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A step towards promotion of tax culture

A step towards promotion of tax culture

Pakistan has become fourth country in the comity of nations where the tax directory has been launched. The publishing of tax directory is a welcoming step as it will give an opportunity to voters to ascertain that how much their representatives are paying their due taxes and discharging their national duty. On the basis of performance, they will give their judgment in the future elections of the country if tax directory becomes permanent feature every year.

The payment of tax will become part of our discussion on the economic and political horizon of the country and will set the stage to put mobilization of resources as the centre of stage for our future discourse.

The Tax Directory published by the FBR is a welcoming step for which Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa deserve appreciation for their courageous step.

Although, the publishing of tax directory is a step in the right direction but it is not the ultimate objective, rather it can become a source for moving towards the desired objective and that is promoting tax compliance culture in this country.

The tax directory has revealed that there are 100 parliamentarians out of 1172 who did not even bother to file their tax returns. As a matter of fact, the FBR high-ups made all-out efforts to pursue them for filing their returns as special facilitation centres were established in National Assembly, Senate of Pakistan and into the premises of four provincial assemblies. The FBR staff was deputed to facilitate them and NTN were issued to all parliamentarians. At one stage, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself had intervened and asked the ruling party members to file their returns.

On this high-level persuasion, there were 1072 parliamentarians who have filed their income tax returns. There were many who showed their nil income. There were few who showed their tax in the range of Rs 50 to Rs 1000.

Now Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa has given the deadline of Feb 28, 2014 to remaining 100 parliamentarians to come forward and file their returns so that their names could be included into upcoming general tax directory that would be launched in next month.

About non-filers and less-filers, the law of the land should take its course to establish the writ of the state. If FBR will not take action against influential segment of the society such as Parliamentarians then there will be no moral ground and justification to take action against other tax defaulters and dodgers.

The directory of parliamentarians also shows that the tax culture in our country is indicating pathetic situation from top to bottom where less than one percent population is filing its income tax returns. On sales tax registration side, few hundred giant companies are contributing into taxes and there is complete de-link between taxpayers and tax officials.

Now the time has come when the FBR should come forward and take all steps required for promoting tax culture. The usage of technology in wised manner coupled with credible information by establishing data bank can help tax machinery to promote this culture and first of all the government will have to demonstrate its political will for taking hard and bold decisions to broaden the tax base, otherwise the stagnant tax-to-GDP ratio cannot be increased in near future.