Bangladesh has a weak and inequitable tax system. Over the past 15 years, the government of Bangladesh (GoB) has relied on the regressive value-added tax (VAT) for more than a third of all revenues, with little progress towards strengthening direct taxation of high net-worth individuals and large corporations.
From 2015–2021, the World Bank’s VAT Improvement Program (VIP) assisted the Bangladesh National Board of Revenue in improving VAT administration. VIP helped speed up automation and increase revenues. But the program did not include any objectives to improve VAT equity and fairness, and it also fell short on improving transparency and taxpayer satisfaction.
To address VAT’s regressive nature and its impact on low income households, the GoB needs to improve coverage of social protection programmes. Bangladesh and its external partners should focus on strengthening progressive direct taxation. Meanwhile, the government must end gender-blind VAT administration and recognize that VAT negatively affects low income female entrepreneurs and consumers.
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