Tax Fair. Two seemingly incompatible words – one representing computation and the other carrying an aura of fun – together seem to go well with the drift that November usually rolls into motion. The month appears dressed in various festivals. Alongside international carnivals like Lit Fest and Folk Fest, we are observing a seven-day tax fair in Dhaka. It is being organised nationally.
Tax fair is a festival with the intention of making the system friendlier regarding paying taxes. Each year the organisers try to come up with something more accessible to inspire the tax payers. This year's attraction is the inclusion of mobile banking in the payment of tax.
There are e-TIN booths set up in the fair premises across the country. An official of bKash said to The Business Standard, "As it is a new beginning, we are not asking for any service charge for now which may change afterwards."
The form for tax payers has been reduced to three pages from eight pages to the relief of many. The current one asks only for concise information.
In Dhaka, the Officers' Club premises serves as the fairground and is dressed in a fitting mien. Amid fanfare and enthusiasm of the participants the Dhaka fair was no less than any usual fair.
Starting from regular tax payers to newbies interested to make their first deposit – all have gathered to "pay tax in celebratory mode."
The Business Standard team came across Kohinur Begum in the entrance who was taking selfies with her husband. She works in the United Nations, at its migration agency, and this was the first time she was paying tax at the fair.
"I had always been scared of paying the tax thinking about the troubles it involves. Today I realised paying tax is not rocket science." To her the entire environment felt like as if it was a festival.
There is a jute hessian bag allotted for everyone as a gift who will pay their tax. Kohinoor became happy like a kid getting the jute hessian bag for free, especially after relishing the first hawai mithai.
Displaying a fairly different disposition, a retired government officer Md Younus Ali reached to the Officers' Club to pay his taxes. He is paying his tax at the fair for the last three years.
Faced with the question as to why he turned to the fair in recent years for making the payment, he said, "I have aged now and I do not have the strength to run to different zones of government offices only to find the counters empty." For this responsible senior citizen, standing in queues at the banks only to find nobody at the counters is indeed tiresome. The process is so lengthy that sometimes it took him several days to complete the entire process. Yunus Ali hastened as he added that at the fair, all of these can be done in a day and within a short time span.
This year's slogan is "Sobai Mile Dibo Kor, Desh Hobe Swanirbhor" (we all will pay taxes, the country will be self-sufficient). "Voluntary participation in paying taxes, implementation of vision is ensured" is the theme of the fair set by the National Board of Revenue.
Ahmad Hossain, general manager of a traditional bank, Basic Bank, thinks the enthusiastic participation is the evidence that the theme sounds true to its meaning.
In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the total revenue collection is expected to be Tk3,77,810 crore and the NBR is to contribute Tk3,25,660 crore.
Preferring anonymity, an elderly person, who had been paying tax for the last 30 years, said it is very possible to achieve the target. He pointed out, "One of the main reasons people abstain from paying taxes is the hassle it comes with. You have to bribe everyone to move your files and this demotivates people. The fair has become a reliable place for them. Now it is very possible to achieve all the targets."
His statement proved to be true when a professor of a private college, Khondoker Sharmin, said, "I used to leave the tax works to my husband considering the trouble one faces. Since I heard about the fair, I came to pay my tax by myself." She was seen along with her other colleagues roaming around cheerfully after making the payment.
Coordinator of nationwide tax fair Kalipada Halder, also member (tax administration) of the National Board of Revenue, stood witness to citizens' participation. He was in an upbeat mood while speaking to The Business Standard. "People seem to have a baseless fear involving the officials and the system. The fair anticipates removal of all such fear. So far, the process is going rather smoothly."
A newly appointed BCS cadre, Mehedi Hasan, was having a wonderful time in the fair. He said, "It is our duty to pay taxes. If we all perform our duties on our own accord the country will soon become self-reliant."