Dhaka, Bangladesh
Foreign workers dodging taxes

Foreign workers dodging taxes

News Report Over five billion US dollars drain out every year from the country as at least one lakh foreigners are working in service sector. Sources in the businesses said at least 1 lakh Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Korean and Filipino nationals are working in different sectors of Bangladesh. "Despite having local experts and skilled manpower, a large number of foreign nationals are occupying many jobs and getting salaries higher than the local employees," businesses said, adding that BIDA does not scrutinise the applications, seeking work permits by different export-oriented industries and service providers. Contacted, a senior BIDA official, seeking anonymity said they are always against issuance of work permits to foreign nationals who are capturing the jobs of local experts and technicians. In many cases, he said, "We have to succumb to the pressure by some influential businesses who want to employ foreigners to boost exports." Protesting issuance of work permits to foreigners, Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association (BAFFA) has brought the issue to the notices of different government agencies concerned and also sent letters to different government bodies, seeking an end to such practice. According to an NBR official, most of the foreign nationals do not have tax files and they remit their income without paying taxes to the government. Sources in the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Textiles Mills Association (BTMA) that at least 25,000 Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Korean and Filipino nationals are working in export -oriented readymade garment and textile sectors. A former president of American Chamber of Commerce and Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry while talking to The News Today said country's higher educational system should be redesigned to cater to the textile, garment and service sectors. He, however, urged Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (previously BOI and Privatization Commission) to be cautious in issuing work permits to foreigners depriving local professionals. He said local operations of British Standard Chartered Bank and American Citibank NA are being successfully and profitably run by Bangladeshis. Meanwhile, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has launched a drive against the foreign nationals illegally working in the country without paying taxes to the government exchequer. The NBR taskforce includes representatives from Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), Bangladesh Bank, Home Ministry, Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA), Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Special Branch (SB), National Security Intelligence (NSI), Passport Department, NGO Affairs Bureau and FBCCI. An NBR high official said the taskforce has also been tasked with creating a database of foreign nationals working in Bangladesh since there is no organised database of foreigners working at different local and international organisations across the country. Officials at Bangladesh Investment Development Authority said around 12,000 foreign nationals receive work permits from them every year. Besides, a significant number of foreigners get their work permits renewed every year. Tax officials have found that both legal and illegal foreign workers evade a significant amount in income taxes. NBR officials have found that many foreigners who are working legally in Bangladesh evade taxes with the help of their employers by showing lower than actual income or by not registering themselves with the income tax offices. The NBR earlier asked the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) , NGO Affairs Bureau, Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) and Immigration and Crime Investigation Department (CID) to provide information on foreigners living and working in Bangladesh. The budget for the fiscal FY 2017-18 incorporated a provision in the income tax law empowering the revenue board to penalise the foreign nationals and their employers for tax evasion. According to the income tax law, employing a foreign national with no legal permission of the right authority will lead to imprisonment of three months to three years and fine of up to Tk 5 lakh or both for the local employer. According to the Income Tax Ordinance, foreign workers are required to pay 30 percent tax on their incomes. No tax-free ceiling for the foreign citizens has been kept in the act. Meanwhile, National Board of Revenue (NBR) chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan has asked the members of customs intelligence to be more rigid in preventing misuse of bond facilities and assured them of giving proper recognition for their good jobs. "You need to be stricter more in preventing misuse of bond facilities ... intelligence activities must be intensified using technology," the NBR chairman while speaking at a meeting of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) in the city on Thursday . Bhuiyan said members of customs intelligence are doing challenging jobs. They must maintain honesty and integrity and at the same time they must rise above fear in carrying out their dives against smugglers and duty dodgers, he added. Director General of the directorate Dr Moinul Khan made a power point presentation on the activities of the CIID. After the presentation, a documentary 'Goyendar Chokh' was screened highlighting the operations of CIID. The NBR chairman said the customs intelligence has to work with limited facilities and assured that he would look into different problems of the directorate, including manpower shortage, rationing and risk allowances, with due importance. NBR member (VAT administration) Md Rezaul Hasan was present at the meeting. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association (BFFA) has urged the government to take necessary steps to keep interest of Bangladeshi nationals working in the freight forwarding sector. In a letter dated June 18, 2016, senior vice president of BFFA Amirul Islam Mizan urged the then Board of Investment, now Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), not to issue work permit to foreign nationals for working in the sector. He said indiscriminate issuances of work permit in favour of foreign nationals are taking jobs of Bangladeshis in the sector. It is learnt that neighbouring countries like India and Sri Lanka usually don't issue work permit to foreign nationals. Foreign companies like Kuehne Nagel, Expressiditor Bangladesh Limited, Maxspeed Bangladesh Limited, Marks Logistics and APL Logistics Bangladesh are being meticulously run by the Bangladeshis. The unemployment rate in Bangladesh is high and against this backdrop, the association considers that Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) should be cautious in issuing work permit to foreign nationals for working in the freight forwarding sector. It is also alleged that a good number of foreign nationals working in Bangladesh don't open tax file and dodge income tax. Foreigners are now not allowed to work in Bangladesh without having prior approval of the Board of Investment (BoI) or BEPZA or BEZA or any other competent authority of the government. A US based service providing company's Bangladesh office executive said, "Foreigners are not allowed to work in Bangladesh without having prior approval of the BIDA or BEPZA or BEZA or any other competent authority of Bangladesh government." Foreigners must obtain work permits after meeting all requirements stated in the previous BoI rules and regulations, he added. In the past the Board of Investment (BoI), now BIDA, issued work permits to foreign nationals violating rules though there are local experts and skilled work force, professionals alleged. Despite repeated protests made by the executives of different export based industries and service providers, the government body is doing such illegal practice, depriving local job seekers, they said. The former BoI rules say, "Employment of foreign nationals is normally considered for the job for which local experts or technicians are not available." According to official website of now defunct the Board of Investment, the organisation has so far issued around 12000 work permits to foreign nationals coming from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, South Korea and some other western countries. Chief executives of different logistics service providers, export- oriented readymade garments industry, private sector power generating companies said the in the past BoI issued work permits to foreign nationals overlooking local professionals. Bangladesh's youth unemployment is the highest in South Asia, said reports of the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation Recent reports by the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation indicate that 41 per cent of young people do not work, do not study and do not train. The situation is even worse for young women. Bangladesh's population under 30 years of age makes up 60 per cent of the total labour force. In 2013, the youth unemployment rate in Bangladesh was 10.3 per cent, higher than the regional South Asian average of 9.45 per cent Absence of quality education and skills is the main reason. Many firms have to hire foreigners. Unemployment and crime are closely linked. It is reported that Bangladesh stands 5th among the 15 nations sending remittances to India after UAE, USA, Saudi Arabia and UK. In 2013, remittance from Bangladesh to India was about $ 3.716 billion.

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