A section of field-level VAT and customs officials are found reluctant to use the automated system under VAT Online Project (VOP), businesses have alleged.
The relevant officials instead of availing the system ask the importers and traders to submit documents manually at the time of releasing goods from the ports. However, the latter demand so as, at times, such documents are not available electronically.
Preferring anonymity, a number of businessmen felt the need for sensitize the field-level officials to use the automated system and help reduce the cost of doing business.
They also alleged that the field-level officials are either unaware of the simplified VAT Online system or deliberately avoiding its use.
Talking to the FE, a businessman of the city's old Dhaka shared the experience he gained while releasing goods from Benapole Customs House (BCH) recently.
Solaiman Parsee, an importer of pipe and sanitary materials, said his imported goods remained stuck at the Benapole Port for non-submission of manual documents. BCH Assistant Revenue Officer Arifur Rahman sought the evidence of VAT return filing before the release of the goods.
"I have submitted VAT returns online. As per the National Board of Revenue's (NBR) instruction, the importers are not required to submit certificate of return filing manually, as it can be accessed by entering the NBR website," the importer said.
The businesses, who have filed online VAT returns, do not have any manual document in support of return filing to furnish before the field officers, he added.
When contacted over phone, ARO of BCH Arifur Rahman said they asked the businesses concerned to furnish manual certificate of return filing, as certification of filing VAT returns of only last three months was available on the NBR website.
"We need to see return submission status of last one year to release goods."
On the NBR's instruction for releasing goods on the basis of online information, he said the customs house already sent letter in this regard to the board.
The customs houses work on the basis of data available in the Asycuda World system, he added.
The businesses said they would be able to get benefit of the VAT Online system, if the NBR could sensitize or motivate the field-level officials to work using the automated system.
Imparting proper training to the VAT and customs officials on automated VAT system is also necessary.
There is scope of harassing the businesses or seeking bribes from them under the manual system, which prompts an unscrupulous section of officials to bypass automated system using several excuses, they added.
Meanwhile, VOP Project Director Kazi Mustafizur Rahman said the importers do not have to submit the certification manually, as it is available on the NBR website.
He said the VOP already moved to assess applicability of the VAT Online system in the field-level offices to address its shortcomings before expiry of the project on June 30, 2021, as the project is unlikely to get extension further.
The VOP has already given access to the field officials to the system to assess its pros and cons as well as receive feedback whether it needs any change or not.
Some 111 VAT officials of different levels got the access on April 20-21, he noted.
Already, refund module was launched to automate the VAT refund process.
The VOP also launched e-payment, online return submission and VAT registration modules, Mr Mustafiz added.