The new Income Tax bill in parliament has rattled business and industry. They say they will agitate-as political parties do-if the new bill becomes law without major amendments. Industry feels it is being unfairly targeted with the proposed regulations that envisage strict enforcement. And, they argue, because the bill is complicated, tax officials will have the upper hand in interpreting it. The threat of agitation was articulated strongly by Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) officials who, when faced with the new Value Added Tax back in 1997, shut down their stores for 11 days. Government says the draft bill, which has been in circulation over a year, will make tax more straightforward and transparent. The bill has been thrown around for a while, but industry did not get worked up until it was finally tabled in parliament last month.
The draft, which business now blames on the foreign consultants who were hired to prepare it, has new provisions such as taxing capital gains and pensions. But it also lessens the discretionary authority of tax officials. Finally businesses also think that the punishment for non-compliance is too harsh. But for the majority of businesses that claim to operate within the law, that really shouldn't be a issue. Or should it?