Over 150,000 Pakistanis have $11 billion in offshore accounts

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar says these people are under FBR’s watch list

Shahram Haq March 19, 2019
A US Dollar note is seen in this Reuters illustration photo.

LAHORE: At least 152,000 Pakistani citizens have a total of $11 billion in offshore accounts and they are currently under the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) watch list, disclosed Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar.

Speaking to business community at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Monday, the state minister declared that Pakistan would not need to beg from anyone if it could recover the $11 billion parked in offshore accounts.

He pointed out that over half of that amount had not been declared and also no amnesty had been sought.

“In fact, many Pakistanis who possess this wealth don’t own any documented business or other trading platforms,” he said. “Hence, one can understand the gravity of the situation when it comes to tax evasion.”

According to the minister, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Federal Investigation Agency, State Bank of Pakistan and FBR were currently engaged in the largest 360-degree profiling of potential taxpayers in Pakistan. “NADRA’s heavy servers are busy in computing algorithms round the clock of such tax evaders who are in millions,” he said, adding that almost half of the work had been done and by the end of April, the profiling of all such tax evaders would be completed.

Notices to 1.2m taxpayers not a good step: Hammad Azhar

The business community and LCCI President Almas Hyder raised the issue of harassment faced during raids conducted by FBR teams during trading hours.

“The FBR is humiliating the taxpayers whereas tax evaders and non-filers continue to do their routine business without any threat of such raids,” Hyder remarked. “Around 99.4% of tax revenues are generated through business and commerce whereas only 0.6% is being collected from the agriculture sector.”

Demanding balance between the two sectors, he claimed that lack of fairness sparked concern among businessmen. The state minister reaffirmed that his government was bringing technology, which would address all issues related to harassment and unfair raids as the FBR would have access to more authentic data without human intervention.

“We complicated things in the past and as a result, many markets of Lahore are paying zero taxes and are filled with smuggled goods,” he pointed out.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2019.

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