Database of foreign workers on cards to bring under tax net

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The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has started collecting information on foreign workers employed in the country to make a database on them to check tax evasion.

The income tax zone 11, which deals with tax collection from foreign nationals, has already started sending letters to different employer companies for information about foreigners employed in their firms.

The business firms were asked to send information in prescribed forms including the number of foreign workers employed in their company, their names, salary and years of employment.

The NBR took the initiative to check tax evasion and find out whether the companies are employing unauthorised foreign nationals despite the government initiative taken in the budget for the fiscal year 2015-16.

The government in the current budget said it has started registering foreign nationals working in the country and that they would be brought under the tax net soon.

According to the finance bill 2015, if found guilty, the companies that employ unhauthorised foreigners, will have to pay 50% additional tax from their total payable tax or Tk5 lakh as fine, whichever is higher, as penalty for giving jobs to foreign nationals without necessary documents and work permits.

Apart from the penalties, benefits including tax holiday and other tax exemptions will be made void if any company is found involved in such unscrupulous practice.

Along with the employer firms including readymade garment sector, IT and other manufacturing industries, the NBR field officials are also sending letters to the government agencies including the Board of Investment, seeking information on foreign workers.

The field offices will also conduct a survey and drives as well on the firms based on the survey results soon, officials said.

The tax regulator is assigned to collect Tk1,76,370 crore revenue for the on-going fiscal year. Of the total amount, the lion’s share will come from income tax wing worth Tk65,932 crore.

According to the Income Tax Ordinance 1984, a foreign national needs to open tax file if he or she lives in the country for 90 days in a year. They also need to present their tax clearance certificates from the NBR while crossing the immigration desk before leaving the country.

Although all the foreigners have to pay income tax at a rate of 30% on their income, only some 10,000 of them pay income tax annually while the rest depart the country without paying any tax.

Officials said a good number of foreign workers evade taxes with the help of their employers as they stay in the country on temporary basis by renewing their work permits after every three months.

Earlier on July, the income tax wing of NBR sent letters to leading chambers and employers’ organisations, asking them not to employ any foreigners illegally to avoid heavy penalty.

Currently, around 4 lakh foreign nationals, mostly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, South Korea and some European and African countries are working in Bangladesh.

Usually, three government agencies, the Board of Investment (BoI), NGO Affairs Bureau and Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) approve work permits for the foreigners.

There is, however, no such list of foreigners working in Bangladesh due to lack of coordination among the government agencies.

According to the BoI data, around 12,000 foreigners are working in the country with valid work permits.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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