* FBR chief warns chronic non-taxpayers to pay their due tax by 31st
By Sajid Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: The government is considering to launch a new scheme for overseas Pakistanis to encourage them to invest in Pakistan.
Federal Board of Revenue Chairman (FBR) Sohail Ahmed stated this while addressing the business community at the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday.
Those overseas Pakistanis, who are not paying any tax abroad and have not performed tax obligation in Pakistan, would be allowed to benefit from this scheme and hoped that this would facilitate investment in Pakistan.
The FBR chairman also warned the chronic non-taxpayers to come and clean up till December 31, 2009, otherwise, they would face the music as the government is quite serious in making the non-tax filers or short tax filers to pay their due share in the national kitty.
He said FBR would salute those who come clean by the given date.
The FBR chairman, later, while talking to reporters said that FBR intends to collect Rs 140 billion revenues during the month of December against the initial target of Rs 125 billion. He further informed that FBR has so far collected Rs 50 billion and hoped that the collection would improve further by December 31, 2009. He said businessmen are partners of FBR in improving the country’s revenue and assured them that persuasion, instead of harassment, will be the approach of FBR to woo people towards the tax net.
He said that no country would survive for long and provide better facilities to its people without generating sufficient tax revenue from internal resources. Therefore, people should realise their responsibility and come forward to pay due tax so that the government could improve the quality of life of the poor people.
Ahmed clarified that tax reforms like creation of Inland Revenue Service, enforcement, audit and Value-Added Tax have not been placed upon the country by the International Monetary Fund or any other external pressure, rather these measures are being taken to broaden the tax base, improve fiscal deficit and bring down inflation paving way for lower interest rate to stimulate the business activities in the country.
Speaking about VAT, FBR chairman said that one federal law and four provincial laws will be made for VAT and added that federation will impose VAT on goods while provinces will levy VAT on services. He said the Finance Ministry would decide the VAT distribution formula between federation and provinces. He said initial draft of VAT is almost ready while final law will be made after getting thorough input from all stakeholders, including the business community.
He said VAT is not a new thing for our country as it is already enforced in about 130 countries, which are enjoying tax-to-gross domestic product ratio of 15 percent to 23 percent. He hoped that with the imposition of VAT in Pakistan, country’s tax-to-GDP ratio would be improved to 12 percent to 15 percent within 3-5 years from the current ratio of just 9 percent, which is abysmally low when compared to international standards.
Speaking on the occasion, ICCI President Zahid Maqbool said that ICCI encourages businessmen to pay tax by making it mandatory for them to obtain National Tax Number before applying for the chamber’s membership. He said ICCI has formed different sub-committees to guide businessmen on tax matters. These committees educate members on tax laws compliance by holding seminars and workshops.
He suggested that the FBR should offer amnesty to those who voluntarily come into the tax net and they should be exempted from audit of previous years. He stressed the need for creating an environment of trust between taxpayers and tax machinery by eliminating the element of harassment.
He also emphasised for close coordination of Large Taxpayers Unit and Regional Taxpayers Office with ICCI for removing irritants and launching joint efforts to improve tax revenue. Maqbool said before implementing VAT, FBR should launch proper awareness campaign about this tax through chambers and associations so that taxpayers could fully understand all aspects of VAT. He said sometimes audit cases of past years are reopened which creates annoyance in business circles and demanded abolition of this practice.