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LAHORE: The traders' community in Punjab has proposed the government to first go in parliament and make legislation for setting up an "autonomous body" that will investigate the alleged corruption of the officers and officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and then collect taxes from them.

"On one hand, the government while acknowledging corruption in the FBR barred its officials from conducting audits of retail sector while on the other hand it also empowered the latter to probe hidden wealth or sources of income of small traders and put them behind bars," regretted All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) Central General Secretary Naeem Mir while addressing a press conference along with a number of leaders of other traders' bodies at the Lahore Press Club on Tuesday. The traders were expressing their concerns on the federal and provincial budgets.

Mir claimed that traders believe in paying taxes and actions should be taken against those who hide their income or wealth, but there must be an autonomous body that can oversee and investigate the wrongdoings of the FBR officials, who themselves help and guide people how to evade taxes.

Challenging the government's per capita income figures, the APAT leader said the PTI government is still lagging behind 25 percent in terms of per capita income index of the previous PML-N regime.

"However, the budget policies have undoubtedly served the 'Ashrafias' and 'Mafias'," he added.

He regretted that the government instead of giving relief to small traders, who suffered colossal losses during repeated lockdowns, proposed Ehsas Programme for poor people and interest-free loans for farmers amounting to Rs 0.5 million.

He said the traders had requested the government to reduce the ratio of annual turnover tax from 1.50 percent to 0.25 percent as this "huge" ratio was among one of the major factors discouraging traders to come into the tax net. "Now the turnover tax has been proposed at 1.25 percent," he lamented and demanded abolishment of this tax. He said taxes from traders must be collected through profit and loss accounts.

In the news budgets, the government has expelled furniture business from the definition of cottage industry, he said, adding that no incentives had been proposed for cottage industry except enhancing its annual turnover tax slab from Rs 3 million to Rs 10 million which is "insufficient".

He claimed that the government is also planning to "forcefully" install 500,000 "Point of Sale" machines at various shops. "Why would we install point of sales machines when we already have paid sales tax to the government against our valuables?"

"To this scheme successful, the government so much so also announced giving a cash prize of Rs 250 million through a lottery system, if a person deposits his/her invoice into a ballot box," he said, adding that through this way the government wants to portray that traders are corrupt who do not pay their taxes.

While denouncing the government's decision that a consumer would have to pay 7.5 percent tax in case his/her electricity bill exceeded Rs 25,000, the APAT leader said the people are already bearing the brunt of skyrocketing inflation but the government instead of giving relief is further imposing heavy taxes on them. "Therefore, we call upon all the opposition parties to take to the streets against rising inflation and we will join you to send packing of this government," he added.

Qaumi Tajir Ittehad President Javed Iqbal Butt termed the provincial budget as "enemy of traders". He said no relief package for the promotion of trade was proposed in the budget while our core demand of withdrawal of CNIC-based invoicing condition was not entertained as well.

He claimed that the prices of wheat flour, pulses and cooking oil and vanaspati have been increased by 100 percent in the budget. The increase in petroleum levy will significantly increase the prices of several essential daily use items as well, he added. Mall Road Traders Association President Sohail Butt also spoke on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Anjuman-e-Tajran (Registered) DHA Board Lahore President Naeem Saleemi while addressing another press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Monday accused the Cantonment Board of "unjustifiably" increasing the professional and property taxes.

He said that notices of professional and property taxes are being sent to traders by adding arrears of previous nine years.

"The cantonment board by increasing property tax thousands of times is sending notices to us, and it is not sharing with us how these taxes were fixed," he claimed, adding that trader who just started their business in DHA and cantonment area are receiving notices with arrears of nine years.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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