Businesses say they are forced to submit VAT returns for March by April 15 despite the countrywide shutdown because of a National Board of Revenue (NBR) order.
Those failing to meet the deadline will have to pay fines according to the Value Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act 2012, the NBR warned.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Shams Mahmud told The Business Standard the NBR order to submit returns by the deadline is at odds with the government's directive to shut down businesses and stay home.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries also said the same.
Its President Sheikh Fazle Fahim said many business owners could not collect VAT invoices from retail businesses because of the shutdown that took effect on March 25.
"In this situation, it will not be logical to collect fines for failing to meet the return submission deadline," he added.
By law, VAT return for each month has to be submitted by the 15th of next month. The return has to be submitted along with VAT invoice.
Otherwise, the fine is Tk10,000 as per Section 85(f) of the law.
Business owners have termed the NBR order unlawful and controversial, saying this has come amid the countrywide shutdown that has closed most factories and businesses.
Several trade groups have written to the NBR, asking for extension of the deadline for VAT return submission without fines as businesses are closed according to the government's directive.
But the NBR said there is no scope to do so in the VAT law.
VAT Policy Member of the NBR Md Masud Sadiq told The Business Standard the VAT law coming into effect last year says nothing about emergencies.
Fines have to be paid for failing to submit returns by April 15, he reiterated.
In an order on April 9, the NBR said the VAT circle offices would remain open on a limited scale from April 12 to 15 to make it convenient for businesses to submit returns amid the general holiday.
At present, 1.78 lakh businesses have VAT registrations.
Of them, 1-1.10 lakh businesses submit returns every month. One third of half of these businesses submit returns online.
Given the present situation, it is risky for the others to go to the VAT office in person for submitting returns.