ISLAMABAD: As an amnesty scheme for smuggled vehicles is going to expire, initial results show that the purpose has remained largely unmet as only 10,000 vehicles have so far been legalised by paying duties worth Rs3 billion.
While announcing the scheme, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had targeted to get at least 100,000 vehicles registered besides fetching over Rs20 billion in revenues.
So far, 10,000 vehicles have been registered and approximately Rs3 billion has been received in duties, said the FBR here on Thursday.
According to the revenue board’s estimates, at least 150,000 to 200,000 vehicles are plying the country’s roads with payment of customs duty. Many of these vehicles are in border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well as in Gilgit-Baltistan.
All Customs’ field formations will stay open on Saturday and Sunday as a special arrangement to facilitate people opting for the amnesty scheme, which was announced on March 5 and is going to expire on Sunday. Designated branches of National Bank of Pakistan will also remain open at the weekend.
The FBR has already announced that it will not give any extension and start crackdown and criminal proceedings against the owners of smuggled vehicles.
The use of stolen and smuggled vehicles in incidents of kidnapping and other crimes, particularly in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, had prompted the FBR to launch the scheme and encourage people to get their vehicles registered.
According to an official of FBR’s Customs wing, there were at least 30,000 vehicles in the country with duplicate registration and chassis numbers. Genuine vehicles were 15,000 that the FBR hoped to register during the amnesty period.
He said the scheme was aimed at establishing the writ of the state at least in far-off areas as people in tribal regions would hardly find any incentive to pay duties on smuggled vehicles.
However, many have spoken against the amnesty offer, believing it is encouraging wrongdoing. Others consider it a political decision and an attempt to facilitate influential people in making money by legalising their illegal vehicles.
Tax officials also admit that they have been unable to widely publicise the scheme and believe most people are not aware of the offer. They say the duration of less than a month is also a cause of failure.
The anti-trust watchdog had also opposed the amnesty scheme and asked the government to withdraw it immediately, finding the policy in violation of competition laws besides becoming a source of expansion of the grey market of cars in the country.
In a policy note to the federal government, the Competition Commission of Pakistan highlighted flaws in the scheme that placed both importers of used cars and assemblers of new vehicles at a disadvantage.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2013.
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