If not for unrealised arrears and pending cases, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) would have been a better performer as government's prime revenue collector.
Different state-owned enterprises owe NBR over Tk. 25,000 crore as unpaid tax while over Tk. 17,000 crore is lying unrealised due to non-settlement of pending cases, lying for a long time in various courts including the apex court.
In such a reality NBR now moves to take steps for expediting settlement of cases pending in various courts and ask state agencies to clear arrears.
"We are putting in extra efforts to resolve those cases," a senior NBR official told UNB on customary anonymity. NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan also hinted at the initiatives during one of his recent press briefs.
NBR data shows state-run Petrobangla owed it Tk. 22,000 crore as arrear tax, Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation Tk. 2,300 crore, the Department of Immigration and Passports Tk. 550 crore and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission about Tk. 500 crore.
And for unresolved case settlements, Tk. 3060.33 crore is lying unrealized due to the customs related cases in various courts. The amount is Tk. 5845.43 crore for the VAT related cases and Tk. 8167.08 crore for tax related cases.
NBR senior official said that if they are able to settle the unresolved cases by current fiscal then it would not be a problem for the revenue collecting authority to reach the target although the unified 15 percent VAT system has been put on hold.
He said that NBR has appointed retainer advocate to reduce the number of pending cases in the respective tribunals and the apex court. NBR is also maintaining close contact with the Attorney General's office to get assistance from there for speedy hearing and settling of the cases.
NBR advised its field staff to avoid systemic complexities to avert cases and also appointed one focal point in every customs house, VAT commissionarate and tax zone as case coordinator.
NBR has requested the Finance Division to take steps for realizing the money from Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and Petrobangla.
The 15 percent unified VAT system has been deferred by the Parliament for next two years while passing the budget for the current fiscal.
"The NBR has calculated the revenue target keeping the huge inflow of revenue from the VAT, but now we are not getting that support from the VAT wing as the Parliament did not give us permission to impose the new VAT law," said the NBR official.
The suspension of the unified 15 percent VAT means loss of Tk. 20,000 crore in lost revenue.
The NBR senior official said that if everything went as per the plan it would not be a problem for the revenue collecting authority to reduce the gap to a great extent. "At least we could minimize the gap at the considerable level," he hoped.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith while placing his budget on June 1 proposed to impose the new unified VAT rate, but it caused a widespread criticism from both ruling and opposition in the House prompting the Prime Minister to request the finance Minister to suspend the implementation of the law. Later the Finance Minister suspended it for two years.