The Finance Bill 2020 was passed at the Jatiya Sangsad on Monday without major changes despite widespread demand for scrapping the unethical provision for legalising the untaxed money in the new fiscal year.
Moreover, the rule for legalising the money has been further relaxed by reducing the lock-in period for the income from the investments of untaxed money in stocks to one year from the originally-proposed three years.
Besides, the tax-free benefit has been reintroduced for the income from investment in zero-coupon bonds against the demand by the businessmen.
The businessmen have also been allowed to file cases over VAT-related disputes by paying the highest 30 per cent fees instead of the overall 50 per cent.
The government has also withdrawn the proposal on rebate against the payment of VAT in importing raw materials under the Finance Bill, passed in voice votes at a dull parliament with the presence of a one-third of the MPs because of the social distancing rule.
It prescribed that the non-resident Bangladeshis would have to pay a 30 per cent maximum income tax while the locals received a five per cent decrease but kept the proposed supplementary duty on the cell phone uses despite widespread demand against the proposal.
A five per cent higher tax on mobile phone talk-time, internet and other services was proposed by finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal while announcing the national budget on June 11.
In his speech, the finance minister said that he would arrange a debate another day on issues like his failure to keep the budgetary commitment to appointing a commission on the banking sector, the abysmal state of the health sector and capital flight.
He, however, pointed out that the country’s reserve now stood highest and the inflow of remittances was heaviest in the outgoing fiscal year despite the COVID-19-induced disruption in the economic activities.
He said that none would be spared if anyone filed cases against the money launders.
He claimed that both defaulted loans and misdeclaration declined.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who took part in the general discussion on the fiscal measures, said that they placed the budget with the anticipation that the coronavirus vaccine would arrive by November and the economic situation would be revived worldwide by that time.
Narrating the stimulus packages she announced to tackle the COVID-19 fallout, she said that the unusual food bill of Tk 20 crore at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital would be looked into.
Earlier, GM Quader of the Jatiya Party criticised the budget as unrealistic with arguments that the revenue mobilisation would be a difficult task amid the falling economic activities due to the pandemic.
He demanded the appointment of a monitoring committee to look after the block allocation kept in the budget for tackling COVID-19 in the new fiscal year.
A demand by Pir Fazlur Rahman of the same party for seeking people’s opinion on the Finance Bill with the argument that the finance minister failed to address the problems in the banking sector, capital flight and harassment of honest taxpayers.
But the demand was turned down by voice votes.
The finance minister accepted demands placed by Kazi Firoz Rashid, Mujibul Haque, Pir Fazlur Rahman and Mashiur Rahman Ranga of the Jatiya Party and Ali Ashraf and Abul Hassan Mahmood of the Awami League for brining amendments to the Finance Bill.
He turned down the amendment proposed by Harunur Rashid of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party for scrapping the higher duty of owning cars with the argument that additional tax would force many car owners to cut the job of many drivers.
Mujibul Haque, while proposing his amendments, said that there were failures in improving the health sector.
The Jatiya Sangsad will resume today to pass the budget.
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