The National Board of Revenue has organised a weeklong tax fair in parts of the country to encourage people to pay tax.
“There was a time when people were reluctant to pay tax; but now many young men are coming to the fair and paying tax,” said Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith as he inaugurated the fair at the Officers’ Club in Dhaka on Tuesday.
At least 3.5 million people in the country have tax identification numbers. Two million of them file income tax returns. The NBR aims to increase the number of taxpayers to 3.5 million and the number of e-TIN holders to five million.
There was a time when only 700,000 people used to pay tax which has increased to more than three million now, said Muhith.
“I found that around 10 million people pay tax in different ways. There are different types of taxes and number of taxpayers become 10 million if all of those taxes are counted. It is an achievement to have 10 million taxpayers in a country with a population of 160 million.”
“But we are not satisfied with 10 million as the country is developing fast. It should be more.”
People are paying taxes as the present government has been providing different services and the standards of living increased.
“You can now drive to any place in Bangladesh which was not possible 30 years ago. The economy has developed and the income disparity between people has decreased; the disparity still exists but is declining fast.”
The poverty rate has come down to 22 percent from 70 percent, said the finance minister.
“Which means there are opportunities for everyone. However, 22 percent is not insignificant. It means 30 million people. We have to push these people over the poverty line. This is our national goal now and the government is working to realise it.”
More people are paying tax now but the tax-to-GDP ratio is still less than 10 percent, whereas it is 15 percent in the neighbouring countries, said NBR Chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.
The tax-free income limit for general taxpayers remained the same for the current fiscal year, which means those earning less than Tk 250,000 a year are exempted from paying tax. Any individual taxpayer having a disabled child or dependant will have more tax-free coverage.
The NBR has set a target for Tk 1 trillion to realise as income tax and profit tax during the present fiscal year. The target was Tk 777.36 billion in the last fiscal year.
The income tax fair will continue to Nov 19 in seven divisional cities. Also, there will be four-day fairs in all districts and two-day fairs in 32 upazilas. A daylong roving fair will be held in 72 ‘growth centres’ at Upazila level.
The fair offers registration services for potential taxpayers everyday from 9am to 5pm. Also, there will be training in returns submission, tax payment and other tax-related issues.