The National Board of Revenue (NBR) took six income tax projects over the last decade to bring the tax management system under automation. However, none of those projects except the e-TIN services about tax identification number and e-payment of taxes were fully implemented.
Work in projects called Integrated Tax Administration System, Tax Information Retrieval System and Management Information System of Taxation made significant progress. But they were not implemented as the agreement between the NBR and a foreign company which was employed to develop these systems was cancelled, said sources at the NBR.
Another project called the Tax Calculation Programme, also developed by FPT Corporation, was closed shortly after inauguration.
The e-payment system for paying taxes is operating on a limited scale.
The NBR officials said the projects were closed because the agreement between the NBR and FPT Corporation were not renewed for completing the unfinished projects and maintenance services for the completed ones.
Regarding the closed projects, NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, said, "This happened because of our excessive dependency on a foreign company and lack of our manpower. The foreign company misled us. However, now we are working on our own. All the taxpayers will be able to submit tax returns online from next year."
The NBR gave the FPT Corporation the task to develop an Integrated Tax Administration System to automatise the online income tax return filing system and income tax wing. This project would have enabled 30 lakh people to file their income tax returns online.
The system was launched in 2018, but it was shut at the end of 2019 due to not renewing agreements with the developer. As a result, the taxpayers could not submit tax return online this year, although they could do it in the previous two years.
The NBR took an initiative in 2013 to set up a Central Survey Zone, aiming to collect information regarding the taxpayers and to expand the tax net. The FPT was appointed for developing the Tax Information Retrieval System in this regard. The project was supposed to be completed within a year, but it has not been done yet.
Requesting anonymity, an officer of the project told The Business Standard, "This is an old project. Work in this project started once, then stopped. Now we are waiting for the audit report of the project. We can say what would happen when in this project after we get the audit report. But, I cannot say when we will get it."
Some local companies were appointed for developing a system for paying income tax, VAT and customs duty online. The tenure of this project was 2014-15, but due to a lack of effective role on the part of the project implementation committee, this project was not helpful to the taxpayers, said sources at the NBR.
Later, the NBR launched an e-payment system for paying VAT and income tax recently under another project, but importers still cannot pay customs duty online.
The tax calculator project started in 2010 and the system was launched in 2015, but it was not user-friendly and did not run properly. This year, the programme was closed completely, said sources at the NBR.
The management information system project started in 2009. But, this programme too was closed within a short time after it was launched in 2014.
NBR Member (Tax Information Management, and Services) Hafiz Ahmed Murshed told TBS, "Work in these projects were halted for not renewing the agreement. This does not mean these projects will be closed forever. They will resume if the agreements are renewed. The problem is that the NBR is not capable of fully comprehending the whole system."
He further said, "We did not have an idea regarding our capacity. When we contacted them (FPT Corporation), they said they would explain everything to us, so that we can run our own activities. However, they have not explained those things to us yet, and the time for explaining the system to us has not been finalised yet."
Asked about required steps to resume these projects, former chairman of NBR Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid told TBS, "We have to find out what was the exact reasons behind not implementing the projects that were supposed to be implemented. Then, we will have to look for a solution in the light of those causes."