Traders protest against budget

Updated July 03, 2019

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KARACHI: Traders chanting slogans in a protest rally on Tuesday. They threaten a shutdown if the government will not accept their demands of removing harsh budgetary measures in next 72 hours.—Faysal Mujeeb/White Star
KARACHI: Traders chanting slogans in a protest rally on Tuesday. They threaten a shutdown if the government will not accept their demands of removing harsh budgetary measures in next 72 hours.—Faysal Mujeeb/White Star

KARACHI/LAHORE: Traders associations in Sindh and Punjab on Tuesday strongly protested against the ‘harsh’ budgetary measures including increase in taxes and documentation of business activities.

The Karachi Traders Action Committee (KATC) held a rally from Regal Chowk, one of the business hubs in the city, to the Karachi Press Club.

Giving a 72-hour ultimatum to the federal government to immediately withdraw harsh budgetary measures, the KATC said a shutter down strike would be carried out if the demands are not met.

Meanwhile in its 33-point charter of demands, the Markazi Tanzeem Tajiran Pakistan (MTTP) – backed by the KTAC – urged the government to extend date of amnesty scheme by three months and introduce fixed tax system in four categories under which traders can pay Rs3,000-20,000.

Traders also sought reduction in tax rates on withdrawal of over Rs50,000 from banks as well as the removal of requirement to obtain CNICs of all bulk buyers. Instead of considering raids in the markets, it urged the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) team to hold talks with traders’ representatives or else they would not be allowed to enter the markets.

Stressing that they not accept new taxes on the dictation of International Monetary Fund, traders said there was a dire need to control vulnerability in exchange rate in order to boost the economy.

Highlighting some of the demands, traders urged the government to restore the tax exemption limit to Rs1.2 million yearly income for salaried class which was reduced to Rs600,000 for salaried class and Rs400,000 for traders in the current budget.

The government should also restore the old income tax slabs for both salaried class and traders which were increased to 35pc from 25pc for traders and 15pc for salaried class.

Traders said they cannot accept the government’s decision in which buyers need to pay an additional 3pc tax for selling goods to non filers, besides showing CNIC numbers of purchasers. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and wholesalers need to write CNIC number of the purchaser on the bill while they will collect the amount exceeding Rs50,000 via cheque after Finance Bill 2019 went into effect.

Under the new rules, shopkeepers or traders with sales exceeding over Rs10m per annum will automatically become withholding tax agents and deduct 4.5pc tax from the suppliers. They will also submit income tax returns after every six months. “This is not acceptable to the traders,” the MTTP statement said.

Traders are also not happy over government’s decision under which all commercial importers are bound to write selling price on imported products while value addition tax will be collected on retail price.

President Karachi Electronic Dealers Association (KEDA), Mohammad Rizwan Irfan claimed that there were over 5,000 participants from different trade bodies in the protest rally. “Traders are already paying taxes and ready to pay more. The government is trying to create an impression that traders are cheaters which is totally wrong,” he said.

The All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) has summoned all traders’s representatives in Lahore on July 5. “In this important gathering, we will decide the future course of action against imposition of huge taxes,” APAT chief Naeem Mir said in a meeting on Tuesday.

The All Pakistan Traders Alliance announced that it will hold the Tajir Bachao Conference on July 5 at Aiwan-e-Iqbal. The All Pakistan Mobile Phone Association (Lahore chapter) supported the association’s protest in Karachi on Tuesday. The association has decided to start protest demonstrations in Lahore after 48 hours if the government does not withdraw its decision of levying heavy taxes on the unregistered mobile phones.

Meanwhile, exporters from Sialkot have also decided to launch protests against 17pc GST. ‘No Exports Day’ will be held by exporters within the next couple of days.

Talking to a group of leading exporters, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Almas Hyder said the chamber was giving options for betterment of the country’s economy. “Withdrawal of the zero-rated regime will badly hit our exports, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and widen the trade deficit at the cost of ballooning current account gap,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd , 2019