The budget's provision to whiten black money by paying a flat tax of 15% came in for severe criticism again, even though this isn't the first time this has featured in anational budget. Citizens noted the rate is lower than it is for the highest income earners when it comes to income tax (30%).

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) expressed shock and disappointment over the 'unethical' provision that allows for the whitening of black money disguised as undisclosed income.

The anti-graft watchdog feared that the facility to legalise black money with just a 15 percent tax would discourage honest and legitimate taxpayers, as no authority would question the money and assets declared under this provision, it said in a press release on Thursday.

This will foster a liberal environment conducive to corruption in the country. Furthermore, this opportunity undermines the ruling party's election manifesto and its frequently reiterated pledge of zero tolerance against corruption.In light of these concerns, TIB strongly demanded the withdrawal of this provision.

TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman expressed frustration over the logic behind keeping the provision to whiten black money.

He also expressed profound disappointment at how the Data Verification System (DVS) has resulted in legal complexities regarding the declaration of undisclosed money, leading to the legitimization of property purchases using such funds, primarily due to taxpayers' lack of awareness. Even more troubling is that no authority will have the opportunity to question these transactions.

At the same time, Dr. Zaman termed the provision of a maximum 30 percent tax on honest taxpayers as discriminatory and unconstitutional: "For a number of reasons this provision is unjustifiable. It is distinctly contradictory to the Constitution, especially article 20(2) which criminalises illegitimate income. It further violates the constitution as it is discriminatory against honest income earners who are subjected to upto 30 percent tax whereas the black money holders are being practically rewarded for corruption by offering the bait of only 15 percent."

Calling upon the government to end the long-standing and unconstitutional practice of providing opportunities to whiten black money, Dr. Zaman hoped that "The government will ultimately act with good sense, foresight, loyalty to the Constitution, and adherence to the rule of law by withdrawing this provision. Simultaneously, we call for effective accountability measures to trace the sources of wealth of black money owners, thereby reducing rampant corruption."

The Centre for Policy Dialogue also opposed the proposed budget's provision allowing black money whitening with only a 15 percent tax. The think-tank's executive director, Dr Fahmida Khatun, condemned this measure as a violation of social justice and an unethical practice, which demoralises honest taxpayers. She also criticised the budget for appearing to follow the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) prescriptions. As a result, the government seems to prioritise revenue generation over implementing innovative and creative measures to curb inflation.

CPD also expressed its appreciation for the reduction of taxes on some essential items. However, it voiced concerns about these cuts not being transferred to the consumers. Despite the reduction in duties, the goods may still be sold at higher prices by unethical sellers, negating the intended benefits of the tax cuts in the market. As such,, CPD urged the government to enhance its market monitoring mechanisms to ensure that consumers reap the benefits of the tax reductions.

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