Fearing misuse of facility, MoF turns deaf ear to demands of the disabled

Kathmandu, October 5

Owing to the hassles faced by differently-abled in using public transportation, people with disabilities have demanded for tax waiver on import of four-wheeler vehicles for their private use, akin to the facility provided to them for three-wheeled scooters.

Since the government has provided tax waiver on three-wheeled scooters that are especially made for disabled people some eight years back, over 1,000 such scooters have been imported, according to the National Federation of Disabled-Nepal (NFDN).

“Special scooters and motorised wheelchairs have been instrumental in empowering the disabled, who earlier had to depend on others to go from one place to another,” said Shudarson Subedi, president of NFDN. “We’ve been urging the government since long for similar facility in four-wheelers as well for the disabled people.”

As per Subedi, introduction of disabled-friendly taxis could provide a source of income for the handicapped and economically empower them as well. “The government should explore opportunities to facilitate the disabled and empower them,” he said, adding, “Due to lack of support from the government, physically challenged people are being taken as a burden by their own family members and the society.”

Following intense lobbying by the federation, the government had waived all kinds of taxes, including road tax and renewal fees, for three-wheeler scooters for disabled people.

Based on the category of the disability, the government could provide such facility to the disabled people in the context of automatic four-wheelers — cars and SUVs — claimed Subedi.

However, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) is hesitant to consider the demand of the disabled people fearing possible misuse of the facility.

As automobiles are considered as the major contributor of the import tax, misuse of such facility could significantly hurt the government’s revenue, according to Bishnu Nepal, chief of the Revenue Division under the MoF.

While confirming that the disabled people have been demanding tax waiver on import of four-wheelers for private use, Nepal said, “The government has yet to set up a system — such as separate plates, logos, licence for the disabled people, among others — to ensure that the facility aimed at the physically challenged cannot be misused.”

Since the government has provided tax waiver to the disabled people to import three-wheeler scooters, strict rules have been put in place regarding the sales of such scooters within the country. The scooter imported with tax waiver can be sold only for the same category of disabled people, it cannot be sold to the non-disabled people, as per Nepal.

“MoF is not against the demand of tax waiver on import of four-wheelers for the personal use of disabled people, but further discussions with stakeholder government agencies are required before a final decision can be taken,” he said, adding, “But for now, we do not have any plans in extending tax waiver for such vehicles.”

NFDN, on the other hand, has said that it is willing to facilitate the government in developing a system to prevent misuse of such facilities.

“The government could provide its approval based on the applications of the disabled people after identifying them and also provide separate plates, so that such vehicles can be easily recognised and cannot be sold to non-disabled people,” said Subedi.

While the government is mulling over the issue, he demanded that the government operate at least one public vehicle on one route for the disabled people and strictly monitor and ensure disabled-friendly ramps and other facilities for the disabled people in public transportation.