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ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has said that the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) was playing an instrumental role in government’s attempt to achieve its agenda of good governance in the country.

President Alvi was addressing a public awareness seminar on FTO at the President House on Friday.

The president has also emphasised the need for using latest technology to curb tax evasion.

He said key points of our governance agenda were, to do away with corruption, mismanagement, and menace of mistreatment of the people at the hands of public servants.

He also stressed the need for an effective taxation system in the country to ensure ease of doing business and encourage people to join the tax net.

He said that the FTO was proving to be a key contributor to state’s responsibility to provide social justice.

The seminar was attended by members Senate, National Assembly, heads of different national institutions, representatives of different chambers of commerce and industry, advisors of FTO Secretariat and many others.

President Arif Alvi, while appreciating the role of the FTO, hoped that the institution of the FTO and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)’s mutual coordination and cooperation towards achieving government’s governance goal would help win citizen’s confidence, which would help the government achieve its tax targets.

The president said that the FBR was enjoined with the responsibility of collecting and managing revenues in the country, and the FTO was an institution to balance and check these powers of the FBR and if such ombudsman institutions performed effectively, the balance in governance helped economic growth in the country.

He said that the study of books like Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes and Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson gave you an idea that how nations attained balance in their national affairs, which ultimately led them being democratic states.

The president said the FTO, in response to public grievances, put a check on the acts and decisions of the FBR, thus, presenting a balance of authority and accountability between the two institutions.

“Pakistan needs an institutionalised system where the authority could be held accountable in the interest of common man,” he said.

Emphasising the need for a simplified and tax-friendly environment to encourage the people fulfill their national obligation, the president said lack of trust over tax-collecting bodies and their corruption were the main factors responsible for tax evasion.

He recalled of meeting over 100 delegations of traders and businessmen in last few years, who showed readiness to pay taxes but expressed apprehensions about the present tax system.

He called for fixing the loopholes in tax system by putting in place effective checks with use of tools of technology and digitalisation to ensure transparency.

However, he said, such system of check and balance must not create delays to the inconvenience of taxpayers.

The president said an effective tax system would help eliminate corruption from the society, which was otherwise gravely affecting the poor strata of society.

The president hailed the FTO’s step to involve latest technology and IT gadgets including mobile app, interactive website, and social media platforms to facilitate the taxpayers in an easy access to the FTO for registering, processing and handling complaints as well as publication of annual reports, short documentary and other informative material to disseminate information and awareness among the stakeholders, which would ultimately take the pace for benefit of taxpayers and revenue collecting authority.

Though, the FTO was playing a very effective role, we all had to join hands in this mission of spreading awareness regarding availability of this institution in addressing grievances of the taxpayers against any excess committed against them by any tax functionary, the president added.

The FTO, Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera, while addressing the seminar, said that people were not registering as they fear vindictive approach of the institutions but he while excercising the own motion notices to address many unnoticed maladministration.

He said that that special attention was being paid to sensitize more and more people about existence, quick and inexpensive redressal of grievances of the taxpayers by the institution of the FTO.

He informed the audience there had been more than 135 percent increase in the number of complaints received and recommendations made.

He said that the pace of disposal of complaints picked momentum when the FTO Secretariat adopted digital solutions to organise its load of work.

Sukhera also told that out of total 3,888 complaints, 3,555 were disposed of during 2020, and 101 out of 103 recommendations of the FTO were up-held in revision by the competent authority.

With strict monitoring and appreciable co-operation by the FBR, implementation status has improved to 87.20 percent, during the past one year, he added.

He proposed that to avoid regressive taxation, reforms were necessary with an aim to impose the rate of taxation in accordance with the different income groups, instead of the uniform taxes on poor and rich.

Earlier to this, the Secretary FTO Secretariat, Dr Arsalan, gave a detailed presentation about establishment, mandate, vision, jurisdiction, complaint filing procedure, appeal and implementation mechanism of the FTO office, and a short documentary was also played to intimate the audience about functions, role and performance of the institution as the guardian of the interests of the taxpayers.

Secretary Tax Adviser Dr Arsalan Sabuktagin, in a presentation on FTO, said formed in 2002, the statutory office had been providing speedy and cost-free redressal of any person’s grievances arising out of corruption or maladministration of tax functionaries of the FBR.

He said the complaint filed was registered with a number followed by an investigation by the adviser and the departmental response with a decision to be taken within 45-90 days.

To promote good governance, he said, several own motion cases were initiated by the FTO in areas of bogus registrations, fake invoices, smuggled vehicles, illegal export of gold, and electronic auction.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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