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KARACHI: Deputy Commissioner (Central) Dr. M. B. Raja Dharejo has said that the e-tax payment facility, which was introduced in District Central as a pilot project, has proved successful, and it will now be expanded to all the districts of Karachi within the next one-and-a-half month.

Speaking at a meeting of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the DC categorically stated that no new tax or tariff was introduced in the e-tax payment facility which was an online local tax collection system in which all the taxation rates had been kept intact while the collection under municipal charges was not something new which was being charged exactly as per relevant laws.

The participants of the meeting asked why they should pay municipal charges when no municipal work was being carried out in the markets where all the cleanliness and garbage disposal work was being done by the shopkeepers themselves.

Dharejo said that the e-tax payment facility was introduced to minimize human interaction.

"With this initiative, the manual tax collection has been transformed into digital collection which would surely ease the process and save shopkeepers from harassment and corruption as the human interaction factor has been completely eliminated," he said.

He was of the view that since the funds generated from the municipal charges were being transferred directly to the DC office's account, these funds would ultimately be returned to the shopkeepers in the shape of municipal development work in their respective markets.

Speaking on the occasion, KCCI president Shariq Vohra stressed the need for minimizing the hardships of the small traders.

"The local administration will have to take effective steps to strictly deal with harassment by officials from DC office who fearlessly walk into any shop to negotiate taxes and demand bribe," he added.

He said that the idea of introducing an e-tax payment facility was floated initially by the Karachi chamber long time ago not for Karachi alone but for the whole country.

Finally, the Sindh government had it implemented which the business community warmly welcomed as it would help in dealing with the menace of corruption.

However, the Sindh government and the local administration must ensure that the already perturbed shopkeepers were not being overburdened by imposing any new tax and the rates of existing taxes had to be kept low as the small traders and shopkeepers were still facing serious crises due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chairman of KCCI's Special Committee for Small Traders, Majeed Memon, said that the shopkeepers and small traders had been regularly paying all their taxes to the federal and provincial governments despite a very challenging environment, but these shopkeepers should not be overburdened by new taxes.

"Although the administration claims that the municipal charges are not a new tax, yet we neither heard of it nor paid it throughout our lifetime," he added.

He said that the local administration must scrap the municipal charges until the pandemic was completely over.

The participants of the meeting pointed out that though the e-tax payment facility had been introduced to discourage human interaction, yet "officials" continued to visit numerous markets "to harass the shopkeepers".

Senior Vice President Saqib Goodluck, Vice President Shamsul Islam Khan and a large number of small traders mostly from District Central attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021