How to do business in Bangladesh
The Bangladesh legal system largely follows the English common law system. The legal process can be very slow and bureaucratic. Resolving matters through the courts is frequently an extremely lengthy and expensive process.
Court decisions have often been tarnished with accusations of corruption. Foreign businesses or individuals can feel under pressure to settle as the only way to get an acceptable outcome.
International arbitration can be an alternative outcome, if specified as a contractual option. You should hire a broker or local lawyer to help you deal with the necessary formalities. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bangladesh-list-of-lawyers.
You should also seek professional legal/taxation advice before entering into a joint venture or similar type of agreement. Contact the DIT team in Bangladesh at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-bangladesh#contact-us to help find tax and legal advisers before entering into agreements.
Corruption affects many aspects of daily life in Bangladesh and is often cited as a barrier to private sector development.
One of the biggest challenges facing UK companies in Bangladesh is how to avoid paying ‘speed money’. ‘Speed money’ is unofficial, under-the-counter payments to minor officials to expedite business. Politicians, bureaucrats and law enforcement officials often wield significant discretionary power and there have been some abuses.
You should have in place regular due diligence procedures and up-to-date risk strategies when doing business in Bangladesh.
You should ensure you take the necessary steps to comply with the requirements of the UK Bribery Act. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bribery-act-2010-guidance.
Law on marketing and selling in Bangladesh
You need to be aware of the Bangladesh consumer protection regulations and the Bangladesh Consumer Rights Protection Act 2009.
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) has information on food safety, consumer rights, market price monitoring and product testing. See: http://www.consumerbd.org/rights-protection/.
Export licences for Bangladesh
You must have a licence to supply anything on the UK strategic export control lists to Bangladesh. You can find out more about getting a licence to export military or dual use goods, services or technology to Bangladesh at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beginners-guide-to-export-controls.
You can find out which products need certification or licensing before they can be exported to Bangladesh at: https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export/licences.
Import restrictions in Bangladesh
Bangladesh places controls on imports of a number of items, including bans or restrictions on religious, social, health and trade policy grounds.
Some restricted items may be imported with prior permission, while other items may be imported only by authorised industrial users or government agencies.
The complete list of officially banned and restricted goods is updated at the Bangladesh Office of the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports at: http://www.ccie.gov.bd/ (list not in English).
Standards and technical regulations in Bangladesh
Imports of some products are subject to compliance with specified Bangladesh quality standards. You must confirm products meet appropriate certification requirements as indicated by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) before exporting. See: http://bsti.portal.gov.bd/.
You should consider taking out product liability insurance if you manufacture or supply a physical product that is sold or given away for free. See: https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/business-insurance/liability-insurance/product-liability-insurance/.
Packaging and labelling requirements for Bangladesh
Imported goods and their containers must not incorporate any words, pictures or inscriptions with any religious or obscene connotations.
Milk food containers may be imported in tin containers, airtight packages or boxed bags up to 2.5kg, and must indicate the ingredients in Bangla. They should also show the date of production and expiry in Bangla or English. A measuring spoon must be supplied in all containers of dehydrated baby food.
Pesticide containers must be able to withstand ‘handling by sea’, be labelled with their chemical contents, and meet other specifications.
Your goods should be appropriately packed for Bangladesh. Packages may receive heavy handling and be left in the open air for longer than anticipated, so you must take into account Bangladesh’s climate.
Check with BSTI for full details of Bangladesh packaging and labelling requirements, at: http://bsti.portal.gov.bd/.
Protecting your intellectual property (IP)
Globally Bangladesh is ranked 125th out of 127 for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), in the 2017 International Property Rights Index Report. See: https://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/country/
Bangladesh has signed the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). TRIPS sets minimum standards for IP regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO members.
The Bangladesh Department of Patents, Design and Trade Marks is responsible for IP in Bangladesh. See: http://www.dpdt.gov.bd/.
You must register your intellectual property in Bangladesh to guard against potential infringement. Registration of patents and trademarks can take months and sometimes years, so you should plan well ahead.
If faced with infringement or piracy you should engage a local legal practitioner who understands the context and has experience of initiating appropriate civil or criminal proceedings.
Enforcement can take several forms, and specialist legal advice is recommended. Check the GCC Patents Office website at: http://www.gccpo.org/DefaultEn.aspx.
Refer also to the information provided on the gov.uk Intellectual Property page at: https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/exports.
Bangladesh is a member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) (http://www.bimstec.org/) formed in 1997, with the goal of a tariff-free zone by 2017. Other members of BIMSTEC are Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Bangladesh is also a member of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) (http://www.saarc-sec.org/), together with Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC members have agreed to pursue tariff reductions under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).
[Source – DIT/ gov.uk]
Tax and customs considerations in Bangladesh
The UK and Bangladesh have signed a double taxation agreement, ensuring the same income is not taxed in more than one country. See: www.gov.uk/government/publications/bangladesh-tax-treaties.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
The Bangladesh National Board of Revenue (NBR) provides information on VAT. See: http://www.nbr.gov.bd/index.php?lan=eng.
If you are registered for VAT you can zero-rate the VAT on most goods you export to Bangladesh. You will need to get evidence of the export within three months from the time of sale.
Find out more about VAT on exports to non-EU countries and zero rating conditions, at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-exports-dispatches-and-supplying-goods-abroad.
