as per available data, around 4,50,000 foreign nationals, mostly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, South Korea and some European and African countries are working legally or illegally in Bangladesh.
They are now working at different non-government organisations (NGOs), hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, garments, hospitals and various industries when only 11,000 of them are paying the income tax regularly, according to the NBR sources.
All the foreigners are bound to pay 30% tax on their income.
Besides, many of them are working here without any work authorisation and leaving the country secretly without paying their due taxes.
Officials alleged that some unscrupulous employers also help their foreign workers evade their taxes as they work on temporary basis, renewing their work permits every three months.
According to the BoI data, nearly 12,000 foreigners receive work permit from the authorities each year.
Last year, the NBR has formed two task forces in Dhaka and Chittagong, with representatives from civil aviation, NSI, Special Branch, DGFI and other related ministries of the government, aiming to bring the foreign nationals working in Bangladesh under the tax net.