There is no justifiable reason why the NBR should be granted such low-level access to private information
Few words can describe just how poor an idea the National Board of Revenue’s request to get direct access to tax-payers’ bank accounts is. As we understand it, measures are already underway as the VAT online project office is collaborating with the central bank for this initiative, with the latter making necessary preparations.
Unrestricted access to all bank accounts by the NBR not only infringes upon the principles of confidentiality and the Bank Secrecy Act — a bank account is, after all, the confidential information of an individual or organization as recognized by banking law — but it could potentially drive away the handful of people who actually do pay taxes.
Despite our nation’s vigorous economic rise over the past decades, Bangladesh still possesses the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio in the entirety of South Asia, which has been hovering around the 9% mark for far too long. While the Covid-19 pandemic and various world events have definitely made an adverse impact on our economy, the problems with our tax net being as narrow as it is is entirely our own doing.
There is no justifiable reason why the NBR should be granted such low-level access to private information. If improving our tax net is indeed its goal, it needs to realize that the reason most people don’t pay taxes is that there is a severe lack of trust in our tax framework as it stands.
Most people view taxation with suspicion, and justifiably so, as Bangladesh has historically done very poorly in terms of fiscal transparency — each and every citizen has the right to know how their hard earned money is being spent by the government. While our country has made some progress on this front, according to the 2022 Fiscal Transparency Report, we have yet to reach the minimum international threshold.
Getting people to pay taxes will require restoring the trust lost in our tax system, not invasive policies which have more negatives than positives.
Source: Dhaka Tribune.