The e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) yesterday expressed hope of getting long-term tax exemption from the government to help the fledgling industry stand on its own feet.
“We have already sat with the policymakers, including some ministers and an advisor of the prime minister and got positive response from them,” said Shomi Kaiser, president of the e-CAB, in a press conference held at the capital’s Best Western La Vinci Hotel.
But in the proposed budget for fiscal 2019-20, the finance minister called for 7.5 percent value-added tax on virtual businesses -- and e-commerce to be specific.
After the finance minister placed the budget, e-CAB sat with the National Board of Revenue and different trade bodies to voice out its concerns.
The government is providing tax holiday to the IT industry until 2024 and despite being much more digital commerce is not getting any benefit, said the e-CAB leaders.
The annual e-commerce sales amount to about Tk 1,000 crore. Although the new VAT rate would bring in only Tk 75 crore for the government, it would destroy the whole industry, they said.
Kaiser went on to refer a host of European nations that still do not impose VAT on digital commerce.
“The European Union decided not to impose VAT on e-commerce until 2021. Then there are Asian countries who haven’t thought of it yet. So why are we in a rush?”
She went on to express hope that the industry would be granted tax exemption for five years.
Online commerce started in Bangladesh only four years ago, said Zeeshan Kingshuk Huq, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sindabad.
“We need time to grow and for that we require government support,” he said, adding that the industry can generate more than a million jobs.
If the industry gets few years’ exemption it will go on to become the single biggest contributor to the national exchequer, said Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of e-CAB.
“Citizens are being requested to adopt a digital life for the last couple of years but now we get this. The Digital Bangladesh vision seems to be turning blurry,” he added.
Ashikul Alam Khan, chief executive of priyoshop.com, echoed the same.
The e-commerce ventures are not only doing business but also trying to establish an ecosystem that would digitalise all stakeholders and ensure transparency. “The government should promote e-commerce to ensure transparency as well,” he added.
The top brass of the leading e-commerce companies were present, while e-CAB leaders Mohammad Abdul Haque, Mohammad Sahab Uddin and Nasima Akter Nisha also spoke.