International passengers travelling from Bangladesh to neighbouring countries by the land route will be able to pay their travel taxes online from today.
The National Board of Revenue on Saturday launched the online travel tax collection system to prevent evasion of the tax and remove hassles faced by travellers going to India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar by land and water routes.
NBR chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem inaugurated the system at a programme held at Hotel InterContinental in Dhaka.
Officials of the revenue board said that initially international passengers traveling through Benapole, Darshana and Bhomra land ports would get the benefit while the service would soon be rolled out to other exit points at land and water routes for travellers to the countries.
The travellers will be able to pay the tax online using debit and credit cards of all banks through the Sonali Bank online payment gateway system, they said, adding that the taxpayers would also get access to the portal from the NBR web site.
They will also be able to pay their travel tax using the various mobile financial services, including Bkash, Rocket and UCash. The other mobile financial services in the country will be integrated with the system soon.
Airlines agents now collect travel tax from air passengers while selling air tickets online.
Although travel tax collection from air passengers is now automated, air travel tax would also be come under the NBR’s automation system in the next phase to ensure transparency and accountability, officials said.
Outgoing international passengers have to pay travel tax ranging between Tk 500 and Tk 800 in case of travelling by land and water routes respectively.
On the other hand, air passengers have to pay between Tk 800 and Tk 2,500 as travel tax based on their destinations.
According to the NBR data, travel tax collection from outgoing international passengers stood at Tk 1,104 crore in the last fiscal year 2018-2019.
Of the travel tax collected, passengers travelling by land contribute to only around 12 per cent while the remaining 88 per cent comes from air passengers as the rate of travel tax is higher by several times for those travelling by air.
The NBR in the last FY2019 collected Tk 120 crore from 24 lakh land passengers, who mostly visited India.
The officials said that there were many allegations of tax evasion as well as harassment in case of collection of travel tax.
The existing manual travel tax collection system is time consuming as travellers are required to pay the tax at specific branches of Sonali Bank. The travellers also need to visit the bank multiple times as the service is available only at 51 branches of the bank and in many cases the dedicated tax receipts are not available at the branches all the time.
Introduction of the online travel tax payment system will improve the quality of the service as the travellers will be able to pay the tax anytime from anywhere, they said.
It will also prevent tax evasion by passengers with the help of government officials at the exit points, they said, adding that there were many allegations that government officials helped passengers to cross the border with fake challan of the tax payment.
Travel tax collection has declined in the last FY2019 compared to the previous FY2017-2018 despite significant increase in the number of tourists.
The system will ease the process of visiting the neighbouring countries as the number of visitors to the countries has been rising at around 30 per cent annually over the last few years.
NBR chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem said that the automation of the process would ensure transparency, accuracy and accountability in tax collection.
Comptroller and auditor general Muslim Chowdhury, Financial Institutions Division senior secretary Md Ashadul Islam, NBR member Kanon Kumar Roy, Sonali Bank chief executive officer Md Ataur Rahman Prodhan, among others, spoke at the programme.
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