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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin has constituted a Consultative Committee comprising representatives of Pakistan Business Council (PBC), Overseas Investment Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to work out budget proposals for FY2021-22 with mutual consultation.

Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin chaired a consultative meeting with senior representatives of Pakistan Business Council, Pak-US Business Council, and OICCI at the Finance Division.

Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM on Finance and Revenue, chairman FBR, and other senior officers participated in the meeting.

Later, the finance minister held a virtual meeting with the delegation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) through a video link.

Sources said that during the meeting with the FPCCI, the finance minister asked the FPCCI to devise terms of reference for the FPCCI’s proposal of discontinuation of electricity and gas connections of unregistered industrial and commercial customers liable to be registered.

The FPCCI proposed that a new law is required in the budget to cut the electricity or gas connections of consumers, who remained un-registered with the FBR.

Budget makers principally agreed to the proposals including avoiding multiple audits of taxpayers; speedy Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to reduce pendency of cases in courts, and reduction in duties and taxes on the import of raw materials for industries.

The FPCCI informed the finance minister that there is a huge tax gap between potential taxpayers and filers under the income tax and sales tax regime as evident from data.

The FBR must bring on tax roll, all those having taxable income by amending the law empowering compulsory registration on the basis of credible information.

The FPCCI informed that the total commercial and industrial electricity connections as on June 30, 2020 were 3,716,285 and 370,640 respectively (totaling 4,086,925).

By excluding those not chargeable under the law e.g. educational institutions, including religious schools, hospitals/dispensaries, mosques, agricultural sector, and retailers having annual electricity bill of up to Rs1.2 million and cottage industries, the fair sales tax base out of four million commercial and industrial users comes to around three million.

Present gap is around 2.8 million (3,000,000 minus 186,000 filers).

The FPCCI will also support the government in this initiative by getting all those who are taxable under the sales tax but not filing returns and make them pay due tax and help the FBR in their compulsory registration, the sources added.

The total number of cellular subscribers is 180 million out of which 3G/4G subscribers are approximately 95 million. Broadband subscribers are approximately 98 million, basic telephony subscribers are approximately two million.

It may be used to establish new taxpayers, the FPCCI informed the finance minister.

The finance minister welcomed the participants and appreciated the efforts for putting forward proposals for a growth-oriented and business-friendly Budget FY 2021-22.

In his remarks, the finance minister stated that the government firmly believes in a pro-people budget by following a consultative process with all stakeholders onboard.

The underlying rationale is to achieve an all-inclusive sustainable economic growth by seeking valuable input from investors, traders and business community.

While speaking on the occasion, the finance minister underlined that Pakistan has witnessed V-shape recovery amid pandemic due to prudent policies of the government.

The government has identified 12 sectors, under the banner of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), to formulate short-, medium- and long-term strategies to achieve an inclusive sustainable economic growth and social development with a special focus on agriculture, housing, exports, and revenue mobilisation.

Commenting on the federal budget, the finance minister assured that the upcoming budget envisages maximum relief to the common man.

The government will come up with innovative out-of-the-box alternatives to achieve the revenue targets, by providing incentives and facilities, besides broadening the tax base rather than new taxes.

There will be no regressive taxation and stern action will be taken against tax evaders, he added.

The finance minister directed to constitute a Consultative Committee comprising representatives of the PBC, the OICCI, and the FBR to workout proposals with mutual consultation on a regular basis.

During the virtual meeting with the FPCCI, the finance minister outlined that Pakistan’s economy is showing signs of recovery amid coronavirus pandemic, with construction and manufacturing sectors in lead.

However, the smart and micro lockdowns during the third wave have posed new challenges.

The government is pursuing a strategy to achieve robust economic growth to benefit under-privileged and middleclass for ensuring equal distribution of economic gains across all segments of the society.

The government will encourage self-assessment and incentivise businessmen and traders to pay taxes in line with best international practices.

In his concluding remarks, the finance minister stated that the suggestions presented during the meetings for budget preparation would be accorded due consideration.

He also assured to have a regular interaction with members of the FPCCI and affirmed that all key stakeholders would be taken on board before making important economic decisions.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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