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Tax amnesty bill introduced in NA


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A view of the National Assembly. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Preferring short-cuts to extend a major relief to the elite ahead of the general election, the PPP-led coalition government introduced on Monday the controversial tax amnesty bill in the National Assembly to whiten black money and assets at home and abroad within three months against a nominal one-time charge.

The proposed bill will not only cover non-filers of tax returns but also those who did not figure on the tax roll to whiten income or assets up to Rs5 million and above in a period of three months.

If parliament approves the tax amnesty scheme, even a taxpayer who files returns will also be able to legitimise his undeclared assets or cash of up to Rs5 million by paying just Rs100 to the Federal Board of Revenue.In order to give full protection to such tax dodgers, the bill proposes to exempt tax evaders from all kinds of investigations by tax officials and investigating agencies.

By incentivising tax evasion, experts say these amnesty schemes have discouraged documentation and tax compliance.

However, FBR spokesman Asrar Rauf claimed that it would increase tax compliance in the country.

He said the FBR expected to raise Rs120 billion to Rs150 bn from the amnesty schemes. Tax experts say such schemes in the past have brought paltry sums of revenue to the national exchequer while legalising enormous tax-evaded money.

In 2008, the government had announced a tax amnesty scheme by introducing Section 120-A in the Income Tax Ordinance.

Law Minister Farooq H. Naek, on behalf of the finance minister, introduced the bill in the assembly, which was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance. After approval from the committee, the bill will be sent to the National Assembly’s standing committee for approval. This committee will refer the matter to the house for voting.

The FBR spokesman said the standing committee would take up the bill for discussion shortly and it was expected to be approved before the end of the month.

As per the proposed bill, the schemes allow a tax evader to pay Rs40,000 to legitimise assets worth up to Rs5 million in the first month. Those availing the offer in the second month will have to pay Rs50,000 and Rs70,000 in the third month.

As per the Income Tax Ordinance, a tax of Rs40,000 is collected on the income or assets worth Rs500,000 approximately. The proposed amnesty suggests this amount of tax to be collected on income or assets of Rs5 million.

EXPANDING THE TAX NET: Officials believe the schemes will bring 3.1 million more people into the tax net, including frequent travellers, multiple bank account-holders and those living in posh areas but not figuring on the tax roll.

Mr Rauf said the FBR would also introduce a scheme for those tax evaders who did not disclose their income or assets beyond Rs5 million. “We got approval for the introduction of such schemes in 2008, which is now part of Section 120-A of the Income Tax Ordinance,” he said.

If the amount of un-declared income, assets and expenditures exceeds Rs5 million, a tax evader will pay an investment tax at three different slabs. A tax evader will have to pay one per cent of the hidden assets with unlimited value to legitimise those assets in the first month of availing the facility, those availing the offer in second month will have to pay 1.25 per cent and 1.50 per cent in the third month.

Former Economic Adviser Dr Ashfaq H. Khan told Dawn that the amnesty bill was a ‘financial NRO’ and if implemented it would be a gross injustice with the honest taxpayers.

The FBR recently conceded that there are only 800,000 honest taxpayers in a country of 180 million people. This means only 0.6 per cent of Pakistanis pay taxes, as against 4.7 per cent in India, 58 per cent in France and 80 per cent in Canada.

Dr Ashfaq said if the FBR had all information about the people who could pay taxes as it claimed, who had stopped it from going after them. Why amnesty? he asked.

The amnesty schemes were scheduled to be effective from October 2012 but were delayed because of a political storm.

The bill also proposes a penalty for those who did not avail the schemes. The penalty include cancellation of CNIC, placement of tax evader’s name on the exit control list, freezing of his/her bank accounts and blocking of his mobile phone SIM.

The tax official said the declarers would themselves evaluate their assets and tax authorities would not be able to challenge that value either now or in future under the proposed guaranteed legal covers.

The scheme will be administered through establishing special counters with the help of banks and Nadra.

Comments (14) Closed

allli06 Dec 18, 2012 07:13am
worth of millions are stolen from poor now they are going to make them clean
Concerned Citizen Dec 18, 2012 10:00pm
This is just great
zahra Dec 18, 2012 09:44am
What are you saying? Go take some courses in economics and public policy to understand these issues. It is organised crime what these people are doing. The so called tax net will increase by a paltry 2% whereas they have been dodging much more than that (Maybe a course in math while you're at it!). Don't forget that these people form the elite (in terms of financial wealth, asset holdings,etc) and should be paying more taxes than what common people have to pay.
numbersnumbers Dec 18, 2012 04:32am
So I get a slap on the wrist with a small fine and get to keep all my (untaxed) wealth while the regular small taxpayer paid their share all these years! Quoting Leona Helmsley, " taxes are just for little people"! Another fine move brought to you by the. "Elite controlled" government (by the rich, for the rich)!
Abdul j Sheikh Dec 18, 2012 04:30am
What about the Tax on foreign remittances?
Hassan Dec 18, 2012 03:47am
wow... great politicians... How can one not say "Pakistan Zindabad..."
ali Dec 18, 2012 03:49am
No country allows tax evasion.These feudal lords should actually be paying super taxes and working class people should pay reduced taxes.These are a bunch of top class corrupt ppl sitting in the parliament, they should actually go behind bars for evading taxes and prohibited from taking part in future elections..
observer Dec 18, 2012 03:22am
In all honesty it is a good scheme to bring more people in the tax net. If the bill is passed and implemented, significant increase in tax revenue will happen. It is a pity that people are calling financial NRO and criticizing it just based on their ignorance or malice. Actually, ignorance can be cured by educating people about merits and demerits of the bill but for malice, there is no cure. Good luck to the tax amnesty bill.
Jalaluddin S. Hussain Dec 18, 2012 05:32am
The Tax Amnesty Bill must include a provision that those who benefit from this extraordinary procedure must deposit a fixed percentage of the money, thus saved, in the government treasury. No questions will be asked.
sorry Dec 18, 2012 06:29am
kam Dec 18, 2012 12:16pm
As i have said befor simple solution is to introduce death penalty for corrupt people, simple. Period
akhter husain Dec 18, 2012 03:03pm
Spoiled kids can not be cured that is why good teachers leave them alone.
akhter husain Dec 18, 2012 03:00pm
Our behavior ,as regards,taxes,is like children who do not go to school without the incentive of LOLLY-POP. Let there be a legislation guaranteeing tax amnesty every few years so that these spoiled kids start giving due taxes which are in fact the fee for services every state provides to its citizens specially the wealthy ones who are self employed.This legislation may also include incentives of sharing the so collected amounts with the collectors. Will it a million dollar question.
Kamal Nasir Dec 21, 2012 04:27am
Awesome comments, we need to revalue land/real estate prices in the system, half the wealth/black money is hidden real estate. Once this properly valued by the authorities tax will be generate three folds and ridiculous price hike will stabilize. It take years / generations to build right system, corruption will not finish in days.