Automating the tax administration could have accelerated revenue collection while enabling work from home amidst the pandemic, averting many losses, including of opportunities, admitted a top official of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) yesterday.
At least eight NBR officials and staff, including a commissioner, have so far succumbed to Covid-19 while discharging duties and many taxpayers have suffered too, informed NBR Member (Tax Policy) Alamgir Hossain.
The NBR needs to have an IT-based organisational infrastructure, he told a virtual members' conference titled "Policy Paper on Direct and Indirect Tax" organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).
Stressing on the automation's need, the ICAB recommended enabling electronic filing of tax returns, online document submission and assessments, having IT specialists in the NBR organogram, developing its own mail server and allocating budgets for continuous upgradation.
"We could have saved lives by ensuring work-at-home practices during pandemic," said an ICAB member presenting a keynote paper.
Snehasish Barua, partner at Snehasish Mahmud and Co, and Mohammad Al Maruf Khan, partner at Howlader Yunus and Co, jointly presented keynote papers.
Barua recommended that the NBR fix 25 per cent as the minimum individual tax rate, encourage the creation of one person companies and offer activity incentives for Bangladeshi product manufacturers.
He stressed concentrating on thrust sectors like leather, jute and garment fashion design to create a country brand in global market.
Regarding the tax on foreign nationals working in Bangladesh, he suggested offering exemptions for stipulated periods.
Some countries offer exemptions for five years, he said, adding that Bangladesh can introduce such a policy which would force them to leave Bangladesh afterwards.
Experts at the conference also suggested that the NBR conduct research and take strategic decisions on allowing exemptions to increase revenue collection from the private sector.
Suggesting that the NBR timely publish annual reports, they said market trends were rapidly changing and timely availability of information would benefit potential investors, policymakers, economists and organisations in assessing the economy, performance and taking decision.
Hossain of the NBR said they would try to incorporate some of the proposals within the current fiscal year and some would be incorporated focusing the upcoming budget, especially during the formulation of the new income tax law.
He informed that the new law, which was now being reviewed for a third time, would be sent to the cabinet after the end of the financial year.
Addressing as chief guest, Planning Minister Muhammad Abdul Mannan hoped that the discussion would help remove complexities in application of tax laws and increase transparency.
He said the ICAB's web-based document verification system would enhance transparency of financial information which ultimately would reduce tendencies of tax evasion.
ICAB President Mahmudul Hasan Khusru said the country's tax to GDP ratio was exceptionally low compared to that of other countries in the region, which indicated that there must be some incompatibilities.
He said the country's tax system was gradually improving, raising more revenue and reducing dependency on aid.
Former ICAB president Md Humayun Kabir was in the chair while NBR members Syed Golam Kibria and Masud Sadik also spoke.