The National Board of Revenue (NBR) collects 15% VAT on imported newsprint although newspapers are exempt from VAT in the existing Value Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act, said leaders of the Newspaper Owners Association of Bangladesh (Noab).
The NBR collects only 10% to 12% corporate income tax from the readymade garments industry whereas it levies a 30% tax from the newspaper industry.
Noab leaders on Sunday demanded the NBR waive the excessive income tax, VAT, and customs duty, to protect the gradually deteriorating newspaper industry.
They made the demands, taking part in a pre-budget discussion with the NBR at Segunbagicha in the city. Noab President AK Azad put forward the demands on behalf of the association.
NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem chaired the discussion. Other Noab members and Association of Television Channel Owners (Atco) members were also present.
Atco leaders also presented their demands during the meeting.
Highlighting the plight of the newspaper industry, AK Azad said the duties, VAT, and income tax should be reduced considering the role of the newspaper in the greater interest of society.
Noab leaders said that a total of 36% in duties, VAT, and tax, have to currently be paid when importing newsprint, which is the main raw material for a newspaper. These include—import duties, VAT, advance income tax (AIT), and other taxes.
Moreover, 5% in AIT on raw materials import and 4% tax deduction at source (TDS) is paid on the income from advertisement, making for a total of 9%. Most newspapers do not even make a profit of 9% on their total income, he added.
Noab leaders said newspapers that implement the wage board pay a 70% housing allowance but the NBR approves only 50%.
Newspapers also pay VAT on and are paying for content from foreign news agencies.
AK Azad demanded the corporate tax be reduced 10- 15%, that import duties on newsprint be withdrawn, that a 70% housing allowance be approved for wage board employees, and that newspapers entities be exempt from paying the income tax of employees, and that VAT be waived on the charges of foreign news agency content.
Executive Member of Noab, Mahfuz Anam, said a newspaper is a social service-related business, the government has not paid a single penny in cash incentives at the time of Covid, although the government allocated huge amounts of stimulus money during the time.
"We want a waiver on taxes and VAT. Otherwise we will not be able to survive," he said.
Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, vice-president of Atco, said the government has set a timeline on installing set-top boxes to digitise satellite television services. But it has also increased import duties on the machinery and equipment needed to do that. The cost to subscribers will escalate when millions of set-top boxes are installed.
He demanded exemption of import duties on such equipment for a certain period of time.