ISLAMABAD: Senate Thursday adopted its nearly 300 recommendations including those related to Finance Bill 2021 as well as general recommendations and sent them to National Assembly that would decide whether or not these recommendations are to be incorporated in the Finance Bill 2021.
At the Senate sitting, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Talha Mehmood presented his report on the Finance Bill 2021 that was adopted by the House. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani presided over the sitting.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Mehmood appreciated the role of Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and his team for extending their support to the finance panel in preparation of the recommendations.
"Never in the past a finance minister gave so much time to the proceedings of Senate finance panel. I pay homage to the finance minister and his team for sitting down with us and being part of the preparation of recommendations," he said.
The finance minister assured the committee that tax-related cases registered against the members of the business community would be withdrawn, the senator said. Mehmood said he would follow up on the Senate recommendations to Finance Bill 2021 and ensure that those recommendations that are 'valid' should be incorporated by National Assembly in the Finance Bill 2021.
"It's a question of Senate's prestige- that its valid recommendations should be part of the new budget. In the past, the preparation of these recommendations used to be a ceremonial exercise. This time around, it would be different," he said.
Among the recommendations, 114 were related to Finance Bill 2021 and 180 were general recommendations. Some of the major recommendations included removal of 233-A of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 that allows Inland Revenue officers of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) the powers to arrest.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs also recommended raise in the salaries of government employees from 10 to 20 percent in the next fiscal year. The committee rejected the imposition of tax on the expenses of the working class. The committee also rejected inclusion of sugar in the Third Schedule; sales tax on gold/diamonds/precious stones; sales tax on dairy products, aircrafts, plants and machinery; withdrawal of exemption on LED lights; imposition of sales tax on 14 items of the poultry sector; and sales tax on bricks.
The Senate panel also rejected the FBR proposal for imposing tax on domestic electricity bills exceeding Rs 25,000 per month. The committee also rejected the FBR's proposal for imposing 17 percent sales tax on jewellers.
The Senate panel recommended to the government to raise Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes. The committee recommended that the collection under Export Development Fund (EDF) should be suspended for a period of three years.
The committee opposed increase in taxes on edible oil and ghee. It also opposed imposition of sales tax on milk. The committee also rejected increase in sales tax on poultry feed from 10 percent to 17 percent.
Chairman Senate congratulated Mehmood and finance panel members for timely preparation of the recommendations. Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem said the federal government extended its full support to the finance panel in preparation of recommendations on the new federal budget 2021-22. "In the past, the finance ministers would not spare so much time for Senate's finance committee. This government has set a new example by giving the Senate and its committees the importance they always deserved," he said.
"There would be no place in this country for the tax evaders in the new budget," he said.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan assured the House that he would "try to have Senate's maximum recommendations incorporated in the Finance Bill 2021."
The minister, on behalf of Law Minister Farogh Naseem, presented three bills which were referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice. Already passed by National Assembly, these bills were; The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Bill 2021, The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 (Amendment of Section 4) and The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 (Amendment of Section 7).
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yousaf Raza Gillani said both treasury and opposition benches came together in the finance committee to prepare recommendations, which, he said, is highly appreciable.
Gillani said the finance minister's recent statement that he would use "his own powers" regarding cases against businessmen is a cause of concern for everyone. "In the presence of institutions like NAB (National Accountability Bureau), how can finance minister exercise discretionary powers regarding businessmen?" he said.
On June 11, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin presented Finance Bill 2021 in National Assembly and laid a copy of this bill in Senate.
Constitutionally, the Upper House of the Parliament can hold extensive debate on the Finance Bill and devise recommendations accordingly but it has practically no role in budgetary legislation since it is completely up to the National Assembly to either completely or partially accept those recommendations or hand them an outright rejection.
Article 73 which deals with parliamentary business with respect to money bills reads, "(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in Article 70, a Money Bill shall originate in the National Assembly: Provided that simultaneously when a Money Bill, including the Finance Bill containing the Annual Budget Statement, is presented in the National Assembly, a copy thereof shall be transmitted to the Senate which may, within fourteen days, make recommendations thereon to the National Assembly.
"(1A) The National Assembly shall, consider the recommendations of the Senate and after the bill has been passed by the Assembly with or without incorporating the recommendations of the Senate, it shall be presented to the President for assent."
The Senate would meet again Friday (June 25)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021