Additional tax for job application must be cancelled

No one will deny that running a government requires a lot of money. The National Board of Revenue collects this money from various sources. For instance, the organisation levies taxes on citizens' income, property, and trade. But why should the burden of additional taxes be imposed on job seekers?

On 17 August, a notification from the Finance Division of the Ministry of Finance stated that, for job applications, the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate on the commission charged by mobile operators will be 15 per cent. Online applications are usually processed through the government mobile network operator Teletalk. According to the rule, Teletalk can take a maximum commission of 10 per cent on the application fee.

A job application fee for 9th grade is Tk 600. In this case the Teletalk commission will be Tk 60. After adding 15 per cent VAT amounted to Tk 9, which will stand at Tk 69. In all, the job seeker will have to spend Tk 669 for the application. Before the imposition of VAT, they did not have to pay an additional Tk 9.

Job seekers have been agitating to reduce the application fee. They have formed human chains at various campuses, including Dhaka University and Jahangirnagar University. Apart from the Bangladesh Bank, no one has reduced the application fee. Now, the imposition of VAT on job applications has added to their distress.

In response to the government's decision, former Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder told Prothom Alo that the government has numerous sources of revenue. By refraining from imposing VAT on this sector, the government can show a degree of compassion towards the youth. Professor Selim Raihan from the Department of Economics at Dhaka University also commented that it would be more prudent if they exempted job aspirants from VAT.

Tk 9 may not seem substantial for a job seeker when applying once, but since a job seeker often needs to apply multiple times to secure a job, this cumulative expense can become significant. According to a Prothom Alo report, an individual applied 60 times before successfully obtaining a job. In such instances, the additional cost incurred is by no means negligible.

Furthermore, candidates must also bear the expense of traveling from their residence to the prospective employer's institution for the job test, which they cover by giving tuition or by relying on financial support from their parents. Given these circumstances, the additional burden of VAT on job seekers is undoubtedly inhumane.

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The agency that the former cabinet secretary urged to display compassion – the National Board of Revenue – appears to prioritise leniency towards those who evade millions in taxes owed to the government. A hallmark of a welfare state is to collect a larger share of taxes from higher earners.

Additionally, individuals without income should have their basic needs addressed through state initiatives. This perspective is what drives many nations to offer unemployment benefits. However, the policymakers in our country seem to favour those who are affluent and privileged.

In this context, we fervently demand the revocation of the Finance Division's notification dated 17 August, which imposes additional tax burdens on job seekers. Furthermore, we urge for the exemption of job seekers from this extra tax load.

Additionally, there should be a substantial reduction in the application fees for job seekers. If Bangladesh Bank can serve as a precedent in this matter, there is no reason why others cannot follow suit.