Corporate tax in Bangladesh
The corporate tax rates are:
37% for companies whose shares are publicly traded
40% for those whose shares are not publicly traded
40% minimum for foreign companies
45% for foreign banks
The NBR has more about corporate tax in Bangladesh at: http://www.nbr.gov.bd/index.php?lan=eng.
[Source – DIT/ gov.uk]
Customs and documentation in Bangladesh
Complying with HMRC regulations to export to Bangladesh
You must make export declarations to HMRC through the National Export System (NES) to export your goods to Bangladesh.
You should declare your exports to Bangladesh through the NES, at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/export-declarations-and-the-national-export-system-export-procedures.
You must classify your goods as part of the declaration, including a commodity code and a Customs Procedure Code (CPC). You can find commodity codes and other measures applying to exports in the UK Trade Tariff at: https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff.
Contact the HMRC Tariff Classification Service for more help, at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-600-classifying-your-imports-or-exports/notice-600-classifying-your-imports-or-exports#list-of-useful-contacts.
You must declare any goods that you take with you in your baggage to sell outside the EU, at: https://www.gov.uk/take-goods-sell-abroad.
Temporary export of goods to Bangladesh
Use a duplicate list to temporarily export goods to Bangladesh. As with an ATA Carnet, you do not have to pay customs duty or tax. There is no fee.
Before you export the goods, prepare a list on company stationery. Include:
a description of the goods
how many there are
serial numbers, if the goods have them
value of the goods
At customs, you will need to provide:
two copies of the list
a completed HMRC form C&E 1246 available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads
/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/374161/ce1246.pdf (PDF, 638 KB)
Contact the HMRC Imports and Exports helpline in advance to make the arrangements (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm):
Telephone: 0300 200 3700
Textphone: 0300 200 3719
Outside the UK: +44 29 2050 1261
Customs in Bangladesh
Find more information on Bangladesh customs procedures at Custom House Chittagong. See: http://nbr.gov.bd/about-us/field-office-details/customs/15/eng.
Tariffs rates are high. There are, however, no quotas on imports. Customs duties are levied on most imports – no import duty is applicable for export-orientated industry, but for other industries it is 5% ad-valorem.
Bangladesh recently imposed an import duty of 25% on rice. The Bangladesh National Board of Revenue (NBR) provides a full listing of customs duties at: http://nbr.gov.bd/ and exemptions at: http://nbr.gov.bd/publications/customs/eng.
The NBR Tariff Database has details of duty rates, at: http://nbr.gov.bd/publications/research-statistics/eng.
An advance income tax is levied on importers, which can be claimed as a tax credit at the end of the tax year.
You can find more about import tariffs in the Market Access Database. See: http://madb.europa.eu/madb/indexPubli.htm.
Documentation in Bangladesh
UK exporters to Bangladesh should be precise when preparing export documentation. Invoices should clearly state the goods being supplied including specification, packing and country of origin.
All imports must be made by opening an irrevocable Letter of Credit (LC), which requires an approved Letter of Credit Authorization (LCA) form from the Bangladesh Bank. The invoice should match the LC.
You will need the following mandatory documents, depending on your shipments:
if you are shipping documents, a bill of lading or airway bill and master airway bill
if you are shipping samples, a bill of lading or airway bill, a master airway bill, a commercial invoice, and a copy of the VAT registration
if you are sending a gift shipment, a bill of lading or airway bill, commercial invoice and authorisation of the consignee
if you are shipping a high-value shipment, a bill of lading or airway bill, master airway bill, a VAT registration certificate, an import registration certificate, an import permit, and authorisation from the consignee
Pre-shipment inspection is the norm for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh NBR Customs has more-detailed information on customs procedures and required documentation, at: http://bangladeshcustoms.gov.bd.
[Source – DIT/ gov.uk]
Shipping your goods to Bangladesh
If you are not knowledgeable about international shipping procedures you can use a freight forwarder to move your goods. A forwarder will have extensive knowledge of documentation requirements, regulations, transportation costs and banking practices in Bangladesh.
You can find freight forwarding companies to help you transport your goods to Bangladesh via the British International Freight Association (BIFA) at: http://www.bifa.org/home, or the Freight Transport Association (FTA) at: http://www.fta.co.uk/.
Posting goods to Bangladesh
There are a number of UK postal companies which can arrange postage of goods to Bangladesh at competitive prices.
You can find out about sending goods by post to Bangladesh at: http://www.parcelforce.com/worldwide-directory/bangladesh.
Shipping dangerous goods to Bangladesh
Special rules apply if you are shipping dangerous goods to Bangladesh. See: https://www.gov.uk/shipping-dangerous-goods/what-are-dangerous-goods for further information.
Terms of delivery to Bangladesh
Your contract should include agreement on terms of delivery using Incoterms. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-trade-paperwork-the-basics#international-trade-contracts-and-incoterms.
UK Export Finance
The government can provide finance or credit insurance specifically to support UK exports through UK Export Finance (UKEF) – the UK’s export credit agency. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-export-finance.
For up-to-date country-specific information on the support available see UKEF’s cover policy and indicators for Bangladesh at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/country-cover-policy-and-indicators#bangladesh.
[Source – DIT/UKEF/gov.uk]
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