October 24, 2021, Sunday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Govt.’s controversial Income Tax amendment Bill draws widespread criticism

The Nepal Weekly
September 21, 2021

The government, which is inviting criticism for its controversial decision to waive tax to certain businesses, has made another controversial decision to amend the Income Tax Act so as not to seek the income source for investment. With a view to legalizing the money earned illegally by high political leaders, businessmen and corrupt employees, the Income Tax Act is being amended by inserting the provision that ‘the source of income will not be sought for investment,’ say critics.

Finance Minister Janardan Sharma has amended the ‘Income Tax Act, 2002’ through the Financial Ordinance tabled in the Parliament. The ordinance states that the source of income will not be sought in the investments made in sectors other than tobacco and alcohol. The law is in the process of being amended so that no one has to disclose the source of his/her income while investing in industries with infrastructure except for certain industries.

The amendment to Section 11 of the Income Tax Act 2002, which was tabled in the House of Representatives, states that the source of income will not be sought for investments made till mid-April 2024 except for the sectors that deal with cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, betel leaf and spices. In the past too, the provision of not seeking sources of investment was brought several times.

In the budget of 2018, a provision was made not to seek the sources for investment. After widespread protests, it was soon removed by the finance ministry. Experts in the financial sector say that the provision of not seeking the income source in investment will pave the way for money laundering as it will provide legitimacy to illegally acquired properties in the country.

If the system of not seeking sources for investment is implemented, not only will the black money hidden in the country get legitimacy, but the country will be in trouble internationally, warns financial experts. Nepal is affiliated with international organizations that discourage investment in money laundering and terrorist activities. Nepal is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia Pacific Group (APG).

Under the leadership of both these organizations, work has been carried out to discourage money laundering and  sponsor terrorist activities around the world. Nepal is a member of these organizations. These memberships are not yet mature and are in the evaluation stage. These organizations are accusing Nepal of failing to enact necessary laws to curb money laundering and investment in terrorist activities, and to take action against those involved in amassing illegal assets. There is a fear that if Nepal fails to do as they say, the membership will be revoked and the country will be blacklisted.