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21 March, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Barisal City Corporation fails to assess, collect holding tax

STAFF REPORTER, Barisal

The Barisal City Corporation (BCC) has failed to collect the minimum amount of holding taxes for a long time. Allegations have been levelled that a majority of the city’s householders pay low amounts of taxes after bribing a section of officials of the BCC’s tax department. 
Again, as per the BCC’s records, public representatives—the BCC mayor, panel mayors and councillors—are paying lower amounts of holding taxes than the city’s residents. As a result, the BCC is facing a funds crunch for a long time. It is forced to depend on allotment of funds sanctioned by the government and funds given by donors. Every month, BCC employees are forced to stage demonstrations and observe strikes to press for the salaries due to them. 
A BCC source said, “Over 12 lakh people live in the 383-km-wide Barisal metropolitan area.” 
There over 47,000 residential and office structures in the city, the source added. 
Of the total, there are some 3,000 high-rise buildings in the city. Of these buildings, 550 were between five and nine storeys tall, 117 four storeys tall, 1,158 three storeys high and 3,767 two storeys high, while 6,357 buildings are single-storeyed and 12,752 are semi-terraced (paka) houses. As many as 20,191 are tin-shed houses and 159 are government buildings. 
The ministry has fixed the highest rate of holding tax at Tk.6.50 per sq. ft and the minimum at Tk. 3 per sq. ft for buildings and Tk. 2.50 per sq. ft for a tin-shed house. But visits at the field level showed that no one pays the minimum taxes in conformity with the law. 
Allegations have been levelled that after taking bribes in cash, a section of the BCC’s tax officials are fixing the holding taxes as per their own wish. 
These officials provide undue benefits to the BCC mayor, panel mayor and counsellors, by fixing their tax rates at the lowest levels.
The BCC tax department’s records revealed that BCC mayor Ahsan Habib Kamal pays only Tk. 8,100 per year as holding tax for his five-storeyed 20,000 sq. ft building. Kamal pays only Tk. 0.40 per sq. ft. 
BCC panel mayor KM Sahidullah pays Tk. 6,750 per year as holding tax for his six-storeyed 18,000 sq. ft building. He pays only Tk. 0.37 per sq. ft. 
Again, the councillor of ward no. 27, Md Nurul Islam, owns five five-storeyed buildings in the city, but pays a total of Tk. 14,540 as taxes each year. 
Councillor Aktaruzaman Rozi pays Tk. 810, councillor Md. Humayun Kabir pays Tk. 900, councillor Saidul Islam pays Tk. 675 and councillor Mainul Haque pays Tk. 324 per year as holding taxes against their large structures. Nearly all the councillors pay similar amounts. 
Md Eysuf Hosen, a retired school-teacher residing on the city’s Oxford Mission Road, said: “I, an indigent schoolteacher, pay Tk. 1,850 as holding tax per year for my little tin-shed house. But the BCC mayor, panel mayor and councillors pay less than me.”
The president of the district unit of Manobadhikar Jot, an NGO, Dr Habibur Rahman,  demanded that proper holding taxes, as per the rates fixed, be recovered from the public representatives. 
He claimed that if the BCC carefully collects holding taxes from the 47,000-odd householders, it would earn over Tk. 10 crore per year from the public sector alone. 
But it has collected only Tk. 1.5 crore till now.
Conceding these facts, Md Musfik Ahsan Azam, the BCC’s chief tax officer, said the new assessment drive is already under way. The BCC will take necessary action against irregularities in taxes, he warned. 
“The BCC just collected proper holding taxes from 500 government establishments, amounting to over Tk. 6 crore per year, but failed to implement this among the general taxpayers,” he added. 
Azam attributed this to different barriers, including political pressure. 
BCC chief executive officer Md. Wahiduzaman said: “We have been facing a funds crisis here for a long time, but there is a great opportunity to increase our local income. We will ensure discipline in proper fixation and collection of holding taxes.”

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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