The Asian Development Bank and the Bangladesh Government signed an agreement early this week for a US$25 million soft loan that aims to introduce the online filing of tax returns and digitised management of land records in order to improve transparency and government service delivery.
A technical assistance grant of US$800,000 is associated with the loan which will support the implementation of the Strengthening Governance Management Project (SGMP), and capacity development of its executing agencies – the National Board of Revenue and the Department of Land Records and Survey.
According to ADB, tax administration is one of the most promising areas where good governance can lead to significant gains in terms of increasing tax revenues and in enhancing transparency in tax filing.
“A country’s tax policy is in many ways only as good as the supporting tax administration,” it said.
It is widely accepted that filing tax returns online can significantly improve tax compliance and revenue buoyancy. Electronic tax filing is one example of how automation can assist in facilitating processing of tax files. Another benefit is the elimination of the interface between the taxpayer and tax officer, thereby reducing the incidence of corruption and other alleged fraudulent practices.
Meanwhile, proper land records management is another area where application of ICT tools can enhance the quality of public service delivery. The Digitisation of land records is an important prerequisite for improvements in land related services and good administration that also aim to reduce harassment of the average landowner and small business owner in registering property.
“In an agriculture-dependent economy where marginalised landholding by small farmers is a defining characteristic, maintaining land records is a precondition not only for land reform policies to be successfully implemented but also for social justice.”
The project will help pilot a digitised land records management system in 45 upazilas (subdistricts) of five districts and will include the following activities: the digitisation of text data, the digitisation of cadastral paper maps, and the linking all spatial and text files.
M. Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Secretary, Economic Relations Division and Thevakumar Kandiah, Country Director of ADB’s Bangladesh Resident Mission, signed the agreement on behalf of Bangladesh and ADB respectively.
The project is due for completion in December 2013.
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