Businessmen divided on new amnesty scheme

Published: May 15, 2019
Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: The first tax amnesty scheme announced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has evoked mixed sentiments from the business community of Punjab.

Many businessmen have welcomed this much-needed initiative to kick-start economic activities, which suffered massively during general elections last year. However, a few have expressed concern and have urged the government to take concrete steps and adopt long-term policies so the black money or black economy does not adversely impact the country.

“This amnesty scheme will end the fear of tax authorities, which is currently prevailing in businessmen’s mind and heart,” Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Almas Hyder told The Express Tribune.

“The community is very much interested in declaring their hidden assets so they may do business peacefully in future,” he added.

The threat level in the country’s environment would diminish and businesses would grow due to that positive step by the government. “People are now fed up with under-invoicing, mis-declaration of assets and most of them want to come out of this mess; I believe a lot of people will choose this scheme to avoid any future raids on their business premises,” he said.

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association’s former Punjab chairman Shahzad Ali Khan was not optimistic about the results of the amnesty scheme. “I think this scheme will be a failure,” Khan told The Express Tribune. Similar amnesty schemes had been introduced by the former government and all those businessmen who wanted to declare their hidden assets had already done that, he said, adding, “however, we have to wait and see if the realty sector and the traders’ community choose to take benefit of this scheme.”

As per the business community, the real estate is the biggest area where black money is parked. While some may actually park their ill-gotten money in the realty sector, many businessmen and investors do so due to loopholes in the area. Ahmad Raza Khan, a Lahore-based real estate expert, said amnesty schemes were always welcomed by the real estate sector.

“In earlier amnesty schemes, many people got their money legalised without actually showing their assets, ie they did not show either they had cash in hand from the property they sold or they possessed the property,” he said.

“But this time we are hearing the investors have to show receipts of cash in banks or property documents before actually getting the relief through this scheme, which is a welcome step.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2019.

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