December 4, 2020, 7:45 am

Abu Taher Bappa

2020-10-12 10:31:54 BdST

Some NBR men abet influentials in legalising black money

The revenue board has found evidence of nexus between its staffers and some taxpayers for evading taxes by forming fund or showing assets with backdates in their tax files.

Resorting to such a malpractice, a number of influential taxpayers legalise their black money, fund or assets without paying taxes with the help of a section of corrupt tax officials and consultants, people familiar with the situation said.

Several internal investigations have detected the irregularities, but taxmen involved often go unpunished, officials said.

Tax officials said this has been one of the major reasons for poor response to the legalisation of black money by availing the fiscal measures offered from time to time.

Taxmen found a number of tax files, including the one of Lilabati Halder, mother of PK Halder, who fled to Canada swindling billions of taka.

Lilabati's file involves a staggering Tk 800 million worth of cash or assets, which were created by adding some documents to the previous year's returns.

Despite an investigation report filed by the Central Intelligence Cell (CIC) against an official named Zahidul Islam for his involvement in such irregularities in 10 tax files involving Tk 2.0 billion worth cash or assets, no action so far has been taken by the National Board of Revenue, the officials said preferring anonymity.

It was reported that the tax official was involved in the irregularities evident from Lilabati's tax files as per the CIC's investigation, they said.

When contacted over phone, Mr Islam declined to talk on this issue.

However, Ms Halder paid taxes worth Tk. 200 million along with surcharge of Tk. 30 million to the treasury after the CIC detected the evasion.

Mr Islam was allegedly signed off the assessment orders of Lilabati Halder over the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 financial years, the officials said.

The official involved in corruption is now posted in a responsible position at a tax zone, they said.

A senior tax official said such trickery is commonplace in many tax zones across the country where racketeers, in collusion with one another, fabricate documents showing predated capital or assets.

As per the income tax law, in any case, taxmen cannot reopen or investigate the tax files beyond six years, which is already restricted by a limit.

This limit imposed by the tax law paved the way for both taxpayers and some taxmen to avoid payment of revenues, the officials said.

Of the 10 alleged taxpayers under scrutiny, an internal investigation of the authority found one of them who was not even born at the time of opening the income tax file.

NBR officials said that the official involved in such irregularities was suspended for three years earlier, but later his suspension was withdrawn and he was 'rewarded' with appointment to a vital position. It has been alleged that some influential quarters are involved in this type of capital creation of taxpayers through underhand dealings.

Taxpayers devise plans through their representatives to manage some taxmen and staffers to get away without paying taxes.

Unless the NBR addresses the loopholes and punish such officials, the unethical practice would continue causing huge losses to the exchequer, the tax officials said.

The existing black money whitening facility through voluntary disclosure of undisclosed income has drawn poor response in the last three fiscal years.

Only Tk 1.96 billion was legalised during that period.

In FY 2018-19, some 85 people availed themselves of the facility. They legalised a sum of Tk 1.26 billion by paying Tk 130 million in income tax. In FY 2017-18, some 90 people availed of the facility, while the number was 48 in FY 2016-17.

Executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the government loses revenue owing to the collusion between taxpayers and taxmen.

Such an evasion has been institutionalised over the years and persons responsible for the irregularities often go unpunished, he added.

Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the policy Research Institute (PRI), said honest taxpayers face harassment while paying taxes properly.

He said the document alteration is a "dangerous thing," which could be checked through digitisation and file protection.

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