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LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to withdraw increase in the commercial property tax and granted a two-week extension in rebate already being given to traders.

The decision was taken during the maiden meeting of a five-member committee that was constituted earlier this week on Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar order to look into detail all tax-related issues of "small traders", who had been protesting against the PTI government for levying "unfair" taxes in its federal and provincial budgets for 2021-22.

The meeting was held at the Civil Secretariat on Tuesday under the chair of Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht. Provincial Minister for Excise and Taxation (E&T) Hafiz Mumtaz Ahmed, E&T Secretary Waqas Ali Mehmood, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Tariq Misbah and All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) leaders Waqar Ahmed Mian and Naeem Mir also participated in the meeting.

During the discussion, the LCCI president while assuring the finance minister of extending full support to the government in paying "reasonable taxes" highlighted that the business community was already hit hard by the Covid pandemic and the ratio of commercial property tax introduced in the Finance Act 2021-22 was "irrational" and beyond the paying capacity of traders.

He lamented that limited business hours and repeatedly imposed restrictions, especially two holidays in a week, by the government to contain the virus surge further worsened the situation. He said the date of property tax payment should be extended to October 30, 2021, as they were already facing high inflation due to sharp devaluation of the Pak rupee. He lamented that the rate of property tax in commercial areas on properties which fall under the category of "self-use" was significantly increased which should be taken back.

He added that many traders reported that they were served tax recovery notices which they paid in the past. He said that there should be an immediate intimation to the taxpayers in case any tax liability is due rather than keeping the case pending for years. He said the government should review its decision and continue charging the property tax at the previous ratio.

All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) Central Secretary General Naeem Mir regretted that the government had increased the commercial property tax from 10 percent to 300 percent per annum in its federal and provincial budgets for 2021-22 which was unacceptable. He said the ratio must be restored at the previous level.

Speaking on the occasion, the finance minister endorsed the review plea of the business community and said they had already taken several steps to end the role of "middle men" in collection of taxes from traders. He said the government was well-aware of the businessmen's issues in the wake of corona pandemic.

He added that he would take up the issues and recommendations of traders in the Resource Mobilization Committee meeting and a way forward would be developed afterwards to address their reservations.

Subsequently, the meeting while withdrawing the increase in the commercial property tax for two weeks decided that no additional surcharge will be levied on the taxpayers until they reach at a conclusion and granted extension in rebate already being given to them.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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