Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

Income tax — not so knotty now

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Dhaka, Economy by Sherpa Hossainy on September 21, 2011

Published in The Independent on 21 September 2011

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Some might wonder, as they go past the main entrance, if they have coincidentally bumped into a carnival full of colourful banners and balloons – only with a whiff of serious ambiance.

While income tax remains an un-amusing and inextricable subject, the Income Tax Fair 2011, organised by the National Board of Revenue (NBR), has surely turned the table around.

“It is so remarkable to see people paying tax in a festive mood,” said Shaon Chowdhury, deputy commissioner of taxes of NBR, who was supervising the media centre in the fair.

He said that people from all walks of life responded so spontaneously — which was evident from  eagerness of everyone, as they filled up forms, photocopied or checked documents; but without any ruckus.

People filling up Tax Identification Number (TIN) forms in Income Tax Fair 2011 in Dhaka

The NBR has launched on Saturday, for the second time, the six-day Income Tax Fair in seven divisional headquarters in Bangladesh aiming to create awareness about tax payment and boost revenue collection.

The fair in Dhaka is being held at the Officers’ Club and open for visitors from 10am to 6pm everyday till Thursday.

Last year, the tax authorities organised the fair only in Dhaka and Chittagong. Following the huge response, this year the fair is being held in all the divisional cities.

The gusto continued as thousands of prospective taxpayers kept receiving Tax Identification Number (TIN) instantly and submitted their income tax returns without any pestering.

According to NBR statistics, in the first four days, Tk 29.15 crore was collected as income tax from the fair in Dhaka, while 13,387 tax returns were submitted. A total of 2,442 TINs were also issued in the venue.

The taxpayers, in seven divisional headquarters, have deposited Tk 53.81 crore until Monday. They submitted 26,052 income tax returns while 4,608 TINs were given.

Last year, some 52,440 tax returns were submitted during the fair, as the NBR collected Tk 113 crore in income tax.

The tax administrator expects to have 100,000 visitors and log Tk 300 crore this time, while only 9 lakh, out of 26 lakh TIN holders, pay tax.

NBR officials said they were expecting the number of visitors and collection of income tax to rise in the last few days of the fair. “Day by day the number of people attending the fair is increasing, and I hope the number will continue to go up till the last day,” Chowdhury said.

At the fair, the tax administrator offers a range of services including issuance of TINs on the spot and helping taxpayers fill in tax return forms and pay taxes. The deadline for submission of income tax return for fiscal year 2010-2011 is September 30.

Shahriar Kabir, a medical officer from Manikganj, was paying tax for the first time as he started his job earlier this year.“The service is very good, but there are so many people here. I think some more booths would’ve been helpful,” Kabir added.

As Kabir happily received the required information on getting a TIN from the help desk, he said, “As far as I can understand, I earn money, so I have to pay tax. This is a moral obligation of every citizen.”

Owing to the complication of fiscal and tax laws people often didn’t have proper explanation regarding tax rules and regulations, and unscrupulous taxmen took advantage creating a smokescreen for extortion.

“The income tax is complicated. Sometimes university graduates don’t understand this matter,” said Md Sulaiman, a lawyer who attended the fair to pay his income tax.

A tax official giving instructions to a tax payee

A NBR official in the fair said: “The first class officers couldn’t interact with people directly and that led people to get harassed by the lower-level officers. It’s not likely that tax payers would be harassed by a BCS officer.”

Due to lack of knowledge people didn’t show that much interest to learn all the rules and pay tax but now the awareness has gone up, he claimed.

“This is a one-stop service,” Chowdhury said.

“People now understand that if they pay tax, it is them who will become the beneficiaries. When you pay tax you contribute for your country,” he added.

Businesspeople, such as Raihan Uddin, who opened a new company and came here to get a TIN certificate, are also gathering up in the fair.

“The service is very good. If it is organised every year, it will be very helpful for the businesspersons,” he said.

Although, the flurry of people had made some to wait longer — as Md Abdul Matin, a hardware businessperson, complained, “There are too many people, I’ve been sitting here for 20 minutes. I think they need more booths and manpower.”

But they are doing a great job in providing quick and efficient service to people, he admitted.

Last week, the finance minister said the government is determined to make income tax the biggest source of revenue in the next five years.

He claimed that the government is set to collect double revenue this fiscal.

The positive proceedings in the Income Tax Fair could easily make this a reality.

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