ActionAid Bangladesh organized a tax tribunal in 2018 to mobilize people around the issues of dependence of indirect tax as a key source of revenue which is a burden for the poor and corporate tax avoidance; and initiate a dialogue among stakeholders to demand progressive tax policies.
The citizens’ tax tribunal had three key groups- namely the panel of jury/ experts, plaintiff and defendant. The plaintiff was represented by different groups within the society such as student, worker, slum-dwellers, etc. The mock tribunal provided a platform for the stakeholders, who are otherwise exempted from formal spaces such as the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. The citizens’ tax tribunal provided the platform to express their grievances about the burden of VAT, corporate tax avoidance and its impact on select groups and society at large. Seven cases were presented on VAT Burden and Tax Avoidance in two sessions during the day-long event.
The tribunal brought approximately 400 people from all walks of life- representing government, corporates, academics, CSOs, media and people from urban and rural areas- who participated and contributed to shaping the ‘judgement’ which will be taken to relevant policy makers and duty-bearers. In addition to the 400 people who took part, both sessions were streamed live on facebook reaching approximately 6000 people. The Tribunal was extensively covered in print and electronic media. Notably, international economic forum also mentioned the tax tribunal as an example of a space for ordinary citizens to testify about the impact of inadequate tax collection and tax policies by the State of Bangladesh, and the behaviour of multinationals. e.g. discussion paper of Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR).