ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker suggested on Tuesday to amend the Benami transactions prohibition bill, calling for the inclusion of information about foreign properties owned by Pakistanis through offshore companies.
The proposal was submitted by Asad Umar, a PTI MNA from NA-48, Islamabad, in a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance that was called to discuss the government-sponsored bill.
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Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Mohammad Nisar did not answer any of the questions raised by PTI and Pakistan Peoples Party lawmakers.
The lawmakers asked if the FBR was doing anything to probe 200 people who had been accused of holding assets in foreign countries through offshore companies.
His only answer to their queries was that the FBR would give a detailed briefing in the next meeting of the committee.
However, he said that in the next budget, the FBR planned to bring certain amendments in the law to plug loopholes that could be exploited to transfer money.
The standing committee also gave a one-week deadline to the State Bank of Pakistan to provide information about individuals and companies who had invested abroad with the permission of central bank.
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Chairman of the committee Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh warned that if the central bank did not provide the information within the specified time, the committee might opt to use its judicial powers.
The standing committee did not discuss the Benami bill in detail and kept the matter pending till the next meeting.
The benami transactions are defined as an arrangement where a person on behalf of another person, who has paid for it, holds a property. It also includes transactions made under fictitious names.
The bill prohibits all persons from entering into benami transactions.
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Once enacted, the government will have the authority to confiscate benami properties and violators could face imprisonment terms of up to seven years, said Rehmatullah Wazir, the FBR’s Member, Inland Revenue Policy.
He said that tax authorities were perturbed by the problem and experience suggested that such transactions were often used for evading taxes. Wazir said that a similar law was in operation in India for almost two decades.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2016.