Taxmen yesterday greeted taxpayers with sweets and gifted them books for payment of arrears as part of the centuries-old tradition of 'Halkhata' that marks the beginning of the Bangla calendar year.
Field offices of the National Board of Revenue logged in Tk 375 crore as arrears and advance income tax at the festival to encourage tax compliance. Data on total collection of VAT and customs duties were not available until yesterday evening.
The main objective of the Halkhata festival is to deepen the relationship between the taxpayers and the taxmen, said NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan at a gathering of taxpayers at Tax Zone 12.
This is the second year in which the revenue authority has organised the Halkhata and Baishakhi festival.
“It is also to spread the message that all, taxpayers and tax collectors, are part of the country's development.”
The GDP is increasing every year but tax collection is not rising proportionately, he said, adding that the ratio of tax to GDP should be 15 percent, whereas it is 8-9 percent now, one of the lowest in the world.
The government is implementing a number of big infrastructure projects and increased revenue collection is vital to finance the development schemes.
Celebrations of Pahela Baishakh started from Mughal emperor Akbar's reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of Chaitra.
On the next day, or the first day of the Bangla New Year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets.
The occasion was marked by fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion became part of domestic and social life and turned into a day of merriment.
The main event of the day was to open a Halkhata or updated book of accounts. This was wholly a financial affair.
In villages, towns and cities, traders and businessmen closed their old account books and opened new ones on Pahela Baishakh.
They used to invite their customers to share sweets and renew business deals with them. This tradition is still maintained, especially by jewellers and grocers, according to Banglapedia.
“Land office does not hold such an event. We have been organising the festival since last year to create awareness,” said NBR Member for VAT Policy, Md Rezaul Hasan, at a gathering of taxpayers at Customs Excise and VAT Commissionerate in Dhaka East, yesterday.
The VAT Commissionerate Dhaka East logged Tk 5.82 crore in VAT yesterday.
“Tax should be collected by encouraging taxpayers and not by harassing them,” said NBR Chairman Bhuiyan at the event that was attended by singers, artists and a number of taxpayers of Tax Zone 12.
Tax Zone 12 logged Tk 7.75 crore taxes yesterday.
“We, the taxpayers, will be happy if you (taxmen) look at us with a positive attitude,” said Mustafa Zaman Abbasi, a prominent musicologist, writer and television personality.
At the Tax Zone-5, five firms paid a total of Tk 10.06 crore in taxes, marking the Halkhata and Baishakhi festival.
Mohammad Ibrahim Khalil, chief financial officer of Bank Asia, wanted cooperation and support from Large Taxpayers Unit (LTU) so that taxpayers can pay tax without hassle.
The LTU fetched Tk 34.48 crore in taxes yesterday, while the LTU VAT office got Tk 3.31 crore through the Halkhata festival.
The festival was also celebrated at the Benapole Customs House, our correspondent reports.
The customs house collected Tk 15.12 crore until 4pm yesterday.