The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Md Mahbubul Alam has alleged that the National Board of Revenue (NBR) is not returning the advance income tax (AIT) that it has collected from taxpayers.
He cited the example of a company that owes NBR Tk400 crore. However, the NBR is not adjusting the amount, causing it and some other companies to fall into a capital shortfall.
"If you are not going to return it, then why are you taking it (AIT)," he said on Monday at a roundtable meeting on "transitioning tax compliance to digital platform" organised by Snehasish Mahmud and Company IT (SMAC IT) Limited at a hotel in Gulshan, Dhaka.
At the meeting, another business leader, Mohammad Hatem, also alleged that the NBR is not adjusting or returning the advance tax that it has collected. "The law has been made to loot the money of businessmen."
The FBCCI president said, "We want to pay taxes without harassment.
"But the pressure on taxpayers increases again and again," he said. "After filing the tax return, one tax commissioner approves it. The new commissioner then reopens it on a random basis. But whose fault is this?"
He said that there is no alternative to automation. "We want to pay income tax, VAT. But automation has not yet been done in the various departments of the NBR itself."
Others at the meeting also highlighted the NBR's failure in automation.
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Mohammad Hatem said, "VAT returns have to be filed online. But there is also a provision to go to the office. In other words, although it is digital, the manual system remains. This is not reducing the harassment of businesses."
Mahmudul Hasan Khasru, former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB), said, "The purpose of going digital should be so that taxpayers do not have to go to the tax office. If I go there, I (taxpayer) will be finished, and you (revenue department) will be finished. Because everyone is afraid to go there."
He told the NBR, "Technology must be brought in, but it should not be complicated. It has to be implemented in phases."
He also called for not putting pressure on individual taxpayers, saying that the GDP tax contribution (tax to GDP) cannot be increased by increasing pressure on them.
Participating in the discussion, Shawkat Hossain, head of online at Daily Prothom Alo, said, "The NBR's goal will not be achieved by half-hearted or negligible digitisation. It has to be implemented so that the tax officer and the taxpayer do not have to face each other."
He said that in the future, the pressure on tax collection will increase further, as the NBR has no other way to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio.
Snehasish Barua, director of SMAC IT Limited, presented details about the company's new software "taxdo" for filing income tax returns in a digital system.
He said that under this system, a taxpayer can fill out an income tax return in just a few minutes and pay the tax amount through mobile financial services such as bKash, Nagad, or similar.
NBR member Iqbal Hossain mentioned SMAC IT Limited's initiative as positive and assured that the NBR will consider whether any kind of assistance can be provided from the NBR's side in this regard.
In addition to Zareen Mahmud Hosein, another director of SMAC IT Limited, tax experts from various organisations also presented their views at the meeting.