Mahendra Thapa

Rupandehi, January 17:

Government officials have revealed that most doctors and private health clinics are not registered with local administration and they have been evading tax for years.

The Commerce Office, Rupandehi chief Hari Gyawali, said hundreds of clinics were operational in the district but none were registered with the administration.

Rohit Raj Chhetri, president of the Drug Retailer Association, Lumbini said medical halls were registered with the Drug Management Section but private clinics run by doctors were functioning without any kind of registration.

Dr Lokendra Bhatta, a senior working doctor at Lumbini Zonal Hospital, who also runs a private clinic, accepted the existence of illegal practices. He said a trend has been established to open clinics without obtaining permission from the authority.

“There should have been a health ministry or local administration’s monitoring team for such private clinics, but there is none”, Dr Bhatta said. Part 8 of the Nepal Health Service Act, 2053 prohibits doctors from running a private clinic without prior permission from the government authority.

It is learnt that the doctors were not only running unauthorised clinics, but were also evading taxes.

Only 16 private clinics have permanent account number (PAN number) from the Inland Revenue Office, Bhairahawa that covers the districts of Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Palpa and Gulmi.

“The doctors are running clinics illegally but we can do nothing, as there is no financial record kept”, tax officer Shova Kant Poudel expressed his helplessness.

Tax office employees said when asked about records, clinics claim negligible amount is being charged from patients as fee and that no need is felt to keep records of such small amounts of money. Binod Kumar Gyawali of Sanjivani Laboratory Pvt Ltd said records were not the priority of his institute.

Dr Sri Krishna Giri of LZH, Butwal said he checks around 20 patients at his orthopaedic clinic.

The IRO said Dr Bhatta was one of the very few who were clearing their dues. Last year, Dr Bhatta paid Rs 70,000 in taxes.

“The tax system demands 15 per cent of total yearly income as income tax but it is sad that a respected class like doctors don’t want to pay even the small amount”, tax officer Poudel said. He complained that there is no legal provision to bring health clinics under the tax net.