Indians holding Bhutanese bank accounts across the border are encouraging Bhutanese to get visa and maestro cards from Druk PNB and Bank of Bhutan to withdraw rupee from Jaigoan atms for a commission of at least 5%, this paper has found.
Many small Bhutanese businessmen, mainly who run paan shops, are happy to do the transactions but are oblivious to the fact that they may have to be answerable during taxation time when they have to show their bank details.
Records with the banks show that Bhutanese applying for International cards has increased in the recent weeks and even the transactions at nearby Indian towns have also increased.
The tax head of the Regional Revenue and Customs Office, Wangdi Drugyal, said keeping check on such activities was difficult because when it came to filing in tax, the small shopkeepers did not maintain proper account records.
And those shops maintaining balance sheet, the amount could be checked with the bank’s statement on their deposit and withdrawal amount.
If the shopkeepers have surpassed and inflated their incomes then the evaded income is fined twice the tax amount.
Unlike DPNB, which follows the RMA’s directives of Nu 10,000 withdrawal per day, the BoB allows a withdrawal of only Nu 1,500 fromthe ATM.
A DPNB official said the number of people applying for maestro card in Phuentsholing had substantially increased in the last few weeks.
Due to the rush the bank could not customize its system and for the time being the DPNB has stopped issuing maestro cards.
The IT Officer of the DPNB, Phuentsholing branch, Om Nath Gurung, said the bank had approximately 1,200 registered maestro card holders but due to the rupee crunch, the demand for the card has increased.
He said before March 15, the bank was a issuing card to about 30 applicants a day but after the rupee crunch hit the economy, the number had increased to about 130 a day.
BoB has 1,032 visa cardholders.
BoB launched its visa card services on January 15 and demand was low then. However, since March beginning more than 100 account holders apply for the visa card everyday.
In other border towns like Samdrup Jongkhar and Gelephu the BoB’s branch offices are yet to get the visa cards and there is no rush for it.
The Druk PNB Maestro card allows Rupee withdrawals from atms in many countries. BoB’s visa domestic debit card can access to atms in India and Nepal.
According to a BoB official, if people withdrew Rs 10,000 a day that would add up to a huge amount. For instance, an individual withdrawing Rs 10,000 a day would sum up to Rs 0.3mn a month.
Thus by controlling the withdrawal to Rs 1,500 a day, a client withdraws only Rs 45,000 a month, however, this he added was an interim measure, until they too could customize their systems to make a withdrawal of Rs 10,000 a day as per the central bank’s directives.