Taxation on Private Universities in Bangladesh: A Controversial Debate

Taxation on Private Universities in Bangladesh


Private universities play a significant role in shaping higher education in Bangladesh. They provide diverse academic programs, contribute to research, and accommodate a substantial number of students. However, the issue of taxing these institutions has been a topic of heated debate. In this article, we explore the reasons behind imposing taxes on private universities, the controversies surrounding this decision, and its potential impact on the education sector.

The Proposal: 15% Tax on Private Universities

In the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2021, the Bangladeshi government proposed a 15% tax on private universities, medical colleges, dental colleges, and engineering colleges. This move aimed to generate revenue and ensure that these institutions contribute their fair share to the national exchequer¹. Let's delve into the key aspects of this proposal:
1. Revenue Generation: The government faces financial challenges, and taxing private universities was seen as a way to bolster revenue. By imposing taxes, they aimed to bridge the fiscal gap and fund essential services.
2. Equity and Fairness: The proposal sought to address perceived inequities in the tax system. Private universities, as artificial juridical persons, were paying taxes at rates applicable to individual taxpayers, which was deemed inconsistent with the overall philosophy of taxation. The 15% tax rate aimed to rectify this disparity.
3. Legal Challenges: The imposition of income tax on private universities faced legal challenges. In 2016, the High Court declared the collection of income tax from private universities illegal. However, the Appellate Division later ruled that private universities must pay the 15% tax determined by the National Board of Revenue (NBR).

Controversies and Compliance

The decision to tax private universities sparked both controversy and compliance:
1. Controversy: Critics argue that taxing private universities may hinder their growth and discourage investment in education. They believe that such institutions already face financial constraints and that additional taxes could lead to higher tuition fees, affecting students.
2. Compliance: Despite the controversy, private universities are now legally obligated to pay the 15% income tax. Compliance varies among institutions, with some accepting the decision while others continue to challenge it.

Impact on Higher Education

The implications of taxing private universities are multifaceted:
1. Financial Strain: Private universities may face financial strain due to increased tax burdens. This could impact infrastructure development, faculty recruitment, and research initiatives.
2. Tuition Fees: Students may bear the brunt of these taxes through higher tuition fees. The affordability of private education could be compromised.
3. Quality of Education: Strained finances might affect the quality of education. Institutions may struggle to maintain standards, impacting student learning experiences.
4. Investment and Innovation: Taxation could discourage investment and innovation in the education sector. Institutions may prioritize cost-cutting over research and development.


The imposition of taxes on private universities in Bangladesh remains a contentious issue. While revenue generation is crucial, policymakers must strike a balance between financial sustainability and the long-term health of the education system. As the debate continues, stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that private universities thrive while contributing to the nation's progress.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent official government policy.*