Enforcement of laws against illegal employment in Bangladesh

The tax authority of Bangladesh, the National Board of Revenue’s (NBR), is joining hands with the law-enforcing agencies and investment promotion authority of Bangladesh to identify foreign citizens working in Bangladesh illegally – without employment visa, work-permit and income tax payment in Bangladesh.

Usually the illegal employees enter into Bangladesh on tourist or business visa, which does not permit any kind of employment in Bangladesh as clearly stated on the visa “Employment paid or unpaid strictly is prohibited”. Only those who enter into Bangladesh with employment visa are allowed to work in Bangladesh.

The Tax Legal and Enforcement Wing of the NBR recently sent letters to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), Bangladesh Police and National Security Intelligence (NSI) in this regard.

Talking to The Financial Express, NBR Member (Income Tax) Mr. Md. Serajul Islam said NBR would sign agreements with BIDA, Bangladesh Police and NSI to exchange data with the Income Tax Wing. “We will collect offline data from police to track the illegal foreign workers here, he further said.”

NBR has also planned to procure software to analyse data of the foreigner’s entrance, exit, residence country and number of visits in Bangladesh, he said.

Although currently, there is no specific data on total number of foreign residents in the country, NBR data shows that some 14,000 foreigners pay tax in the country. But the number of foreign taxpayers should be at least 50,000 as per taxmen’s estimation.

The tax filing reports by them, however, does not match the amount of outward remittance from Bangladesh, estimated more than $4 billion a year to India alone, according to the NBR sources.  In 2016, NBR took an initiative to prepare a database of foreign workers here to ensure proper tax collection.

On February 4, 2018, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in the parliament said a total of 85,486 foreign nationals are working in different sectors in Bangladesh, of whom 67,853 foreigners are owners of business enterprises.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Home Ministry official acknowledged that they do not have any data on the number of foreign employees who have taken security clearance for employment visa. “The government is planning to take an initiative for setting up a digital database,” he added.

Foreign employees mostly come to Bangladesh from Sri Lanka, South Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Taiwan and European countries. They are working in non-government organisations (NGOs), hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, manufacturing industries – predominantly in the readymade garment (RMG) and textiles, hospitals and other sectors.