Dhaka: Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus has been summoned by Bangladeshi officials for allegedly dodging over USD 1.51 million in tax, in the latest setback to hit the micro-financing pioneer who was earlier forced by the government to quit the Grameen Bank.
The National Board of Revenue said that 74-year-old Yunus had given about Tk 77 crore as gifts to his family members and others over three assessment years, against which Tk 15.39 crore as tax was payable to the state.
But a legal counsel for Yunus yesterday said the amount should get tax exemption as per rules as the money was given to family members for maintenance.
“This is nothing unusual. He is a honoured taxpayer and we want to resolve the dispute over the unpaid tax through discussion that is why we invited him for talks,” a National Board of Revenue (NBR) official said.
Earlier this month, the microcredit pioneer went to the High Court challenging the NBR decision to impose tax on the amount he had given out from his already-taxed money. The case is still pending.
Meanwhile, a field office of the tax authority, Tax Zone-6, issued a letter to Yunus asking him or his representatives to attend a meeting with Tax Commissioner Md Meftha Uddin Khan at the commissioner's office on March 29.
The dispute surfaced last year when the NBR's field office claimed the gift tax against the money he had handed over as gifts through three trusts during the income assessment years of 2011-2012, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
The NBR now claims Yunus owes Tk 11.77 crore as gift tax, as he has already deposited Tk 3.6 crore and Tk 2.07 crore before filing the appeal at the Tax Appellate Tribunal and the High Court respectively in line with the rules.
The development came two years after the government ordered legal actions against Yunus on charges of what it said “tax exemption without following due procedure”, misuse of power and violating foreign travel regulations.
Yunus last year blasted the government for paving ways for “destruction” of the pioneering micro-lending Grameen Bank he founded more tan three decades ago as the parliament passed a law for its close oversight by the central bank.
Yunus shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Grameen Bank, which he founded nearly 40 years ago, in 2006.
Yunus experiment of poor men's banking earned Bangladesh the repute of being the pioneer of micro credit lending but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina harshly criticised the high interest rate charged by Grameen Bank, calling it a “blood sucker” of the poor.
Yunus, earlier rallied huge foreign support in the dispute while the US has reaffirmed its support for Nobel Prize winner's Grameen Bank.
The Bangladesh Bank in March 2011 had ordered Yunus' removal as the Grameen Bank managing director, saying that his reappointment was not approved by it and that he had been managing director illegally since 1999. He went to court to fight the central bank's order, but lost the legal battle. Two months later, he stepped down from the office.