Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar Friday said that the government will incorporate a few amendments in the Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 which is expected to be passed by the National Assembly next week. Hammad Azhar launched the fifth consecutive Taxpayers' Directory 2017 for Parliamentarians and All Taxpayers here on Friday at the FBR Headquarters. Chairman FBR Jahanzeb Khan and Member FBR IT Mehmood Aslam Lillah accompanied the minister for revenue.
It has been the fifth consecutive year that the Tax Directory for the Parliamentarians and the Tax Payers is published by FBR, said the FBR chairman addressing the gathering of the income tax officers and members of the media. Increasing the number of tax payers and improving on the Tax to GDP ratio had been the top most priority of the current government as already affirmed by the Prime Minister and the minister of state, added the chairman.
There had been 34% increase in the number of tax filers because of the steps taken by FBR, said the chairman. He further said that increase in investment and facilitation and fair treatment of taxpayers are the guiding principles of the incumbent government's tax policy.
On the conclusion of the launching ceremony, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar said that a few technical amendments and corrections have been proposed in the Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019. The reform package with slight adjustments would get approval from the Parliament next week.
He said that the issue of the Sin Tax/Health Tax has been resolved in the last federal cabinet meeting. The sin tax would not be imposed on cigarettes and beverages as it would result in considerable increase in illicit trade and counterfeit productions in these two sectors.
To a query on imposition of a 200 per cent Regulatory Duty (RD) on non-essential Indian imports, he said, "Yes we're thoroughly examining the issue and we will take the decision after due consideration."
To a question, he said that the FBR has recovered an amount of Rs 500 million from sugar mills.
"We will have to abandon traditional methods and go after the powerful and influential to bring them into tax net to broaden the narrowed tax base. There is political will at the top and it will be part of our strategy to ensure financial disclosure," Azhar said.
He said that Pakistan would have to slash down its twin deficits - the budget deficit and current account deficit - so that the need of going back to International Monetary Fund (IMF) did not arise again after five years. He compared that the country's growth remained the lowest in last 10 years and debt rose up sharply since 1971. The high net worth individuals would be tracked to bring them into the tax net, he said and added that the government proposed powers of provisional assessment for owners of offshore assets and soon after getting approval from the Parliament, the FBR would move against them. He said the government sought data from ten more jurisdictions including Swiss authorities to scrutinise whether they declared banking and other assets and in case of non-compliance, the law of the land would move against them.
While appreciating improvements on external front of the economy, he said that the budget deficit was still on higher side because the government had to pay Rs 1,700 to Rs 1,900 billion as debt servicing payments during the current fiscal year. He blamed the last government for undertaking wrong policies and piling up such liabilities that are required to be paid off by the incumbent regime.
Hammad Azhar in his address to the participants of the ceremony said that the object of launching the Tax Directory is to introduce financial transparency and sharing information with the public on how much the public representatives, who have been availing the resources of the country on behalf of the people, have been paying individually as taxes to the exchequer.
The minister also emphasised the importance of technological interventions in ascertaining the tax liabilities of the individuals thereby minimising the element of human intervention and complaints against coercion. He said that there are challenges like increase in trade deficit and a large budget deficit that have accumulated over the years "but we are taking measures to overcome them." He said that FBR had taken initiatives like ascertaining liabilities of the high net worth individuals and getting details of the offshore assets of the Pakistanis and that will surely not only help in achieving tax targets but also to increase revenue.
The minister of state also said, "It will be our policy from now onwards to collect taxes from wealthy and mighty first and treat everyone according to the law so that the belief in our system is restored in the hearts of the people." He said that it is the vision of the government to make this country prosperous by providing business community with a competitive business environment and for this purpose the government has offered a trade facilitation package which is in the Parliament for approval. "We hope that the future is bright for our country and FBR will play its rightful role in this drive towards prosperity," he remarked.
According to the message of Finance Minister Asad Umer given in the Tax Directory, every country levies taxes to raise revenues which are essential for the running of affairs of a state and provision of public services. Development of a progressive taxation system is an essential tool to reduce social inequalities in a society and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. The countries exhibiting due diligence in collection of taxes from the affluent segments of society through progressive taxation and expending them judiciously for the welfare of the poor are rated high on transparency and good governance index.
Asad Umer also said efficient, fair and sustainable tax systems are critical for institution building and promoting democracy and improved economic governance. The need for transparency and accountability in a vibrant democracy imposes extra responsibility on public representatives for disclosure of their assets and the sources of their income. With these aims and objectives, Federal Board of Revenue published its first Tax Directory of Parliamentarians in tax year 2013. However, this time, in line with the incumbent government's reform agenda, Tax Directory embodies the policy of transparency and accountability through access to information. The publication of the Parliamentarians' Tax Directory is an integral step towards ensuring transparency and informing voters about the taxpaying status of their elected representatives.
Tax Directory of the Parliamentarians for the Tax Year 2017 contains tax details of members of the Senate of Pakistan and Members of the national as well as provincial assemblies. "I would like to appreciate the efforts of the Federal Board of Revenue for compiling and publishing this tax directory," Umer added.