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LAHORE: The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) cannot entertain anonymous and pseudonymous complaints to conduct an investigation against the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) authorities, said sources in the Board.

It may be noted that the FBR authorities often raise objections over the inspection orders from the FTO on complaints of malpractices with corrupt motives in the discharge of duties, falling within the ambit of maladministration.

According to sources, the very existence of the office of FTO is for the purpose of complaint redressal mechanism for individual tax payers. It was not considered as an appellate authority sitting over the assessments, judgments and orders of the FBR officers.

They said the FTO is not a corruption watchdog or maximize of the tax revenue, as any such jurisdiction could have enabled the Ombudsman to enter into regime of other authorities having jurisdiction in this regard.

Also, the FTO would still retain suo motu powers without a complaint, but on the basis of an allegation, either based on newspaper reports which contain certain allegations against officers of the FBR as happened in the flying invoices case. Another example would be journalists’ reports, investigative reports, observations, references reports made by any other department or authority.

Therefore, while it is clear that the presence of a complaint is not mandatory, there must be something in the form of allegation to avoid the bar that the allegation cannot be made anonymously/ pseudonymously and should be brought to notice in black and white.

They said the jurisdiction of the FTO is two folded i.e. action against complaint and suo motu initiation of action, which mandates the FTO to take cognizance of such affairs as deem fit under the law.

The FTO is an institution to act as an inquisitive body which could be requested for by any aggrieved person, superior court, president, Senate or any of its motion to investigate in response to maladministration on the part of the revenue department as a whole or as an individual tax official.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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