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ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to take measures for speedy payment of refunds of Rs 232 billion through creation of a 'Refund Fund' for payment of pending income tax refunds; payment of income tax refunds up to Rs50 million each within one week; provision of funds by Finance Division, setting up of technical committee with representatives of business community to resolve 'FASTER' related issues and creation of facilitation committees at the level of field formations.

In this connection, a meeting was held in the Federal Board of Revenue to take stock of the issuance of refunds under the Inland Revenue Courts, ie, Income Tax, Sales Tax and Federal Excise. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh presided over the meeting. Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister of Industries and Production, Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser for Commerce, Textile and Investment, Faizullah Kanika, MNA, Naveed Kamran Baloch, Secretary Finance and Chairman FBR Muhammad Javed Ghani were also present in the meeting. Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, Member (IR-Operations), FBR made a presentation on the issue of refunds. The meeting was informed that a total of Rs. 142 billion of Sales Tax refunds were pending and Rs. 90 billion of Income Tax refunds were due for payment. The Member also informed the Ministers that export sector had been prioritized and an unprecedented amount of Rs.106 billion had been released to them. It was also explained that during 2020, fresh inflows and refund claims had matched the outflows and a total amount of refund released under the head Sales Tax was Rs.154 billion.

In order to further facilitate the business community and to resolve their day to day issues on priority, it was advised that a technical committee having representatives of the business community be formed to examine and resolve faster refund related issues. It was also decided that there will be facilitation committees at field office level so that businessmen are able to have their issues resolved at local level. It was also decided that a complaint cell be constituted where businessmen lodge their complaints and the complaint cell may pursue the complaints for resolution. The FBR was also advised to increase its public outreach and hold frequent meetings/media conferences and video conferences with trade associations to hear their viewpoint and issues relating to tax matters.

It was noted that withholding tax regime increased the cost of doing business and the FBR was advised to examine reducing the regime in the coming budget. Similarly the legal provisions relating to capping input tax adjustment at 90% of payable tax in terms of section 8B of the Sales Tax Act were also proposed to be examined in the forthcoming budget exercise.

Discussing the tax refunds, the FBR was advised to focus on pending refunds of both export and non-export sectors to give a business stimulus and easy cash flows in the post Covid scenario. Further enhancing the stimulus package, the FBR was advised to pay Income Tax refunds up to Rs50 million each within one week for which the FBR will be provided funds by the Finance Division. In order to ensure steady disbursement of refunds, it was also proposed that the FBR may examine creating a refund fund from where Income Tax refunds relating to previous years may be paid in routine without hurting collection till the time all the pending refunds are liquidated. In juxtaposition to speedy regular disbursal of refunds with faster running in automated mode the importance of post refund audit to counter menace of flying invoices was proposed.

The FBR's efforts on zero tolerance against corruption were appreciated and the FBR was advised to highlight its good initiates including fight against corruption on media as well as on its websites.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020