Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith and businesses locked in heated debates over the enforcement of the new VAT act after a business leader threatened to wage movement and Muhith warned of suppressing any movement.
The debate took place at the 38th FBCCI-NBR budget consultative meeting jointly organised by the National Board of Revenue and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry at Bangabandhu International Conference
Centre to discuss the budget proposals of the trade bodies and associations for financial year 2017-18.
At one stage of the discussion, federation director Abdul Motaleb, also Businesses Oikkya Forum general secretary, threatened to go for movement and take to the streets if the government implemented the Value-Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act 2012 without meeting their demands.
He said that the NBR-FBCCI working committee held at least 18 meetings on the issues but could produce no results.
The demands include introducing multiple VAT rates instead of single 15 per cent, raising the limit of VAT-free annual turnover, increasing the upper limit of turnover for small and medium enterprise for imposing turnover tax and allowing VAT exemption for some sectors like handmade biscuits and slippers.
The VAT act, which will slap flat 15 per cent VAT on all goods and services with some exceptions, is scheduled to come into force from July 1.
Motaleb alleged that the revenue board did not properly train up the businesses about the law and online system of VAT.
Federation president Abdul Matlub Ahmad, top business leaders and revenue board high officials, among others, were present.
At this stage, the finance minister intervened saying that some 32,000 businesses paid VAT though there were about around 4.20 lakh VAT registered business entities in the country.
‘How many of SMEs pay VAT,’ he asked.
‘You are threatening to wage movement without any reason. If you go for movement, we will suppress it,’ he said.
A chaotic situation was created following Muhith’s statement as business leaders started to shout at Muhith saying that as a minister he could not threat the businesses.
Though the situation became calm after intervention of revenue board chairman Md Nojibur Rahman and top leaders of the federation, the impact of the debate continued throughout the discussion.
Later in his speech, Muhith said that the language you used was a language of war, not of a discussion.
‘It is very unjust and you should withdraw the speech,’ he said.
Muhith, however, left the venue to join another meeting as per earlier schedule.
The revenue board chairman said that the board was a pro-business agency and businesses should extend their hands of cooperation.
‘Decent language is expected from all as the forum has some spirit and you should respect the respected people,’ he said, adding that nothing was achievable by muscle power.
He also urged the businesses to place their proposals with logic.
‘We have database of what all of you are doing as agencies provide day to day reports about your activities,’ he said, adding that the board also furnished weekly report on the businesses’ demands, expectations and proposals to the prime minister.
Federation’s first vice-president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said that nobody present was opponent.
‘We may have difference of opinion but have to work together for the country’s interest. We will not be able to go forward if we consider each other as opponent,’ he said.
Shafiul said that there were lots of indirect threats as the revenue board chairman mentioned about agencies.
‘The agencies are ours also,’ he said.
He said that no one from any side should make any instigating statement.
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