Tax Evasion by Foreigners Working in Bangladesh

The Ministry of Home Affairs in Bangladesh has requested the National Board of Revenue (NBR) for setting up offices at immigration check posts to identify tax evading foreign nationals leaving Bangladesh, officials of the revenue board said.

The request was made at an inter-ministerial meeting held at the ministry last week, they said.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Industries, NBR, Board of Investment (BoI), Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority and Intelligence Agencies attended the meeting.

“Ministry of Home also wanted to know from the NBR what they could do and how they could verify the documents to prevent foreign nationals from leaving the country without paying tax”, a home ministry official who attended the meeting told New Age newspaper on Tuesday.

The NBR can verify the documents submitted by the foreign employees at the immigration check posts manually or online, he said.

The ministry will finalise the decision in next meeting to be held as soon as possible after getting opinion from the NBR, he added.

According to Income Tax Ordinance-1984, a foreign national requires to open tax file if he/she continuously lives in Bangladesh for 90 days in a calendar year.

They have to present their tax clearance certificates issued by the NBR at the immigration check posts before leaving the country.

Around 10,000 foreign nationals working in Dhaka and its neighboring districts submitted their income tax returns in the last fiscal year of 2012-13 in income tax zone-11 in Dhaka, NBR officials said.

A few more foreigners working in the other districts of the country particularly in Chittagong submitted their tax files in other income tax zones in respective districts, they said.

Officials alleged that many foreign nationals working in the private sector leave the country without paying tax by showing false tax documents.

Immigration officials cannot prevent them mainly due to failure in identifying fabricated and manipulated documents as well as lack of orientation about the laws and rules related to income tax, they added.

“The revenue board can prevent such forgery by appointing its officials who issue tax clearance certificates at immigration check posts”, an NBR official said.

He said that it would not be possible for the income tax authorities to verify the documents online as the system is not yet automated.

Officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the meeting had also asked the immigration office to provide information about the foreign nationals currently staying in the country as there are many allegations that many foreign nationals enter into Bangladesh with business visas and tourist visas but they work here illegally.

The ministry in association with the NBR and BoI will work together to bring discipline in the sector so that no foreigners can work here illegally and evade tax, they said.

According to BoI, only around 12,000 foreign nationals are doing job in Bangladesh with work permits from the board.

A few more thousand foreigners are working in the country with permission from the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.

But different sources including intelligence agencies, said currently around 350,000 foreigners are working in the country and most of them are doing so illegally.