The government at times enacts laws to protect the rights of a certain individual or a quarter. However, they keep a blind eye to the need of the mass. In the budget speech of 2010-11 financial year, the then finance minister AMA Muhith had said that a new tax law will be formulated soon. He was the finance minister for another ten years. And the present finance minister, AHM Mustafa Kamal, has already proposed two budgets. In his budget speech for the 2020-21 fiscal, he said they were working to formulate a new set of modern laws to facilitate business and development.
The question is -- how long does it take to formulate a law? The National Board of Revenue (NBR), which is tasked to formulate the law, has recently said that the draft law will be done this month. It will then be sent to the law ministry for vetting and then it will be sent to a cabinet meeting. We wonder why they are taking so much time to do this. Are they not willing to enact a new law that is more friendly to the tax payers? Among 2.2 million tax payers, only a few are paying it online. This does not go with this age of digitisation. The law has to be friendly. People should be able to pay the taxes sitting at the comforts of their home.
The tax law is not the only issue. The ruling Awami league government in 2009 had decided to formulate a customs law, but that did not see light either. Why would things be governed by a law enacted in 1969 we wonder. On the other hand, the VAt law was enacted in 2012, but it could not be implemented before 2019 due to objection from the businessmen.
The present and former finance ministers expressed their frustration at the number of tax payers. They feel the number is not increasing compared to the size of the economy. In 2009-10 fiscal, 1.4 million tax identification number holders submitted a return. In the last 10 years, the number has increased to 2.2 million. However, there are 4.2 million people who have a TIN. And the economy has got bigger in these years. The government should realize that old laws cannot ensure meeting the tax realisation target. A modern and user friendly law is a must.
Besides, the NBR needs to change its infrastructure. The NBR has zonal offices at the district headquarters, but the affluent at the upazila level are often left out of the tax net. The NBR has to shun its old customs and get a new and modern law that is business-friendly.