Saturday, June 15, 2024

Taxpayers made to run around

Nurul Islam, who works at a private television channel, went to Segun Bagicha tax office on Tuesday to submit his return, as he has done over the past several years.
He was taken aback when informed that his tax circle had been changed after an increase in the number of tax zones and circles by the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
What started next was a merry-go-round of trips.
Visiting three tax offices and three hours later, a short-on-patience Islam arrived at Circle 30 only to hear the same story — that his tax file did not belong to that office either.
“I told them [the tax officials], ‘Do we, taxpayers, have to go door-to-door to pay our taxes? How many tax offices will I have to go to to submit my returns?'” said Nurul while sharing his experience with The Daily Star yesterday.
Annoyed, Nurul then demanded to meet the official-in-charge of the circle — to end this roundabout he was set upon by the NBR.
It turned out the official was not at the office then.
On hearing of Nurul’s predicament, the tax officials at Circle 30 agreed to accept his return and advised him to present the acknowledgement receipt from the tax office if he received a letter for non-compliance from any other tax office later.
But what seemed a relief to him did not last long as the officials who accepted his papers could not provide him with an acknowledgement receipt.
He made another trip to the tax office the following day for the receipt but left the premises without the vital piece of paperwork, once again.
He plans to go on Sunday next week.
“It’s annoying. People would not opt for tax evasion if such harassment were not there,” said a frustrated Nurul.
He is not alone.
Many taxpayers are finding it difficult to locate their tax circles to submit tax returns after the revenue administration doubled the number of tax circles to 649 this year.
The expansion caused a change in the jurisdiction of tax circles, meaning the areas they used to cover for collection of tax returns. Like Nurul, many have been in the dark about the change.
In some cases, tax officials themselves struggle to get all files of the tax circles they work for. Files have been sent in disorder to different destinations following the expansion.
NBR officials claim the taxpayers were informed of the changes by advertisements in newspapers, at the recently ended income tax fair and via letters.
Nurul, however, asserts that he has not received any such letter.
Syed Iqbal Mostafa, a tax lawyer, has a similar complaint.
“I deal with 300 files, but not even five clients have received letters about the changes in the jurisdiction,” said Mostafa, general secretary of Dhaka Tax’s Bar Association.
The changes by the NBR inflicted hassles on tax lawyers too, who, on many occasions, are struggling to locate the new offices.
“We are in difficulty about issuing pay orders as we are not yet clear about the jurisdiction,” he said.
He fears many taxpayers will be unable to submit returns in time because of the confusion.
“We urge the authorities to extend the deadline for tax return submission for another two months,” said Mostafa.
ATM Rafiqul Islam, another tax lawyer, echoed Mostafa’s views.
On Monday, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry demanded extension of the deadline on the same grounds.
When asked, MA Quader Sarker, member-in-charge of the tax administration and monitoring, acknowledged that many taxpayers had been facing problems in tracing the new circles.
“We have informed them of the changes through newspaper advertisements and at the tax fair. Considering that as insufficient we have also posted the changes on the NBR website,” he said.
The tax offices would be open on Saturday to allow taxpayers to submit returns within the deadline, September 30, Quader said, adding the NBR was yet to decide whether to extend the time.
But another senior official who preferred not to be named told The Daily Star that the NBR was considering extending the deadline by 15 days.

-With The Daily Star input

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