FBR head of technology walks away

Decision came apparently due to disagreement on salary package


Shahbaz Rana December 25, 2021
PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) technology head has resigned from his position due to differences over his salary package, as taxmen also apparently remain averse of using technology to maximise income tax revenues.

Mansoor Sultan, who had been hired hardly a year ago as chief information officer (CIO) resigned from his position due to disagreement over the salary package, sources told The Express Tribune.

Sultan had been hired at a monthly package of nearly Rs3 million. The package was over four times higher than the maximum salary being offered to an individual engaged from the private sector on management pay scale-1.

The sources said that the FBR management wanted to retain Sultan but it could not find a solution after objections were raised by other concerned government departments.

On Sultan’s watch, the FBR’s biggest data hacking took place, which crippled the tax system for many weeks. During his tenure, the FBR’s data up-gradation also could not take place.

The sources said that the FBR had offered him a reduced salary, which Sultan refused.

The FBR spokesman Asad Tahir did not reply to the questions about Sultan’s resignation, and disagreement over his salary structure. Sultan was also not available for comments.

The FBR has already advertised the post to hire a new CEO of Pakistan Revenue Automation Limited (PRAL) but it has changed the criteria compared with the advertisement given last time. The academic qualification has been set at master’s degree in business, business related discipline or bachelor of engineering (BE) preferably in software engineering.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had vowed to use information technology (IT) to maximise the income tax collection. For this purpose, the government has brought major changes in tax laws, including granting National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) the access to taxpayers’ data.

The maximum use of technology should have been reflected in tax collection numbers through FBR’s own efforts, known as collection against “current demand”.

The income tax collection with taxmen’s own efforts has gone down by 41% and its share in total domestic income tax collection has shrunk to less than 2% in the current fiscal year.

The Express Tribune analysed the head-wise income tax collection details of all 25 sub-offices of the FBR to gauge whether these offices have been putting efforts to collect taxes without relying much on automatic source of collection.

Read FBR moves to prevent undue delay in tax disputes

However, the statistics revealed that during the first five and a half months of the current fiscal year, the share of tax collection against current demand was as low as 0.2% and 7.3% of the total income tax collection by these field units.

Out of 25 field offices, the collection against the current demand decreased in case of seven field units, all of them located at prime cities of the country - Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Multan and Quetta.

The remaining 18 field offices saw a significant increase in tax collection against the current demand but the amount of collection was minimal - less than Rs1 billion in the case of 17 field offices.

In fact, 14 FBR field offices collected less than Rs500 million with their own efforts during the first five and a half months of the fiscal year.

Overall, out of the roughly Rs710 billion domestic income tax collection from July 1 to December 15 of the current fiscal year, the field formations generated hardly Rs12.5 billion through the “current collection on demand”.

During the same period of previous fiscal year, the collection on demand was equal to Rs21.2 billion, which has now gone down by 41%.

Withholding taxes remained the largest source of income tax collection. This includes the collection on account of automatic deduction on conducting various transactions including payment of salaries, contracts and telephone bills.

Overall, the share of income tax collection is just one-third of the total taxes collected by FBR.

The Corporate Tax Office (CTO) Lahore generated Rs413 million under the head of current demand and its share in total income tax collection was hardly 0.4%.

Read more FBR seeks powers to seal businesses

The Large Tax Office (LTO) Islamabad generated Rs4.9 billion under this head and its share in total income tax collection was just 3.7%. The collection was significantly less than the previous year.

The LTO Karachi collected a mere 0.7% of its collection on account of current demand -also less than the previous year’s comparative period. The LTO Lahore and Multan collected mere 0.2% of their collection under the head - also less than the comparative period of previous year.

Similarly, Medium Tax Office (MTO) Karachi generated Rs160 million under the head of current demand - share is only 1.4% and collection was less than the previous year. The RTO Quetta pooled Rs113 million - only 2.1% of the income tax collection and less than the previous year.

The FBR spokesman did not reply to the question over poor collection under the head of current demand by these field offices.

However, two days ago FBR had issued a press release, saying that the collection under the head of current demand went down as the FBR wanted to "ensure harmony and calm in the business and industry and bridge trust deficit between citizens and the state".

The FBR further stated that it "issued instructions not to take coercive measures until the case has at least passed the test of first appeal, at least. Due to these soft instructions, such decrease in collection from demand created is quite normal and this very aspect has been ignored by The Express Tribune."

However, when the FBR spokesman was questioned whether the increase in collection under this head by 18 field offices was the result of violating FBR chairman instructions and use of coercive measures, he did not reply.

The RTOs Bahawalpur, Abbottabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Multan, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Sahiwal, Sargodah, Sialkot, and two RTOs of Karachi reported increase in collection under current demand.

But their share was in the range of 1% to 7.3% and collected less than Rs1 billion, except CTO Islamabad that reported Rs1.1 billion under this head.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2021.

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COMMENTS (1)

Abid Abrar Husain | 3 weeks ago | Reply

He should have been shown the door before he walked away. What are the achievements that he justifies his continuity and such a high salary package. I would take on this position at NIL and commit to what I can achieve. And if I do FBR can reward me. Seriously any takers

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