Cigarette tax evasion uncontrolled

Published: 25 Mar 2021

Samakal Correspondent

Cigarette tax evasion continues uncontrollably by the means of forging and reusing tax stamps and bandrolls prescribed by the National Board of Revenue (NBR). Various small and medium-sized companies have been involved in these activities for a long time. Seizure of goods, fines and even sealing off the factories is not going to stop revenue evasion. On the one hand, the government is losing a huge amount of revenue and on the other hand, the goal of reducing smoking is not being achieved as low quality cigarettes are being marketed at low prices.

Under Section 25 (A) of the Special Powers Act, 1974, counterfeiting a cigarette stamp / bandroll is tantamount to counterfeiting currency, which is a punishable offense. The maximum penalty for this crime is death penalty while the minimum is jail for 14 years. Although there is a provision of severe punishment in the law, the criminals are not paying attention to it. Although the government has taken steps to prevent revenue evasion, this crime is not being controlled effectively. Due to counterfeit and recycled tax stamps and bandrolls, an estimated Tk1,500 crore to Tk2,000 crore revenue is being evaded every year.

It has been learned that several companies are marketing cigarettes in Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Bogra and other parts of the country using illegal tax stamps and bandrolls.

It is illegal to transport cigarettes without a valid VAT invoice. But at different times cigarettes are being transported along with other products through courier service without VAT invoice. On the other hand, cigarettes of these illegal bandrolls are being transported by courier.

According to the concerned, despite the government’s various initiatives to stop the use of illegal bandrolls, no lasting solution is coming. Although tax officials and law enforcement agencies have raided revenue-evading cigarette factories in various parts of the country, the crime is not stopping. The factories are closed for some time after the operation. Later it was launched again.

It is learned that notable cigarette brands that have evaded revenue include Partner of Virgo Tobacco in Gazipur, Top Ten of Nasir Tobacco in Kushtia, Smart Black of Tara International Tobacco in Bhairab, City Gold, Marble of Heritage Tobacco etc.

Sheikh Shabab Ahmed, a spokesman for the Bangladesh Cigarette Manufacturers Association, told The Daily Samakal that the government is getting Tk28.47 tax on the retail price of low-end cigarette priced at Tk39. As a result, if the tax is not paid, the Tk28.47 is going to the pocket of the concerned trader. A vested quarter of unscrupulous traders are illegally selling cigarettes using fake and recycled tax stamps and bandrolls.

A senior official of the Customs, Excise and VAT Commissionerate office in Dhaka West said that a big fraud ring centring counterfeit cigarettes has been formed in the country. Revenue is evaded in various ways, including counterfeit, smuggled imports and repeated marketing using the same tax stamp. A section of people is setting up unauthorized factories and copying the traditional and foreign cigarettes in the market. If this irregularity is stopped, the revenue will increase and the government's goal of reducing smoking will be easily achieved.