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LAHORE: Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Dr Muhammad Asif Jah has disposed of 2,500 complaints in nine months of his tenure. After taking charge as FTO on 22nd September 2021, my office had received 2,900 complaints out of which 2,500 have been disposed of, he said in an exclusive interview with Business Recorder.

Because of my career in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), he said, “I am well known to every department and officer of the Board, therefore, 30 percent tax problems are solved through a simply phone call. I am making efforts to promote the office of FTO as a public relief-oriented organisation.”

According to him, the office of FTO had its presence in seven cities when he took over last year. It has been expanded to another four small cities, including Sargodha, Sialkot, Sukkur and Abbotabad to provide justice to taxpayers at their doorstep, he said. Besides, he said, he has appointed honourary advisors after selecting them from various chambers of commerce and industry to remove hesitation of taxpayers in approaching the office of FTO.

It may be noted the previous Pakistan Tehreek-s-Insaf (PTI) government had appointed him as FTO after his premature retirement as Chief Collector Customs from the FBR. He is serving the institution over the last nine months and worked hard to activate it in the larger interest of taxpayer.

Dr Jah said the objective of FTO was to resolve tax matters of taxpayers but the appointment of non-tax Ombudsmen for the past 22 years, this office had become irrelevant to taxpayers. “Therefore, I was chosen to serve the office because of my tax background,” he said.

He said the FTO is bound to dispose of a complaint within 60 days of its filing. “Sometimes, I reach conclusion within one hour of the filing of a complaint. Only a telephone call to the relevant office is sufficient to resolve the issue in hand,” he said, adding that it was not the situation earlier and the complainants were supposed to wait for long.

He said there is no fee against filing of complaint and a complainant can file his complaint in written form or through mobile app of the FTO office. Status of the pending complaints could be checked though dialing 9386. A cost free justice is the sole objective of the office of FTO, he emphasised.

He said the FTO has a status of Supreme Court judge and he can award six months punishment under contempt of court law. Only president of Pakistan can hear appeal against my decision. According to him, he has decided in recent past that the FBR should not deduct tax on the income of daily wagers and contract employees, falling below the minimum threshold of taxable income. Similarly, he had ordered return of tax difference in booking and delivery of Suzuki cars to their purchasers. As many as 10,000 customers of Suzuki Motors are benefited from this decision, he added.

When asked about the nature of complaints received by his office, he said, most of the taxpayers turn up with a complaint of delay in payment of due refunds by the FBR. He said his office has also detected illegal refunds payments and recommended punishments to the concerned FBR staff.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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