The government is likely to slap an additional 5% tax on the applicable tax on any school, college, university or non-government organisation which does not have disabled-friendly buildings.
Sources at the National Board of Revenue (NRB) said apart from the additional tax for failing to provide accessible facilities, the new budget will also offer a 5% corporate tax waiver as before to companies, except now they would have to employ at least 25 persons with disabilities or transgender persons instead of the previous 100.
Ministry officials said the government was taking these steps to ensure social inclusion and justice for persons with disabilities and transgender persons.
In FY21, the government introduced a 5% tax waiver for employing 100 persons with disabilities.
Then, in the current budget (Fiscal Year 2022), the government for the first time offered a 5% tax cut for companies which employ at least 100 transgender persons.
This was done to mainstream members of the marginalised and discriminated against community while bringing about a change in the social mindset.
Now, if any company's workforce comprises at least 10% disabled or transgender persons or there is more than 25 persons in an organisation, that company will be eligible for 5% tax rebate out of the total payable tax or rebate on 75% of the total salary paid to disabled persons or transgender employees, whichever is less.
They hope such an initiative will help break the social stigma and empower the beneficiaries.
Talking with The Business Standard, business leaders welcomed the move, but requested that persons with disabilities and transgender persons be bracketed under the same category.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) President Rizwan Rahman said entrepreneurs want to employ transgender and disabled persons, but the 10% of total manpower or 25 persons in total makes the tax benefit difficult to get.
"If the authority really wants to bring transgender or disabled persons into the mainstream, they must offer rebate on a part of their salary," he said.
The DCCI president mentioned that entrepreneurs failed to fulfil the earlier condition of employing 100 transgenders to be eligible for the tax exemption given in the FY22 budget.
"A good initiative was not realised due to such unrealistic conditions," he said.
Rizwan also said none had taken the responsibility to develop transgender people as skilled workers.
DBL Group Managing Director MA Jabbar said it was a very encouraging move by the government.
"We have so far recruited about 300 persons with disabilities. Currently 164 are working in the DBL Group," he said, adding the group employed a total of 42,000 people.
DBL Group Chief Sustainability Officer Zahid Ullah also said the group has maintained wheelchair accessibility in every factory.
Zahid Ullah informed that the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) and British fashion retailer Marks & Spencer have a programme to train disabled persons.
Urmi Group Managing Director Asif Ashraf said they are employing more than 50 persons with disabilities as part of their corporate social responsibility.
Transgender people in industry
According to the Ministry of Social welfare, there are now about 11,000 Hijras in Bangladesh.
The government had given them the third gender identity in 2003.
According to third gender community leaders and Bandhu Social Welfare Society officials, a number of transgender people are currently working in the apparel and fashion industry as operators, merchandisers and other officials.
Some are working in the leather goods manufacturing industry, some as security personnel in private universities, while some are involved with non-government organisations.
Besides, a good number of them have become entrepreneurs, while some work in the service sector -- fast food courts and beauty parlours.
Two transgender persons are working as media professionals. One of them is Tashnuva Anan Shishir, the first transgender news presenter in Bangladesh.
Mostafiz Uddin, managing director of the Denim Expert Limited, a Chattogram-Karnaphuli EPZ based denim maker, is a pioneer in employing third gender persons in a garment factory.
"We have to do it as a social responsibility and create an example so others can follow it," Mostafiz said.
"But it was not an easy job. We had planned to employ at least 15 people but we found only nine interested in doing jobs in the apparel industry," he said.