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EDITORIAL: About time the Islamabad High Court (IHC) gave honest taxpayers, swindled by the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) on flimsy pretexts, a measure of legal reprieve; finally declaring that “tax recovered illegally cannot be held up subject to processing of any refund application and (the) taxpayer cannot be obliged to then follow procedural requirements for seeking refund of the amount coercively/illegally recovered from them”.

This is the only logical, and legal, outcome of the FBR’s habit of arbitrarily deciding who has not paid enough taxes and then muscling its way into their bank accounts to debit whatever amounts it decides.

And then, when the courts ruled against such actions in the past, the tax collector made another habit of harassing its victims by making them bend over backwards to have their money – wrongly taken from them, in blatant violation of the law – repatriated to their accounts. So now there were two issues before the IHC, petitioned by the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) against FBR/LTO Islamabad, for illegally recovering funds from its bank accounts “without following due process of law”.

One, the matter of amounts illegally recovered by LTO. And two, the “contemptuous manner in which the injunctive order has been treated by LTO and continues to be breached by refusal of FBR/LTO to make whole the taxpayer in relation to amounts illegally recovered”.

The first question that arises, quite naturally, is why this issue has been allowed to linger for so long even though the chaos it caused, and continues to cause, is known to everybody. And that brings us to the next obvious question. Is the latest court order going to positively discourage the FBR from trying to wriggle around it as well? IESCO’s money remains with FBR, which allegedly seeks to “adjust it against a subsequent tax demand that has been generated against the petitioner”. Now, if the tax authority does not respect the court’s 15-day deadline, and tosses the issue around under different tax heads, how much longer will it continue doing rounds at the honourable courts as consumers suffer?

This business, like so many other things, further stresses the need for FBR reforms. Surely, now that the country is on the very brink and tax revenue is going to be central to staying on the right side of the IMF as its bailouts keep default away, those reforms must now begin. It also shows that, as things stand, even the legal process takes forever to sort FBR out when it oversteps the line. Therefore, the reforms process is going to be long and painful.

The government knew what it was getting into when it put everything into the tug of war that followed the election. The time has now come for it to show that it really understood the enormity of the challenge. And there’s no better litmus test of its agenda than the speed with which it gets the ball rolling on the most desperately needed reforms; like FBR reforms.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Apr 05, 2024 02:20pm
It's because the ....... played a trick with us, he made us believe that there was only one of him.
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Rukhsana Sikandar Apr 06, 2024 10:21pm
Chairman FBR and concerned officers of FBR should be imposed fine equal to money illegally minted by FBR and if same crime committed again, they should be sent behind bars.
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Aamir Apr 07, 2024 12:44pm
And then they complain no one invests in Pakistan. Who would do so with such a tax collection institute.
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