Out of over 30,000 notices that the Federal Board of Revenue sent to the big fish, about two-thirds did not reach the potential taxpayers, as their addresses turned out to be fake, reveals a top FBR official, bringing into question effectiveness of the tax net widening drive.
As part of the campaign, the FBR has so far sent over 30,000 tax notices, but only 11,000 have been received by the addressees, said Riffat Shaheen Qazi, Member Facilitation and Taxpayers Education of the FBR.
She was speaking after inaugurating a taxpayer facilitation desk at the National Press Club on Thursday, aimed at facilitating journalists in filing income tax returns.
This disclosure has undermined the government’s flagship drive launched to broaden the extremely narrow tax base and suggested why only 174 people or just 0.5% of over 30,000 have filed income tax returns along with a paltry amount of Rs7.3 million.
Under the $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund loan programme, the government is bound to bring 100,000 identified tax evaders under the net, which currently comprises only 711,000 taxpayers who filed income tax returns last year.
Out of a total of 30,333 notices, over 7,000 were served in Lahore, 3,364 in Peshawar, 2,985 in Multan, 2,434 in Rawalpindi, 2,005 in Karachi, 1,800 in Islamabad, 1,000 in Quetta, 1,400 in Gujranwala, 2,340 in Sialkot, 1,183 in Sargodha and 1,700 in Faisalabad.
The serving of notices to 30,000 people by September this year was also the IMF’s condition.
The FBR sent notices through courier, but it was facing serious difficulties because of wrong addresses and jurisdiction problems, Qazi said.
Blaming the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for the fake addresses, she stressed that it was not a mistake of the FBR. “What would be more accurate than the address given in the Computerised National Identity Card,” said Qazi.
According to another FBR official, in some cases the addresses given were of low-paid employees like drivers and cooks. There have been tendency among the elite that they use names of their servants and kin for buying assets in a bid to dodge state institutions.
During the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government, the FBR in collaboration with NADRA identified about four million people who had a lavish lifestyle but were not paying taxes. They were traced with the help of their expenditure record like purchase of cars and houses, bank balances, international travel and spending on children’s education and marriages.
Last year, former FBR chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem revealed that there was a man in Rawalpindi on whose name over 600 vehicles were registered.
Qazi said the FBR was establishing its own databank in association with various departments. Despite difficulties, she vowed, the campaign would continue, insisting the revenue board was sending tax notices on the basis of solid evidence that could be defended in any court of law.
She ruled out the possibility of conducting a door-to-door survey for gathering information about potential taxpayers.
Qazi also clarified that the Sindh High Court had not barred the FBR from collecting the Income Support Levy that the federal government levied at the rate of 0.5% on both tangible and intangible moveable assets.
SHC only stopped the FBR from collecting the levy from the petitioner who challenged it in the court that too until it decided the petition, she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2013.
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