LAHORE: Field formations of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) cannot deny the benefit of an exemption if the taxpayer is entitled to it in plain terms of notification, said sources from among tax practitioners.

They said tax authorities at the level of field formations were involved in issuing arbitrary circulars to defeat the benefit of exemptions set out in the FBR notifications for taxpayers.

They have pointed out one such glaring example of a field formation of Pakistan Customs where one Assistant Collector of Model Collectorate Customs (MCC) Appraisement West had denied as well as circumvented the benefit to the importers of Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) out of a Board’s Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO), offering exemption of customs duty, sales tax and withholding tax.

The said the Assistant Collector had issued a departmental circular, restricting the exemption to only those vehicles with larger batteries and motor to drive a vehicle.

It was followed by the issuance of show cause notices to the importers one after another to qualify their imports on the touchstone of the circular, which had denied the blanket exemption to them for the import of HEVs.

Also, the subordinate staff initiated the proceedings for the recovery of taxes and duties, along with the imposition of penalties on importers and clearing agents. When challenged, the appellate authority held that the controversial circular did not conflict with the original SRO and termed it clarificatory.

The whole issue took five years before it was settled down once and for all when the apex court declared that anything being inferred extraneously or beyond the scope or tenor of the SRO was not permissible under any rule of interpretation.

Meanwhile, many importers and their clearing agents rained in a fix. At the same time, the fate of the revenue kept hanging in the balance due to the litigating spree.

Leading tax practitioners like Dr Ikram Ul Haq, Shahid Baig, Hussain Sherazi and Shahid Pervaiz Jami further lamented that the HEVs technology, besides being fuel efficient, is also an alternate solution to cautiously concentrate on the issue of global warming, as the proper and futuristic use of this technology will not only improve and recuperate the atmosphere and the ecosystem but also alleviate destructive facets of climate change.

They have pointed out that the exemption on the port of HEVs was logically issued to protect against climate change and minimize the adverse impact in the future.

They added that it is also necessary and a pressing priority to promote and encourage HEVs more and more rather than applying irrational interpretations resulting in unwarranted restrictions on the exemption already in field.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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