Verification of lawmakers' tax details and assets: FBR's field formations fail to take action
The field formations of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) have failed to take effective action for taxation of the income and assets of the parliamentarians declared in the nomination papers filed by them when they contested last elections.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Sources told Business Recorder here on Sunday that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had implemented a full-fledged strategy at national level for verification of tax details declared in the nomination papers filed by the contesting candidates in the last elections. After successful completion of the exercise, these details were forwarded to the FBR field formations for further verification and initiation of legal action in cases of glaring discrepancies. In a number of cases, the FBR itself noted glaring discrepancies and asked the field formations to take legal action in such cases. However, despite the lapse of more than five months, the field formations have failed to report even a single case where notable action has been taken or taxes recovered. The inaction by the FBR field formations is nullifying the whole exercise of verification and proper taxation of the parliamentarians.
Apart from the bulk details of the income declared by the contesting candidates of Elections 2013, the field formations have also been provided detailed reports about glaring instances of tax evasion in a number of cases. However, the FBR field formations have been dragging feet on all this information and no practical steps have been taken for swift finalisation of these cases.
One of the main reasons for the extremely low tax to GDP ratio and disparagingly narrow tax base in Pakistan is the wide spread belief that those who have the capacity to pay taxes mainly avoid them due to their political leverage.
In particular, politicians have either remained outside the tax net, or their tax contribution has been ridiculously low as compared to their perks and privileges and their colossal assets. During the Elections-2013, the FBR compiled data related to the income declared and tax paid by the contesting candidates for the last three years. This data is available on the website of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). An interesting feature of the details available on the ECP website is the fact that majority of the contesting candidates (including a former Chief Minister and a number of the leaders of the political parties) have declared annual income less than Rs 500,000. The declaration of such an income is laughable if compared with the assets declared in the nomination papers and money spent on election campaign, not to speak of the lavish life styles of the parliamentarians, sources said.
Coordinated and prompt action by the field formations regarding the verification of the declared income by the politicians and bringing the untaxed portion of their incomes could have gone a long way in restoring the faith of the people in the FBR's claim for brining in a non-discriminatory tax system.