There will be no programmes on the occasion of Income Tax Day this year due to Covid-19
Saidur Rahman, an employee of a Mirpur-based buying house in Dhaka and does not have a taxable income, came to Dhaka's Tax Zone-3 yesterday to file his returns, thanks to an obligation of the existing income law.
It took him a long time to get to the tax office due to severe traffic. But that was only the beginning of his sufferings.
After reaching the tax office he had to stand in a long queue of taxpayers. He waited in the congested line, ignoring fear of Covid-19 infection, to avoid fines as the deadline for filing returns was going to expire on 30 November.
"It took about an hour to find out the office after I reached Paltan from Mirpur amid heavy traffic jams. I have been standing in a line in the sun for about two hours. I do not know when I will be able to go inside," Saidur shared his story of toils with The Business Standard.
There were instructions to maintain social distancing in public gatherings, but it seemed to be a luxury for taxpayers who had to crowd the office to file returns. Many taxpayers, like Saidur, were waiting in long lines that spread out even to nearby streets.
Meanwhile, taxpayers were a victim of further harassment as there was no bank branch with tax offices to collect invoices after depositing the tax money.
Mominul Haque, a tiles trader in Jatrabari, said he had to spend more than two hours to find out a bank and deposit the money after filling the form at Tax Zone-8 in Segunbagicha. As almost all zones are located in Paltan area, they had to again stand in long lines at all the adjoining banks.
"I have filled the form after jostling in the line for about two hours. I do not know how many hours I need to stand in the line to fill the form after depositing money in the bank," he seemed wailing.
Mominul said he did not have to suffer in the past as all the facilities were made available at one place at the income tax fair.
Like Mominul and Saidur, many taxpayers reported about their sufferings in submitting tax returns. Many said some taxpayers were even leaving without submitting forms as they did not prefer to stand in long lines amid a concern of Covid-19 infection.
Taxpayers are facing hassles in finding income tax offices and submitting returns as these are scattered in different places unknown to many.
They are struggling to search out their respective tax circles from over a thousand under 17 tax zones in Dhaka. Therefore, many are turning to lawyers without paying taxes themselves.
In the past, taxpayers were free from such hassle as all circles were available under a single umbrella at the income tax fair. As there is no income tax fair this time, all parties, including taxpayers, professionals and businessmen, are demanding that time for the filing of tax returns be extended to avoid such harassment.
However, Abu Hena Rahmatul Munim, chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), said they are not going to extend the submission time but will accept the tax returns after that time without imposing a fine subject to the taxpayers' application.
There is no opportunity to extend the deadline for filing returns under the Income Tax Law. The last day to submit the return is 30 November, he told the media on Sunday.
Those who will not be able to file their income tax returns within the stipulated time can apply to the tax office concerned, he added.
But the imposition of 2% fine is not mandatory. The fine will be exempted if a taxpayer can show a logical reason why he has failed to submit the returns on time. If the reason does not seem reasonable to the commissioner, they will have to pay a fine, the revenue board chairman pointed out.
Abu Hena said at the press briefing said the number of people filing income tax returns has increased by 63,199 till 26 November this year as compared to the number during the same time last year. However, income tax collection has decreased by Tk193 crore during the time.
No programmes marking Income Tax Day
The NBR has been celebrating Income Tax Day on 30 November for several years. On the occasion of the day, the revenue board gives special reception and tax cards to highest and long term taxpayers. However, the programme has been canceled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NBR chairman at the press conference said there will be no rally marking the Income Tax Day this year due to Covid-19. However, the day will be celebrated only through virtual discussion.
He said the President and the prime minister will issue separate messages on the occasion of the day. Finance Minister AHM Mostafa Kamal will be the chief guest at the virtual discussion.
The theme of this year's Income Tax Day is "Ensuring a taxpayer-friendly environment by providing transparent and modern tax services".