Dhaka, Monday, 25 January 2021

ACC set to get direct access to tax files, banker’s books

ACC set to get direct access to tax files, banker’s books

Staff Correspondent: Anti-Corruption Commission is set to get direct access to income tax files and banker’s books for the purpose of investigation into corruption allegations against a person as the process of amending the related rules is in its final stage.

The proposed amendment to ACC rules, which is now waiting for law ministry vetting, said that no other laws could restrain the inquiry and investigation officials of ACC from seeking and seizing the tax documents and banker’s books, if they felt it necessary.

The documents include income tax returns, accounts details assessment files and other documents submitted with tax returns.

Banker’s books as defined in the Banker’s Books Evidence Act-1891 includes ledger, day-book, cash-book, account-book and all other books used in the ordinary business of a bank.

ACC director general (legal and prosecution) Moyeedul Islam told that they are hopeful that the amendment process would soon complete.

He said that ACC investigation officials could get the documents even under the existing provisions of ACC Act as per an Appellate Division verdict.

Though the section 163 of the Income Tax Ordinance-1984 says that the taxpayers’ information is confidential, the provision also gives some exceptions under which ACC can get that information, he said.

‘But we have taken the rule amendment move to incorporate the provision in ACC rules to avoid confusion and complexities in getting such information,’ he said.

Sometimes, tax officials show ignorance about applicability of the court verdict and exceptions to the ordinance, he said, adding that banks are also found reluctant to provide the required information.

He said that NBR high-ups and the law ministry had also agreed on the proposed amendment.

Providing the required information to ACC will be mandatory once the amendment comes into force, he said, adding that ACC rules would supersede all other laws related to disclosure of information.

Tax officials, however, said that taxpayers might lose confidence in the tax authorities as the proposed change would go against the condition of confidentiality.

Taxpayers have been enjoying protection of their information submitted to the tax offices, they said, adding that now taxpayers might become worried about losing their information. It may also affect revenue collection and investment, they said.

The section 163 of income tax ordinance says all particulars or information related to tax files shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed while the section 168 says that disclosure of the information is punishable with imprisonment and penalty.

The sub-section 3 of 163, however, states some exceptions under which prohibition will not be applicable for the purpose of prosecution of offence under income tax ordinance, penal code, foreign exchange regulation act, and investigation of money laundering and terror financing and some other offences.

Tax officials said almost all countries including the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, India and Pakistan have the legal provision to protect taxpayers’ information.