A government taskforce on prevention of tax evasion by illegal foreign workers has seen little success in over two years of its operation.
In March 2016, National Board of Revenue formed the national taskforce and two regional taskforces for Dhaka and Chittagong to carry out the inspection in factories to detect illegal foreign workers and prepare a data base of foreigners working in the country.
The taskforce was initially comprised of representatives of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, VAT and income tax wings of NBR, Special Branch of Police, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, NGO Affairs Bureau, Bangladesh Bank, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, Department of Immigration and Passport, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence and National Security Intelligence.
The national taskforce inspected 20 factories, out of 40 it listed for inspection for finding out illegal foreign workers.
The findings of the inspection, , however, are very insignificant as the taskforce found only a few undocumented foreigners in the factories although they had suspected the number would be very high considering the perception that there is huge number of foreign workers in Bangladesh, officials said.
Although the government agencies have no statistics on the number of foreign workers in Bangladesh, Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry, a Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association-led initiative, in a research found that the number might be more than five lakh and more than $5 billion flows out of the country annually for them.
The findings of the study would be released soon.
NBR officials said that the reason behind the frustrating outcome of the taskforce’s inspection may be due to hiding of actual information of foreign workers by the factories as the taskforce served notice to the companies prior to the inspection.
The taskforce has so far failed to prepare any data base on the foreign workers.
NBR, meanwhile, reconstituted the taskforce recently to bring momentum in the activities of the taskforce and to avoid legal complications, a senior NBR official said.
He said that as the reconstituted taskforce would be comprised of only officials of income tax wing and central intelligence cell of NBR, it would be able to go for sudden drive to find out the actual scenario on illegal foreigners.
He said that representation of FBCCI, VAT wing of NBR, SB police, BIDA, NGO Affairs Bureau, BB, BEPZA, DIP, DGFI and NSI had been excluded from the taskforce
According to the income tax law, the tax authority is obliged to maintain privacy of a taxpayer’s information, he said.
The taskforce could not follow the provision of the income tax law as representatives of the other agencies, as members of the taskforce, got access to the information during the inspection, he said.
Foreign nationals must pay 30 per cent of their income as income tax in Bangladesh.
But, there are allegations that many foreigners were working in the country without approval of the competent agencies including BIDA to evade tax.
Local employers also recruit illegal foreign nationals to avoid their tax.