Tax contribution: Show me the money
Taxation should be considered a civic duty rather than a burden - there should be no honour in not paying.
Taxation forms the backbone of state finances.
The military, as an arm of the state, relies on state finances for its budgetary requirements.
As I am often reminded, the Army is in a state of war, so one should support it without any criticism.
However, any commentary that comes through the media or official sources, everyone agrees that the military is underfunded.
A political hot potato
While we are in a state of war, the RGST has become a political hot potato. The opposition has jumped on the anti-RGST bandwagon, while other parties such as the TI and JI prefer the, “taxes imposed under foreign diktat” line of argument.
Whether the RGST is required or not, is a debate for another article. Why those patriotic Pakistanis that should be paying taxes under current tax laws and are not doing so, thus forcing the imposition of the RGST on the already overtaxed, whilst the country is in a state of war is shameful.
Individuals use their influence, power and position to influence tax policy, lobby for exemptions or avoid taxation all together. Others cite corruption and the inability of the state to offer state services, as a reason not to fulfill their legal tax contributions.
These arguments and many others help explain our general apathy towards taxation. However, it is not only taxation where avoidance is common. Money sent home by overseas Pakistani’s often bypasses official channels, making its way through the unofficial Hundi or Hawala networks. Valuable foreign exchange never enters official channels, which could help bolster the nation’s foreign exchange reserves and make us less venerable to and reliant on foreign financing.
All talk no action
Whether the state, and her administration are corrupt or not, shapes our perception and the relationship between peoples wallets and formal channels of finance. Then again, no one likes paying taxes, so whether people would willfully pay taxes even if the state were squeaky clean is also questionable.
The irony is that some amongst us are more than willing to spend a lot of money portraying ourselves as patriotic, though will not part with an equal sum in the form of a voluntary tax contribution. If you happen to be a real estate developer, industrialist or politician, you will get away with paying little or no taxes, however, you will display your patriotism by putting up some billboards leading up to 14th August or 6th September (you know who I am referring to here).
Given that, the Minister of State for Defence Arbab Muhammad Zahir and ex-Defence Production Minster Abdul Qayyum Jatoi are amongst non-income tax filers suggests an extremely casual analysis of the affairs of the defence departments by her Ministers, given that the nation is in a state of war.
Agriculturalists that are exempt from taxes, the industrialists who are lobbying for exemptions, and the self-employed who just do not bother to file tax return, are at the forefront of any sabre rattling opportunity, may it be on the streets or as “experts” on television talk shows.
Put your money where your mouth is
Our nation’s elite has succeeded in reducing patriotism to flag waving, empty slogans and repeating the impotent statement that “all resources required for the nation’s defence will be provided”.
Even if most people disagree with most of my opinions, I am sure we all want a well-equipped, well-trained and adequately resourced military or police, FC, levies, rangers etc for that matter. Our economy and military are dangerously dependent on external financing and no amount of sabre rattling is going to alter that reality.
The country is in a state of war, yet the state’s ability to fight the same war and pay the wages of, equip and train the same soldiers who I am constantly reminded, are sacrificing themselves on a daily basis, depends on foreign assistance.
The least we can do is to articulate a counter narrative that challenges the current “I don’t pay taxes because I have contacts” or “why should I pay taxes, the government does not do anything”. Taxation should be considered a civic duty rather than a burden. There should be no honour in and social acceptability of getting away with not paying ones liabilities.
The fact that some people evade taxes and shape taxation policy to suit their interests is plainly illegal and immoral, and should be treated as such.
Similarly, if you are an overseas Pakistani then you should shun unofficial channels of remittances in favour of legal ones.
Individuals who demand unquestioned nationalism and admiration of the military, are at times the same people who are curiously silent when it comes to building pressure on those individuals who contribute nothing to the state, and by extension the military. That too during a period when Pakistani citizens are being killed either in combat or in going about their daily lives.