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Online tax payment gets poor response

Times Business Report - November 12th, 2012

The National Board of Revenue’s (NBR) online tax payment facility has received a poor response so far.
Since the launch of the e-payment gateway in collaboration with Sonali Bank, the NBR has received only Tk 1.40 crore as income tax from individual taxpayers.
The collection from customs and value added tax (VAT), which accounts for 70 percent of NBR’s receipts, remains very low: Tk 28 lakh from customs and none from VAT.
The amounts for customs duty and VAT payment are usually higher, say Tk 5 lakh and above, and hence the low e-payment turnover.
The absence of online banking facility by all banks makes it unfeasible to pay such big amounts through the e-payment gateway.
Additionally, NBR’s slow preparations in the lead-up to the launch of the portal have failed to get banks that have online banking service on board with the e-payment initiative.
The acceptance of only Q-Cash cards by the web portal explains the overall underwhelming response.
Another reason cited by the taxpayers and stakeholders is the unreliability of the online server as the ‘verify challan’ option of the web portal does not always show up. The NBR is yet to address the shortcomings five months after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had inaugurated the portal in an effort to reduce the hassles taxpayers encounter with the manual tax payment system.
Official of firms — electronic payment processor Q-cash, Sonali Bank and software developers Datasoft and Technovista — blamed the lack of coordination among the implementing and monitoring officials at NBR for these issues remaining unresolved to date.
Apart from the problems, the NBR is yet to establish a central server for data hosting, and there is no help desk or call centre to answer to the taxpayers’ queries and guide them through the system.
Currently, taxpayer’s queries sent by e-mail remain unattended; the NBR’s last response to taxpayers’ queries was on June 9, according to the e-payment.