ISLAMABAD: The investigation completed by Dr Asif Mahmood Jah Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has resulted in huge tax demand of Rs2.1287 billion withholding tax (WHT) raised by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) against the National Highway Authority (NHA) for past tax years 2021, 2022 & 2023.
Sources informed that instant recovery move is based on a public interest request forwarded by Waheed Shahzad Butt Advocate before FTO against discriminatory application of withholding taxes under section 236A of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 by this state owned unit.
The FTO office found that the charge of WHT on auction of “toll collection rights” at Toll Plazas needs a comprehensive withholding audit for two tax years.
After conducting WHT audit solely on the basis of order passed by FTO Dr Asif Jah in C. No. 1352/LHR/IT/2023, FBR has raised income tax demand against the state owned entity for the tax years 2021 at Rs.947,240,010/-, for 2022 at Rs. 615,736,833/- and for 2023 at Rs. 565,678,905/- in terms of Section 161/205 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.
FTO order stated: “Complaint has been filed against discriminatory application of withholding taxes by NHA & FBR functionaries, in violation of provisions of sections 236A, 160, 161, 163 & 205, thus depriving the public exchequer from its due, without lawful authority. Surprisingly, NHA is deducting WHT at the rate of 5% while Punjab Highways are deducting it at the rate of 10%. Timely deposit of WHT deduction into Federal Treasury is yet another black hole, which merits probe. NHA & Punjab Highways Department are withholding agents.
Withholding statements filed by the taxpayer on IRIS for Tax Years 2017 to 2020 have been examined which show that no collection of tax has been made by NHA @ 5% during these periods.
The FTO office has valid jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. There appears a short deduction and the relevant FBR authorities entrusted with the monitoring jurisdiction needs to take cognizance of these short deductions in terms of sections 161 and 205 involving significant revenue.
It is manifestly clear that discrimination exists on charge of tax deduction on auction of toll collection rights by the two authorities (NHA & PHD) and FBR authorities are not mindful of this discrimination, which on one hand is causing hardship to one set of contractors and on the other a significant loss of revenue is being caused to the national exchequer. The maladministration is established.
FBR is directed to ensure that the Chief Commissioners Inland Revenue concerned conducts a comprehensive withholding audit of the authority and accordingly proceed under the law for the recovery of any short paid amount, FTO order added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023