ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has assured the business community of taking up their budgetary proposals with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for incorporating into the federal budget for the next fiscal year.
This assurance was held out by the FBR Member Inland Revenue (Policy), Afaq Ahmed Qureshi, during a meeting of the Standing Committee Finance presided over by Saleem Mandviwala, on Tuesday, wherein, the business community was invited to suggest proposals for the upcoming budget for the fiscal year 2023-24.
Qureshi said that these proposals by different chambers were also submitted to the FBR and some of the proposals are very good. “We will take these proposals to the finance minister,” he added.
Qureshi apprised that the recommendations of all stakeholders have been received and FBR has initiated deliberations on the said proposals and will inform the standing committee accordingly.
About the mechanism of increase or decrease in custom duty and regulatory duty, the FBR Member (Customs) Policy stated that any decision to this effect is taken by the National Tariff Commission.
The Senate Committee deliberated on the various pre-budget proposals put forward by different stakeholders.
The chairman of the committee said that the committee would also consult either before the presentation of the budget or before its approval with respect to these proposals.
The steel sector representative expressed fear that there are strong speculations about the extension in exemption of duties and taxes to the industrial units operating in the erstwhile tribal areas beyond June 30, 2023, and proposed that this should not be extended.
The chairman of the committee said that it is going to expire on June 30, 2023, and the committee would not allow its extension. The beverage industry has proposed a reduction in federal excise duty (FED) from 20 percent to 16 percent, arguing that their businesses have suffered losses after an increase in the FED with the price of drinks surging.
Discussing the pre-budget proposals, representatives of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries stated that three percent value added tax which is being charged on raw materials at the import stage is unjustifiable and it should be revisited.
They also apprised that bulk of buyers in the country is unregistered and the provision of CNIC on supplies to unregistered persons has become a major hurdle in business transactions. Above all, three percent further tax is being imposed on the registered supplier on the provision of buyer CNIC, they added. They suggested that three percent further tax on the registered sellers is not based on rationale and it should be revoked.
Earlier, Pakistan Business Council Chief Executive Officer Ehsan Malik said that the tax burden in Pakistan is not fairly distributed and consequently, the country lags behind other regional countries such as Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh in tax revenue.
Malik apprised that 100 of the most prominent business of the country are generating 40 percent export, in addition to its 20 percent share in GDP and approximately 56 percent tax have been collected from it. He suggested that an equitable tax regime should be initiated, besides providing ease of doing business and reducing the manufacturing cost.
Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries, unanimously, underscored the need of broadening the tax base of the country and demanded that super tax ranging from one to 10 percent on different affluent individuals and companies should be withdrawn. They also highlighted the need of revisiting the Pakistan-Afghanistan transit.
Malik added that low tax-to-GDP ratio is a major problem of the country and the country would continue to be dependable as long as the tax-to-GDP ratio is not increased.
He added that a restriction on imports is causing shortages and problems for the industry. He added that consequently, the industry is facing a decline in productivity, and sacking employees. He added that exports are decreasing, investment is not happening and risk of bankruptcy is looming high.
He said that even remittances are being sent through informal channels and there are rumours that tax may be imposed on company’s reserves. We are already paying tax on the capital, Malik said, adding that there are talks of imposing a fixed tax on exporters.
At present, exports are already low, and such a tax will cause more problems, he said, adding that there are rumours to implement Supertax forever.
There are 1.7 million credit card holders across the country, including non-filers, added Senator Salim Mandviwala.
The Pakistan Business Council opposed double taxation and proposed that Supertax should be completely abolished and tax on the services sector should be three percent.
The Lahore Chamber of Commerce has proposed that the government can take money from the business community to increase foreign exchange reserves instead of taking it from foreign countries.
President Lahore Chamber of Commerce said that they were not against the withholding tax but its rate should be reduced.
Karachi Chamber of Commerce deplored the restriction of LCs and pointed out that LCs of only those people are being opened by the banks, who have relations with them.
Senator Dilawar said that there was no point in inviting the business community to the meeting if the finance minister does not turn up. He added that the finance minister must spare time to listen to the business community. The government should ask the stakeholders how the forthcoming budget should be made for the country’s benefit.
He said how one can afford to do business at 26 percent interest rate. Senator Mohsin Aziz said that first, the Finance Ministry should clarify whether the IMF is on board or not. Senator Sherry Rehman said that we have to change social attitudes and close the markets quickly. She added around 11 percent of the GDP has been lost due to climate change in the country. It is also important to control the damage caused by climate change, she added.
Moreover, Dr Khurram Tariq, president Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries, maintained that the small business, having a turnover of around 150 million rupees should be exempted from computerised balloting audit for sales tax, and an audit of the said businesses should be completed within six months instead of preceding for five years.
He apprised that the measures will help the small business to flourish and eventually, it will enhance their productive contributions.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023