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Another am-nesty scheme

FINANCE Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday said that the government is considering launching a new tax amnesty scheme, which he said would allow assets within Pakistan as well as abroad to be declared. Talking to newsmen in Islamabad, he said that the amnesty scheme “is a demand of the business com-munity”, as he acknowledged that “people can be given an opportunity to declare their assets”.
The Government might or might not be able to benefit meaningfully from yet another tax amnesty scheme but repeated launching of such schemes by successive governments is a testimony to the fact that the authorities concerned, despite their tall claims, have not been able to bring prospective tax-payers or evaders into tax net. The basic purpose of such schemes is that the beneficiaries who will de-clare their assets or income, they cannot be asked about the source of the income that was used to create these assets. This simply means legalizing ill-gotten money and condoning those who did not pay their taxes honestly. A similar scheme was intro-duced by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi-led PML(N) gov-ernment but Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was in the Opposition then, declared to launch investiga-tions against those who will benefit from the scheme. He maintained that first ‘they steal money and then seek amnesty’. His point of view was cor-rect then and is so today but one wonders what has changed since then that warrants re-launching of the amnesty scheme. There should be no laxity for those who amass wealth illegally or evade taxes and they should be proceeded against under laws of the land. Repeated amnesties are an incentive for looters, thieves and plunderers of national wealth to persist with their behaviour.