LAHORE: The Punjab Excise and Taxation Department identified 2,000 new commercial units and professional businesses in the city district in the last two and half months with the help of its newly launched pilot IT project to plug loopholes in manual collection, check tax evasion and tap more tax.

The department’s annual target of professional tax collection for financial year 2015-16 is Rs800 million from around 1.5 million businesses, which is too low against the potential throughout the province, especially in commercial establishments.

Officials attribute less professional collection to ill-trained and corrupt field inspectors, manual issuance of tax notices and misreporting in connivance with taxpayers.

Rizwan Sherwani, excise and taxation region (A) director and mastermind of the project, told Dawn on Friday the department had divided Lahore into 20 units/circles, trained 10 inspectors for them and equipped them with android phones to take pictures of 2,000 newly identified commercial units as well as professionals such as doctors, architects, property dealers, immigration consultants, and upload them to the centralised software developed by the Punjab Information Technology Board. He said the department was getting assistance from the computerised database of property units earlier identified for property tax collection.

The official said there were approximately 60,000 commercial and industrial units of different categories in Lahore district and most tax evasion was witnessed among them with maximum tax amount to be submitted up to Rs100,000. He added 15pc of the total professional tax was collected easily under motor vehicle tax and from provincial government employees at a minimum rate of Rs200 deducted at source.

Sherwani said 85pc professional tax collection from highest categories was a major challenge for which the project was launched from Lahore in the first phase. He said geo-mapping of each area was conducted for identifying and assessing new commercial and industrial businesses besides individual professionals to bring them into the professional tax net.

He claimed at least 20pc percent increase -- Rs43 million more as compared to the corresponding period in 2014-15 -- had been witnessed in professional tax collection in the first seven months of current fiscal year in Lahore after implementation of the pilot project, adding Rs300 million had been collected during the period.

The director said the department had recently written a letter to the district coordination officer (DCO) to regulate the real estate sector by getting property dealers of the city registered to record their business transactions for improved tax collection from commercial units. He said monitoring staff would be able to detect non-submission of the professional tax by field staff through the centralised software.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2016