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Weak audit and un-documented economy fails USAS in Pakistan: FBR

Weak audit and un-documented economy fails USAS in Pakistan: FBR

ISLAMABAD: Senior Member Federal Board of Revenue and Inland Revenue Policy Shahid Hussain Asad said that the Universal Self Assessment Scheme is not successful in Pakistan due to un-documented economy and absence of strong audit, USAS requires documentation and exemplary audit to make self assessment a success.

Talking to Customs Today Spokesperson FBR said income declared under the USAS is accepted by the tax departments across the globe including Pakistan; but here it is very difficult for anyone to voluntarily pay taxes till taxpayer is forced to do so.

He said, if salaried individuals, multinational companies, big corporate entities and pubic companies are declaring accurate income in the returns under the USAS, this is due to comparatively better documentation of these categories of taxpayers. On the other hand, shopkeepers never voluntarily declare their actual sales. As their sales are not documented, shopkeepers have the option to conceal their sales of Rs 1 million to Rs 10,000. In the West, the tax compliance is only due to the documentation of economy and tax system is backed by a very strong audit.

In West, audit is focused on prosecution to realize that tax evasion is a serious crime. Audit is not used to increase revenue collection in Western countries. In our society, it is unfortunate that the tax evasion is not considered as a serious crime. Till 1999, Tax-to-GDP ratio remained at 14 percent or more. From 2000 onwards, it came down to 9-10 percent and at present it is around 10 percent. “If we need to improve documentation, the audit should be made strong and exemplary.”

Responding to a question on failure of Tax Administration Reform Project TARP in Pakistan, he said that the TARP being a foreign funded program did not have much of its ownership by the FBR. Everywhere home-grown formula is necessary for the implementation of the tax reforms. It is not necessary that the tax reforms successful in the West will also do well in Pakistan. Every country’s economy has its own ground realities.

To a question on hurdles in sales tax registration, he said a simplified sales tax registration regime is available for the traders. However, there are more checks in case of registration of ”manufactures” category. When National Tax Number (NTN) is allocated to the new taxpayer, there is no government liability on the income tax side. Whereas, when the FBR issues sales tax registration number, this means that the government has given a cheque to the taxpayer to claim sales tax refunds. The FBR has placed checks whether genuine and bonafide person have applied for registration or only for issuing fake invoices.

About the status of electronic volume tracking system, the FBR Senior Member IR said that four international companies have been shortlisted for award of the contract for electronic monitoring of excisable commodities. “We are going for a new kind of a project in the country and the FBR has to take utmost care to maintain transparency while awarding the contract.”

When asked about name and shame game about the income of Parliamentarians under Tax Directory, he responded that frankly speaking it does not augur well for the FBR to use shame for anyone. Due to active media, there is a moral pressure on the Parliamentarians to declare their accurate income. There is a major increase in overall payment of taxes during 2014 as compared with past year covering all categories of taxpayers. The FBR has received Rs 14.541 billion as income tax along with the returns in 2014 as compared to Rs 10 billion in 2013, reflecting an extraordinary increase of 45 percent, he added.

He much optimist that the income tax collection with returns would continue to increase as evident from 45 percent increase in 2014. Responding to a query on including tax evasion in the definition of money laundering, he opined that this may increase complications in our present tax system to include taxpayers within the regime of money laundering.

To another query on post-budget revenue measures, he said that the government increased sales tax from 17 to 22 per cent following drastic decrease in petroleum prices in the country. The government would restore the standard rate of 17 percent sales tax on petroleum products when the prices would touch previous levels. Meanwhile, the FBR has not issued any exemption or concessionary SRO. Sales Tax Act is an Act of the Parliament empowering the FBR to increase or decrease sales tax rate. However, the FBR will take away all concessionary SROs in three year period in a phase-wise manner as agreed with the IMF.