PTA to review FBR’s SIM blocking order

Authority says it is engaged with cellular mobile operators on matter



The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Thursday said it would review the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) recent order to block the cellular phone SIMs of those who did not file their tax returns for the year 2023 before making a decision.

In a statement, the telecom regulator said it was currently deliberating on a recent decision made by the FBR and engaged with cellular mobile operators as well as other stakeholders on the matter.

 “Our foremost objective is to uphold compliance within [the] regulatory framework and relevant legal provisions while safeguarding the interests of telecom consumers,” it added.

The FBR had recently issued an Income Tax General Order (ITGO) to disable the mobile phone SIMs of 506,671 individuals, who failed to file their returns for the year 2023.

One person may have more than one SIM card and all of those connections will be cut off with immediate effect, said a senior FBR official. He said about 1 million to 1.5 million SIM cards would be blocked because of the FBR order.

The move has generated criticism from almost all sides, since a significant number of the people being punished are salaried individuals who are already taxpayers, but simply chose not to file returns because of the complicated procedure to do so.

The cellular mobile operators are also raising questions about the FBR’s decision and threatening to approach the courts against it.

A senior official of one of the cellular mobile operators said the FBR was only trying to hide its own failures.

The official added that instead of giving absolute powers to its commissioner, the FBR need to concentrate on expanding the tax base.

The government should provide incentives to encourage tax compliance, rather than opting for punitive measures.

Most countries guarantee tax refunds for people with low or no income simply for filing.

While the FBR would claim its lower rates for filers were a similar measure, in practice, it was more akin to breaking one knee instead of both as the people, who actually should be paying the board millions and billions more, are allowed to keep using loopholes to understate their incomes.


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