ISLAMABAD, Jan 2: The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly directed the Federal Board of Revenue on Wednesday to make the names of all major tax defaulters public.
Presided over by Nadeem Afzal Gondal, a meeting of the PAC unanimously decided to ask FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem to provide next week a list of all those civil and military bureaucrats, landlords, businessmen and owners of media houses, who were not paying taxes.
In the second week of December last year, a non-governmental organisation released a report titled ‘Representation without taxation’ which said 60 per cent of cabinet members and two thirds of lawmakers paid no tax last year.
Since then a large number of lawmakers have been up in arms against the report. They have termed it a deliberate attempt to defame politicians. And now they have asked the FBR to make public names of all those individuals and companies also which were known tax defaulters.
PML-N’s Khawaja Asif said that three years ago he had approached the FBR to look into tax details of former President Gen Pervez Musharraf, but as of today there was no response.
“When it comes to politicians, everybody in the FBR is willing to belittle us and in the report, it appears as if only politicians are not paying taxes and the rest are all law-abiding citizens,” complained Khwaja Asif. Without naming anyone, he said several media houses despite earning billions of rupees, were not even paying salary to their employees and their names should also be made public.
PML-Q’s Hamid Yaar Hiraj said that under the Constitution, details of tax returns of a Pakistani were not a public document and, therefore, whosoever had leaked out details of lawmakers’ tax returns, was guilty of wrongdoing and should be punished.
Mr Hiraj also said that only the FBR had the right to proceed against tax defaulters which it should do under the Constitution.
“And if names of lawmakers can be published in newspapers even for their minor mistakes then why not of the big fish who are actually damaging the country by not paying taxes,” Mr Hiraj said.
FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem put the blame for leakage of information pertaining to tax details of lawmakers on the Election Commission of Pakistan. But, Mr Hiraj refused to accept his explanation. He said as far as his own tax returns were concerned only the FBR had information about it. Other PAC members agreed and criticised the FBR chairman for absolving his department of what they described as “criminal negligence”.
Mr Hakeen said he had launched an investigation into the matter and those found guilty of leaking the information to media would be taken to task.
Mr Hakeem, however, suggested to PAC members to treat the much maligned report as an opportunity for better taxation in the country.
He informed the committee that the FBR was involved in litigation against tax-defaulters of over Rs200 billion. The simplest way not to pay tax in the country was to secure a stay order from a court, the FBR chairman said, adding that the country needed major overhaul and improvement in the tax collection mechanism. He said the FBR would soon provide details of major tax defaulters to the committee soon.
PAC Chairman Gondal said whosoever was a tax defaulter should be punished in accordance with the law and there was nothing wrong in making their names public.
He directed the FBR to send notices to all tax defaulters and publish their names in the next 10 days so they could also face embarrassment like lawmakers.