Databank on foreign workers

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 11 Oct 2016, 22:53:39

Databank on foreign workers

The revenue authorities' concern about suspected tax evasion by foreign nationals during their stay, legal or otherwise, in Bangladesh is hardly misplaced. Around 12,000 foreign nationals, according to a FE report, maintain tax files with the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and out of them, only 8,000 file tax returns annually. Both the figures hardly match with what media reports and top government officials have been stating in recent times. It is hard to get any authentic statistics about foreign workers employed in different sectors of the economy. The data available with the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and other agencies dealing with foreign workers are unrealistic in view of the amount of money, an estimated $5.0 billion, that is reportedly remitted annually by foreign workers.

Bangladesh is one of the world's unlikely places where foreigners will be interested to stay illegally for a long time without any reason. One does not need to explain reasons. But the annual remittance figure does point to illegal presence of a substantial number of foreign workers in this country. It is understood that most of these workers coming from neighbouring South Asian countries are employed in the country's apparel sector. They have particularly filled up the management and technical jobs against which there is a dearth of local hands. This is unfortunate that there has not been a serious attempt to develop local expertise in those areas. However, what is more surprising is that the government agencies concerned are clueless about the actual number of foreigners staying or working in this country. 

Some law enforcing agencies are occasionally found rounding up a few African nationals, mostly reported to be involved in criminal activities. But there has not been any serious attempt on their part to locate the foreign nationals staying in Bangladesh illegally. Besides, it is important to have the relevant data on foreign workers for the entire amount of their income earnings is taxable at a rate of 30 per cent. The regular collection of tax on the income earnings of all foreign workers would have fetched a good amount of revenue. But this opportunity is largely missed mainly because of the indifference, deliberate or otherwise, on the part of local employers and the Department of Passports and Immigration.

A section of employers, allegedly, conceal information about their foreign workers helping the latter to evade tax payment. Moreover, it is mandatory for any foreign national staying in Bangladesh for more than three months to show to the immigration authorities the tax clearance certificate, issued by the NBR, while leaving the country. Allegations have it that the immigration officials do hardly ask for such clearance certificates. Recently, the NBR has deputed its personnel at exit ports to check tax certificates. Under the circumstances, the decision of the NBR  to develop a databank of its own to gather detailed information about foreigners, coming to, and departing from, the country, through digital interlinking with relevant other departments, including BIDA and Department of Immigration, has been a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the relevant government agencies and businesses would extend all-possible cooperation to the tax authorities on developing the databank with the right kind of input.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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