ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Revenue Mohammad Hammad Azhar met with representatives of the Islamabad Restaurants Association (IRA) on Sunday and assured them their grievances would be addressed.
During the meeting it was agreed that the IRA would not strike, however, it was principally decided that the association would meet the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) member operations today (Monday).
On Sunday, more than 250 restaurants in the capital announced that they would shut down their businesses from April 23, alleging that they were being harassed and humiliated by the FBR.
The restaurants’ representatives claimed that the FBR had approached them last year and asked them to install the Restaurant Invoice Monitoring System (RIMS), which monitors invoices in real time.
The representatives claimed that they were also assured that the board would not disturb them by carrying out physical inspections and raids.
The restaurants’ representatives said IRA members voluntarily agreed to install RIMS and were cooperating with the FBR, but last week the board’s teams not only raided restaurants but its officials started sitting at restaurants’ counters.
They said there were around 3,000 restaurants in Islamabad which had not installed RIMS, but the FBR was not taking action against them. For these reasons, they said, it was decided that restaurants would remain closed from April 23.
However, on Sunday, the state minister visited a restaurant in Beverly Centre, Blue Area and held a meeting with IRA members.
One of the members, Khuwaja Junaid, told Dawn that the meeting was held in a very positive environment and the minister looked keen on addressing the issue.
“He assured the members that action would not be taken against restaurants which had cooperated and installed RIMS. Moreover, he principally agreed that in case of any grievance or complaint, the association would be contacted instead of directly raiding restaurants,” Mr Junaid said.
“It has been decided that we will hold a meeting with member operations of the FBR on Monday on the board’s premises, and after getting a satisfactory reply, officially announce to call off the strike,” he added.
According to an IRA statement, negotiations have concluded positively between State Minister Hammad Azhar and IRA’s executive body. The IRA has announced that the strike planned for April 23 has been called off.
“The minister agreed with IRA’s stance that FBR should concentrate its efforts towards bringing new restaurants into the tax net and not put further pressure on restaurants which are already correctly invoicing through RIMS and paying their taxes,” it stated.
“IRA also assured that in future all the FBR reservations will be taken care through the Joint Committee of FBR and IRA and any adverse action will be avoided. IRA looks forward to contributing positively in the development of Pakistan. Both the business community and FBR will work as partners towards the growth of the Pakistani economy,” the statement added.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2019