Campaign to widen tax base

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AT a meeting chaired by him in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan green-lighted the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to utilize the expenditures data for identifying millions of tax dodgers and bringing them into the tax net. According to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood a major campaign to broaden tax base is being launched as over 3.3 million National Tax Number (NTN) holders and others in the shape of withholding taxes (WHT) do not bother to file their tax returns.
Association of Dr Waqar Masood in revenue generation efforts has brightened the prospects of success of the drive as he has rich experience of the issues involved and has delivered successfully in the past in different capacities. He has an intimate understanding of the economic and fiscal scenario and how to improve the situation on the basis of necessary knowledge and versatile experience. He has sincerity of purpose, which is reflected by his resolve not to burden the existing taxpayers more and make dodgers and non-filers to pay their due taxes. However, it is also a fact that there are enormous challenges in realization of the objective as such efforts in the past could not bear fruit mainly because of lack of capacity of the FBR to analyze available data and transform it into tangible action; clout and pressure tactics adopted by various interest groups to avoid coughing up taxes; presence of lobbies in the government to safeguard interests of such groups and easy approach of the taxmen to rely on indirect taxes like those on electricity bills and POL products. Some of the withholding taxes are also devoid of logic and result in payment of taxes by those segments of the population that are categorized poor. We hope that the criteria of expenditure data that Dr Waqar Masood has plans to use would be carefully exploited so that only genuine dodgers are targeted and ordinary citizens are not harassed. This is because not all those who have to pay withholding taxes have the taxable income. Most of the citizens save money out of their non-taxable income and undertake journeys for Umrah or Hajj purposes or withdraw cash at a time on the occasion of marriage ceremonies or purchase of assets. Instead of relying heavily on expenditure data, which might have implications for savings, which are already low, the Government should activate its field staff to identify potential tax-payers. There are businessmen, shopkeepers, hoteliers, builders, developers, real estate agents, brokers and professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers/technicians who earn handsomely on a daily basis but hardly pay any tax to the national exchequer. There is also a mushroom of educational institutions all across the country minting money and the same is the position of private sector medical entities that pay little or no tax but charge people heavily. The objective of meaningfully enhancing tax collection can be achieved if corruption is eliminated and field staff works honestly. The tax collection target of 8,000 billion rupee, which the Prime Minister pledged to achieve in a short period of time, is realizable if there is will and determination to make all well-to-do people to pay and unnecessary exemptions are withdrawn.

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