KARACHI: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail has said that the government is going to announce an amnesty scheme for the business community, a move meant to appease stakeholders.
The scheme would incentivise people to bring their money from abroad, said Ismail, while speaking at the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) office.
When Indonesia implemented an amnesty scheme in July 2016 to encourage citizens to bring their undeclared offshore assets, many in Pakistan’s business circles said that the government should also roll out such a scheme here. The PML-N government has hinted in the past that it would introduce such a scheme. Plans, however, were never finalised.
The most recent demand in favour of an amnesty scheme came from the apex business body, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), in December 2017.
“The government should provide a one-time amnesty scheme to those who took their money out of Pakistan due to fear of unfavourable economic conditions and government policies,” former FPCCI president Zubair Tufail commented during Imran Khan’s visit to the FPCCI head office in December 2017.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been opposing an amnesty scheme, saying that all past schemes failed to achieve desired results.
History of such schemes
Pakistan has rolled out eight amnesty schemes so far out of which at least three have been announced by the PML-N in its current tenure.
Experts say the country needs to overhaul the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to increase taxes on a sustainable basis. In the absence of an efficient tax collection infrastructure, successive governments have been relying on amnesty schemes to boost tax collection but fail miserably due to ad hoc measures.
Soon after coming to power, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif introduced an amnesty scheme for industrialists in 2013. However, PML-N vehemently opposed a similar amnesty scheme when the previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government offered it.
Later, in early 2016, the PML-N government introduced a tax amnesty scheme for informal retail businesses. However, this scheme miserably failed to achieve targets, and therefore it was also shelved within a few months.
In mid-2016, the PML-N government introduced one amnesty scheme for the real estate sector. Nevertheless, the fate of this scheme was also similar to previous such schemes as the government failed to increase tax collection.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2018.