ISLAMABAD: To check money laundering and Benami transactions, the government has finally allowed banks to access asset declarations of Civil Servants of BS-17 to BS-22 as a prior condition for the opening of bank accounts.
When contacted tax lawyer Waheed Shahzad Butt told Business Recorder that the new Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) rules obligate public office holders (Civil Servants BS-17 to 22) to declare details of assets owned by them and members of their families inside and outside Pakistan to the FBR, while it has also obligated the banks to provide these details twice a year, on Jan 31 and July 31.
Earlier, an application was filed under Article 19A of the Constitution, by Waheed Shahzad Butt, who wanted to know the quantum of wealth/ assets of tax officials in Pakistan and abroad on the date of joining of FBR and its status as on June 30, income declared for last five years and expenditures made in Pakistan, as well as, abroad.
‘Rules’ allow banks to seek asset details of civil servants
In its response, the FBR has declared that Article 19A provides right to information in matters of public importance only. The instant request regarding assets/ income/ expenditures, prima facie, is not a matter of public importance. Requested information enjoying confidentiality privileges under law cannot be divulged.
Waheed further stated that the FBR has refused to share information about the assets, income and expenditures (domestic and abroad) of tax officials working in the FBR, as these declarations enjoy confidentiality privilege and disclosure of assets of dependents will be in violation of law. Assets and income declared in the annual declaration is a reflection of income tax returns and wealth statement. Section 216(1) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 debars a public servant to disclose any particular that becomes part of annual return. Violation of Section 216 is a criminal offence for the public servant.
The sudden move by the present government is a due diligence measure under the Anti Money Laundering Act; however, the banks will keep the information confidential from the public and will not release it at any cost to the general public. It was an IMF structural conditionality that was agreed upon in the previous years, Waheed added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023
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