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ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has expressed dismay over the treatment of an 82 years old tax payer by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and directed its Chairman to look into the entire system of irresponsibility and corruption and take punitive action against the entire chain of decision makers involved in the case.

He took exception to the decision of FBR against a senior citizen that refused him to refund a paltry sum of Rs 2,333 on frivolous grounds and dragged him into unnecessary litigation spanning over a year. Apologizing to the senior citizen Abdul Hamid Khan, the President said that our heads should hang in shame for the inconvenience caused by FBR to the senior citizen.

Abdul Hamid Khan (the complainant), a senior citizen of 82 years of age, had claimed a refund of Rs 2,333 on his income tax return for the year 2020 and submitted requisite documents of advance tax deduction of the PTCL and cell phone company bills on 19.10.2020.

The complainant e-filed refund application on 19th October- 2020; followed by representation to FBR Chairman on 24th December- 2020. The Unit officer of FBR rejected his refund claim, on 29.01.2021, on the grounds that the applicant had failed to furnish the original certificates required for authentication. The complainant then took up the matter with the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) to seek redressal of his complaint.

The FTO investigated the matter and ordered FBR on 02.06.2021 to revisit the impugned order, dated 19.01.2021, and pass a fresh order, under section 170(4) of the ordinance, after providing the complainant the opportunity for hearing as per law.

It further ordered to identify and initiate disciplinary proceedings against the official who passed the impugned order in derogation of the law and procedures and dragged the ageing taxpayer into unnecessary litigation as well as report compliance within 45 days. Consequently, FBR filed a representation with the President against the original order of FTO on 24.06.2021.

President Dr Arif Alvi rejected the representation of FBR. He said that the complainant had admittedly furnished copies of advance tax as per certificates collected by telephone authorities.

In case the Unit Officer was not satisfied with the copies of certificates, he could have not only got the same verified from the PTCL and Cell Phone Company but verification was also possible through online system. He observed that it was the responsibility of the duty officer to get the deduction of tax verified from the deducting authorities irrespective of certificates being original or copies/system generated, if the same were not reflecting in the system for one or the other reason.

The President termed the failure of the officer to verify the bills from PTCL and the cell phone company through the online system as shirking from responsibility and an act of maladministration. He upheld that the act of the officer was a mockery and travesty of law, procedure and instructions of FBR. It appeared that unlawful treatment was meted out in the instant case with a view to irritate and humiliate the ageing pensioner.

While rejecting the representation of FBR, the President said that this must be the most pitiful and shameful use of bureaucratic authority and regretted that the FBR official had wasted the time of his department, the Tax Mohtasib and the President of Pakistan over a paltry sum of Rs 2,333 and the matter had lingered for over a year.

He also deplored that no one in the long chain of bureaucrats in FBR deliberated over the issue to take note of the unfairness, pettiness and superfluousness of the matter.

The President stated that our heads should hang in shame, adding that he would like to apologize to the senior citizen, Abdul Hamid Khan, for the inconvenience caused to him by FBR.

“Punitive action must be taken along the entire line of decision-makers in this case and Chairman FBR should ensure that those responsible, in particular, and others, in general, go through courses to teach those priorities and courtesies he directed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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