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LAHORE: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has copied the prize scheme of the Punjab government to allure taxpayers by imposing a one-rupee service charge on every invoice generated through Tier-1 retailers to raise money to finance a prize to be awarded through a lottery, said sources in the provincial revenue authority.

According to the sources, requesting not to be named, the Punjab government had for the first time introduced an innovative tax collection system whereby the ownership was transferred to the public in matters of tax collection in the year 2015-16. They said the Restaurant Invoice Monitoring System (RIMS) was in fact the precursor of the digitalization drive to which FBR at present is looking for.

However, said the sources, instead of giving a good boost to this huge step this is inviting ire from the general public as the FBR has introduced one rupee per invoice surcharge on Tier 1 e-invoicing scheme. The FBR will only be able to raise few thousand rupees but in response is likely to invite an unnecessary criticism, they apprehended, adding if they need money to fund the prize or the lottery scheme they should do it through their own resources like the Punjab government did in the past.

The sources from the Punjab tax administration said the government of Punjab has also been a torch bearer of digitalization and innovation in revenue collection through their out of the box projects like RIMS, e-Courts, e-Invoicing Management and pre-populated returns. Their award system of computer draws of RIMS was a very robust scheme which won laurels and was acclaimed not only nationally but internationally as well, they said, and added that now it's the FBR which is taking lead mostly through some already tested ideas from the Punjab government.

A few years back, they said, the Punjab government had also introduced a marvellous idea of rewarding the users of Credit and Debit Cards. This was a very bold step towards the documentation of the economy and ultimately digitalization of the whole tax system.

It may be noted that the post-COVID tax scenario has posed various challenges to the revenue collection authorities across the globe. The present tax landscape across the globe has been facing with new digitalization challenges. Remote working is going to stay for a long period of time that's why the revenue organizations across the borders are remodelling themselves into smart organizations. Tax collection can easily be made through innovative tools.

Sources from the Punjab tax administration has pointed out that almost all the global tax jurisdictions have a "Charter of Rights" for the tax payers except in Pakistan. Until the tax payer is not honoured, it is very unlikely that any so called innovative scheme is going to succeed. The command of the future tax system should be bestowed with its rightful owner and not in the hands of a few policy makers who lack wisdom or even courage to experiment, they stressed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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