For the first time, the government yesterday honoured 84 families from across the country with the title “Kar Bahadur” or tax icons for paying big amounts of tax with exemplary compliance for a long time.
It also recognised 141 taxpayers, including 76 individuals, at the national level for depositing with the state coffer large amounts of tax in their respective sectors in fiscal 2016-17.
At the district and city corporation levels, 292 taxpayers were recognised by the National Board of Revenue.
In Dhaka, Khwaja Tajmahal's family is at the top of the list of “Kar Bahadur” families, followed by ABM Shafiul Alam's family and Transcom Group Chairman Latifur Rahman's family.
The government conferred the accolade on them as part of its efforts to encourage high-income families to pay tax properly.
The editors and publishers of The Daily Star and the Prothom Alo, and their owning companies were awarded tax cards as top taxpayers for the second consecutive year.
Among the journalists, Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, and Matiur Rahman, editor and publisher of the Prothom Alo, were honoured for paying big amounts of tax in the last fiscal year.
The recognition was given at a ceremony at the NBR building in the capital's Agargaon. Finance Minister AMA Muhith and State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan, among others, were present.
Mediastar and Mediaworld, the owning companies of the Prothom Alo and The Daily Star, were recognised as the two top taxpayers in the print and electronic media.
Rokia Afzal Rahman, chairperson of Mediaworld, received the award on behalf of the organisation, while Arshad Waliur Rahman accepted the accolade on behalf of Mediastar.
The other two winners in the category are Transcraft Limited, a printing and packaging facility owned by Transcom Group, and East West Media Group Ltd, a concern of Bashundhara Group.
The taxpayers welcomed the government's initiative with some of them saying the recognition will encourage high-income families to pay taxes properly.
They also urged the policymakers to ease the process of filing tax returns, create a hassle-free environment, and ensure proper and transparent use of tax money.
“Paying tax is not a choice. It is the responsibility of the citizens. If you are a patriotic citizen and want the welfare of the country, you must pay tax,” said Envoy Group Chairman Kutubuddin Ahmed, whose family got the recognition as “Kar Bahadur” in Dhaka.
His company was awarded Tax Card in the spinning and textile category.
MA Malek, editor of the Dainik Azadi in Chittagong; Shykh Seraj, director and head of news of Channel i; and Golam Sarwar, editor of the Samakal, were honoured in the journalist category.
The NBR began honouring taxpayers at the city corporation and district levels from 2008. A couple of years later, it introduced Tax Card to recognise top taxpayers at the national level.
Tax collection has risen over the last few years. Yet, Bangladesh lags behind most of its neighbours in South Asia in terms of domestic revenue collection. The tax-GDP ratio now hovers around 10 percent in the country where tax evasion is believed to be high.
Kutubuddin said it's not good that a person with taxable income avoids paying tax.
“We use roads, bridges and highways. Every day, thousands of people get treatment at public hospitals, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital. These were built with taxpayers' money.”
The government should take into account the rising cost of living before fixing a tax rate. “If the rate is affordable and does not affect your living standards, then you will surely pay tax,” he noted.
Transcom Group Chairman Latifur Rahman said the recognition by the NBR would act as further encouragement not only for him but also for others to pay tax.
He noted that the NBR's capacity should be improved.
Citizens are paying taxes, and they should get services in return. “I will not say that there has been no improvement. But there should be more improvement in this direction,” he said in reply to a question.
“As citizens, we may have many demands or expectations, and the government should gradually become more sensitive about that,” he added.
Alihussain Akberali, chairman of the BSRM Group that got Tax Card as the top tax payer in the engineering category, urged the government to fast-track the approval process of projects.
“The decision on a project proposal should be made quickly,” said Alihussain whose family was recognised as “Kar Bahadur” from Chittagong.
The NBR honoured 16 families from Dhaka as tax icons, eight from Chittagong and one each from 60 districts. No family from Rangamati and Khagrachhari was nominated for the accolade.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, managing director of Envoy Group, said that as an individual, he got various recognitions, including commercially important person, in the past. “But this is the first time my family and I have got such honour from the state. This is really a very prestigious recognition. This is very encouraging.”
Murshedy said many families, including those of businesspeople, will be eager to win the accolade in the future. “There may be a healthy competition among taxpaying families to become tax icons. This will eventually benefit the state.”
But the tax payment system should be simplified and made convenient so that people feel encouraged to pay tax. The government should develop a system which would allow an individual or an organisation to pay tax without any hassle, he pointed out.
NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman said the introduction of “Kar Bahadur” has taken this year's tax fair to a new height.