ISLAMABAD: The top ten parliamentarians in terms of their tax contributions paid Rs322 million in taxes, equal to 60% of total taxes paid by all members of the parliament in tax year 2017, raising questions whether lawmakers were fulfilling their moral and legal responsibility.
Former member of National Assembly (MNA) Jahangir Khan Tareen paid Rs97.3 million in income tax, which was the highest paid by any national lawmaker in 2017, according to a tax directory for the year released by the government on Friday.
Tareen’s tax contribution was equal to 18.2 per cent of the total taxes paid by 423 members of parliament. His numbers also showed an 81 per cent increase in his tax contribution from the previous year, when he was also the country’s highest tax contributor.
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Excluding these ten members, the average tax contributions by the remaining 413 members of the National Assembly and the Senate paid Rs212 million in taxes – an average of Rs513,000 per parliamentarian.
Such a poor tax contribution does not commensurate with the life styles of these worthy members of the Parliament, a fact that was acknowledged by Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday.
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By including the tax contributions of top ten parliamentarians, the average per parliamentarian tax contribution would jump to Rs1.26 million, which does not present realistic picture.
Crests and troughs
The tax contributions by former premier Nawaz Sharif and incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan also nosedived in tax year 2017, which was the fiscal year 2016-17. Few weeks after the end of that fiscal year, Nawaz was removed by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case. Presumably, his tax returns were filed after he was ousted from power. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid just Rs263,173 in taxes in 2017, as against Rs2.52 million paid in the preceding year.
Meanwhile, PM Imran was a member of National Assembly from a Rawalpindi constituency at that time. He paid a paltry sum of Rs103,763 in income tax, which was less than by 35% or Rs55,0000.
Overall, there was an upward trend in tax contributions by members of parliament. The fifth tax directory of parliamentarians showed that national lawmakers, including members of the federal cabinet, paid Rs535 million in taxes during tax year 2017 – up by Rs139 million or 35 per cent The tax contributions by the members of the Senate increased to Rs254 million – up by 14 per cent. MNAs paid over Rs281 million during tax year 2016, an increase of 26 per cent.
But a significant number of parliamentarians were still paying far below their potential, showed the tax directory. Many of them paid Rs138,573 annual tax, which suggested that they paid taxes only on the income that the earned as member of the National Assembly or the Senate.
The tax directories for fiscal year 2016-17 that ended in June 2017 were released by Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar. Tax year 2017 was the fourth year of the PML-N term but the directories were released after a lag of over one year.
The numbers of total taxpayers increased by over 34 per cent in tax year 2017, said Federal Board of Revenue Chairman Jehanzeb Khan while speaking at the launch ceremony.
Overall, out of a total 1,169 members of the Senate, the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies, as many as 98 legislators did not file their tax returns. Under the law, filing the income tax return is binding on every citizen who earns more than Rs400,000 per annum and non-filer parliamentarians may face serious consequence, provided FBR plays its due role.
Six senators and 17 MNAs did not file their annual income tax returns.
Top taxpayers in parliament
Senator Rozi Khan Kakar paid Rs40.9 million in income tax, which was lower by Rs9 million over the preceding year. Senator Taj Mohammad Afridi paid Rs29.4 million, which was less than his previous contribution of Rs35.3 million. Senator Muhammad Talha Mehmood paid Rs43.2 million, which was higher by 33%. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan paid Rs25.9 million, showing an increase of 86.3%.
Senator Ishaq Dar paid Rs9.4 million and Senator Farogh Naseem paid Rs27.9 million in income tax, which was higher by 37.5%. Senator Farooq H Naek paid Rs11 million in income tax.
Among the members of the National Assembly, MNA Sheikh Fayyaz uddin paid Rs14 million in income tax, MNA Isphanyar Bhandara paid Rs22.95 million income tax.
Former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif paid Rs10.3 million in income tax, which was higher by nearly 9%.
Former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who owns a controlling stake in Air Blue, paid Rs3.1 million in income tax, higher than the previous year. Finance Minister Asad Umar paid Rs4.85 million in income tax in 2017. Hamza Shehbaz Sharif paid Rs8.3 million income tax.
Senator Rubina Khalid paid only Rs44,485 income tax, Senator Saleem Zia just Rs173,362. Former MNA Haji Ghulam Bilour paid Rs138,573 income tax, former Chief Minister KP, and MNA Amir Haider Hoti paid Rs168,586 in income tax. Sheikh Rashid Ahmad paid just Rs702,698 income tax.