Whitening black money will encourage corruption

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said, the scope to whiten the black money will continue in the next financial year ahead of the FY2021-22 budget. He said in his budget speech during 2020-21 fiscal, this opportunity was only for the current fiscal year, though. However, the finance minister, unwilling to call black money black, said, "As long as there is undisclosed income, there will be this opportunity."

The issue of whitening black money is a matter of debate during budget every year. People from all walks of life, from economists to professionals, have spoken out against black money. Even the majority of the members of parliament agree with them. But when the budget is passed, it is seen that the provision of legalising black money remains in force as usual. In the pre-budget talks with the finance minister this year too, business leaders have strongly argued against the opportunity to whiten black money. But the finance minister did not take their concerns into account, proves his latest statement.

The opportunity to whiten black money gives special benefits to those who do not disclose the real account of their assets and evade income tax. On the other hand, the citizens who comply with the laws of the government and pay taxes properly are treated unfairly. According to the income tax law of Bangladesh, up to 25 per cent of the income has to be paid as tax. But those who evaded taxes will be able to whiten black money with a 10 per cent fine.

In his last budget speech, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said that whatever the other laws say, the authorities from any government agencies cannot question if undisclosed land, buildings, flats and apartments at a fixed rate per square meter and cash, bank deposits, savings certificates, shares and bonds are declared at 10 per cent tax and it is shown in the income tax return. By this, the finance minister may want to indicate that the undisclosed money will nourish the national economy and increase investment. But a government that respects the law and is accountable to the people can never encourage tax evaders. The government should encourage honest taxpayers as well as take strict measures to stop the source of black money. In addition, we believe it is necessary to immediately correct the inconsistencies in the tax structure. Honest taxpayers will be discouraged if someone is exempted from undisclosed income or illicit earnings with a 10 per cent fine and if no authority can question him.

The National Board of Revenue of Bangladesh (NBR) says that in the first six months of the current financial year, 102.20 billion taka of undisclosed income has been legalised by 7,445 taxpayers with a tax of about 9.5 billion taka. According to the NBR, the total amount of money legalised with fines at different times after independence till 2017 is about 180 billion taka.

No matter how promising these figures may be for the finance minister, in order to restore order and fairness in the income tax system, it is necessary to care for those who are lawful and to punish the rogues.