FBR officers revolt against reform plan

Updated November 06, 2019

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FBR officials give two-day deadline to withdraw measures; demand more say in future plans. — APP/File
FBR officials give two-day deadline to withdraw measures; demand more say in future plans. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: In a rare move, almost 23 chief commissioners of Inland Revenue in a meeting with Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Shabbar Zaidi demanded that the government withdraw the proposed reform measures for the tax authority within two days. But they were not clear on their course of action after two days should the government fail to comply with their ultimatum.

In various conversations with Dawn, a couple of them mentioned the word ‘strike’ or raised the possibility of a “pen down strike”, but refrained from issuing any such threat collectively. It was the second meeting of the top tax officers within the past couple of days in which they expressed their reservations over the proposed move.

Soon after the meeting taking to Twitter, the FBR chairman thanked all the chief commissioners of Inland Revenue of IRS for what he called a “very productive meeting.”

Give two-day deadline to withdraw measures; demand more say in future plans

“Restructuring /transformation of FBR will be undertaken after taking into account feedback of all the stakeholders” he went on to promise in the tweet. “Whole organisation including all levels of staff, will be taken into consideration.”

However, chairman FBR was approached on telephone but he was not willing to be quoted on the issue. “There is nothing to worry about it,” he said, adding that he has already stated that reforms will be undertaken in consultation with all stakeholders including IRS.

He also insisted that FBR is on target with regard to revenue collection and dismissed talk of a growing revenue shortfall, pointing out that revenue growth was 16 per cent in the first four months of the fiscal year.

Under the reform measures being considered by the government, it is proposed to abolish the post of 23 chief commissioners who head the regional tax offices (RTOs) and Large Taxpayers Units (LTUs) across the country. As a result, 174 commissioners will now be required to report to member Inland Revenue operations directly.

A statement issued after the meeting by IRS Officers’ Association began by voicing support for the creation of a unified Pakistan Revenue Authority, as envisioned in the government’s reform effort, but disagreed with the administrative structure that is proposed for the body.

“IRS supports the documentation drive and are part of this drive and would remain so, and fully support harmonised General Sales Tax and ensure the political government to extend all support in implementation of these reforms” the statement said.

The IRS Officers only point of disagreement is what the statement called the “vague, half cooked and misleading administrative structure proposed for PRA and secondly the timelines where implementation of proposed structure is being done before the inception of PRA.”

“The implementation of proposed structure should be stopped forthwith and all stakeholders should be taken on board for effective implementation of the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” it continued.

An official source privy to the meeting told Dawn that the IRS officers also asked the chairman why the government focus is only on introducing reforms within the FBR. They claimed that FBR performance is clear from the numbers where revenue collection was enhanced from Rs1 trillion to over Rs5tr since 2010.

He said that the Commissioners also demanded to know why the government has no plan to introduce any reforms in many other organisations. “We have conveyed to chairman to carry our grievances to top government functionaries,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Secretariat on October 3 convened a meeting chaired by PM Imran Khan to approve the proposed structure of the PRA and field formations.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2019