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ISLAMABAD: Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Dr Asif Mehmood Jah took up over 75 suo motu cases pertaining to maladministration in the tax machinery in the last sixth months, which is a record, according to officials.

Senior officials disclosed details about the performance of the ombudsman at the FTO’s office on Wednesday.

According to them, about 3,000 complaints were received, out of which 2,650 were redressed. The time for redressal of complaints has been reduced from 68 days to 40 days, they said.

The FTO office is not only handling taxpayers’ complaints but is also checking maladministration in tax matters through suo motu cases and inspections, they said.

There was a wide range of systemic issues that were addressed through the suo motu cases. For instance, the intervention of the FTO office resulted in the creation of huge tax demand and recovery of over Rs 660 million in six mega-cases of international non-governmental organisations operating in Pakistan.

In the case about the sugar sector, the FTO ordered that unregistered persons were easily identifiable because sugar mills were required to maintain records of supplies made during the tax period and issue tax invoices indicating names, addresses, description, quantity, values of goods, and CNIC or NTN of persons to whom the supplies were made under the Sales Tax Act of 1990.

Dr Jah also took notice of the absence of a facility in the WeBoc system to verify mismatched particulars of import documents with regard to particulars of the customs-cleared vehicles.

According to the data provided, the FTO received record 3,500 complaints filed by aggrieved taxpayers against the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and disposed of 2,900 complaints during 2021. The number of complaints filed against the FBR doubled in 2021 as compared to those received in 2020.

The objective of the FTO office 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 the taxpayers.

The FTO is bound to dispose of a complaint within 60 days of its filing. “Sometimes, I reach a 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,” said Dr Jah.

He said there is no fee for filing a complaint which can be filed through a printed form or through the mobile app of the FTO office. Status of the pending complaints could be checked by dialing 9386.

Cost-free dispensation of justice is the sole objective of his office, Dr Jah emphasised.

He said the FTO enjoys the status of a Supreme Court judge and he can award six months’ punishment under the contempt of court law. “Only the president of Pakistan can hear an appeal against my decision.”

According to him, he recently decided that the FBR should not deduct tax on the income of daily wagers and contract employees whose wages fall below the minimum threshold of taxable income. Similarly, he ordered that the tax difference in booking and delivery of cars be returned to around 10,000 buyers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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