Local printers are likely to be able to compete with their foreign counterparts in securing orders to make textbooks for schoolchildren using imported paper thanks to a decision by the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
The revenue board in a recent meeting said text books to be supplied to the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) under international tender will be treated as export and no value-added tax would be applicable.
Besides, refund of duties and taxes paid on inputs to make the products is available for such supply against international tender, revenue officials said.
“Printers will not have to pay VAT duty and taxes if they made payment in foreign currency through the international tender process,” said a senior official of the NBR.
The decision came after the Printing Industries Association of Bangladesh (PIAB) at a meeting with NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan last month informed of the 61 percent duty and taxes that the local printers have to pay when they supply textbooks based on imported paper to the NCTB.
But foreign printing firms do not have to count such a high amount of duty as their supplies are treated as import by the NCTB. “This will improve our competitive edge. But the process should be made easier,” said Tofayal Khan, former chairman of the PIAB.
Bangladesh annually prints more than 35.21 crore copies of textbooks to distribute among 4.26 crore students from pre-primary grades through to 10th grade for free.
This requires roughly 1 lakh tonnes of paper annually, according to paper millers and PIAB. The scope to get refund or duty drawback is not easy and it takes a long time to get refund, Khan said. “That's why, we are urging for duty-free import of paper to print primary school books,” he said, adding that the scope would enable them to be free from their dependence on local paper mills.
Khan said they want duty-free import benefit to import 16,000 tonnes of paper to print books for primary education. “Local paper mills increase prices during the textbook printing season. If we are allowed to import at zero-duty we can get out of this situation.”
He also called for a provision for punishment if anyone imports paper higher than the required quantity. Some 700 printers provide textbooks, according to the PIAB.