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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) received record 3,500 complaints of the aggrieved taxpayers against the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and disposed of 2,900 complaints during 2021.

Addressing a press conference at the FTO office on Tuesday, Majid Qureshi, senior advisor for media and income tax and advisor Dr Arsalan Subuctageen informed that the number of complaints filed against the FBR has been doubled in 2021 as compared to complaints received in 2020.

Qureshi said that the significant increase in the number of complaints, indicates the enhanced trust of the taxpayers in the FTO office for speedy redressal. In a majority of cases, due relief was provided to the taxpayers to supplement the government’s tax-friendly initiative.

Their genuine problems were addressed and all available resources have been utilised to mitigate their sufferings due to red tape. Moreover, strict disciplinary action was recommended against the inefficient, delinquent, and corrupt tax officers/officials of the FBR.

Dr Subuctageen informed that the office of the FTO strives hard to provide relief to the public by carrying out independent investigations/own motions. A recent example is the case of detection of issuance of an illegal refund amounting to Rs123.4 million to a foreign company.

The FTO proposed strict disciplinary/criminal action against senior officers of FBR involved in the scam. Furthermore, in the year 2021, 3,500 complaints were registered and out of them 2,900 complaints were decided.

Qureshi shared that the FBR’s acceptance response to the FTO’s recommendations was 88 percent. Taxpayers were provided relief in most of the FTO’s decisions. The FTO declared the tax deduction from daily wages and withholding from the salaries of temporary employees illegal and unlawful. This decision was widely appreciated by the Accountant General of Pakistan and it was also implemented. This one decision has benefited thousands of poor employees.

Similarly, the excessive rate of sales tax on booking and delivery of vehicles was declared illegal and it was ordered that the sales tax collected in excess of 12 percent should be refunded to the consumers.

This one decision will benefit 9,000 customers who buy such vehicles and will get a refund of Rs600 million. It is hoped that similar decisions in future will also be beneficial to the taxpayers. The informal resolution of dispute under Section 33 of the FTO ordinance has proven to be an effective tool in efficient grievance redressal.

For taxpayers’ facilitation, the FTO office has recently taken many initiatives that include the establishment of facilitation desks at the airports and land border stations, an effective and countrywide awareness and outreach campaign, more interaction with trade bodies, launching of FTO YouTube Channel, new mobile application for ensuring quick and cost-free access of taxpayers to FTO and starting a four digit (9386) SMS service for taxpayers to know about the progress of their complaints at this forum. The FTO office has also been instrumental in identifying the potential areas to the FBR for systemic reforms.

The main task of this organization is to improve the tax system and to send suggestions/recommendations to the FBR for immediate resolution of taxpayers’ problems. The same will increase their confidence in tax system and promote tax culture in the country. I, once again, invite all of you to lodge tax-related complaints at the FTO office with full confidence, Dr Subuctageen added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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