Tax regime to be reformed with stakeholders’ consent: PM

Nov 14 2019


Prime Minister Imran Khan said serious reforms in the tax system were needed for which the process had already been started. — DawnNewsTV/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan said serious reforms in the tax system were needed for which the process had already been started. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran on Wednesday held out an assurance to top officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) that the tax machinery would be reformed in consultation with all stakeholders not only to restore confidence of taxpayers but also to raise potential revenue from all sectors.

Almost a week after resistance from tax officers over the proposed reforms, the prime minister called senior tax officers of BS-21 and above for a meeting to take them on board for implementation of his tax reforms agenda.

The prime minister’s meeting with the tax officers was postponed thrice earlier.

Speaking during Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Khan reminded the tax officers of their role in the country’s economic stability and asked them to give feedback on tax reforms.

“We want to get serious proposals from you as per your experience to make the tax system more efficient,” he said, adding that the reforms would be undertaken in consultation with them.

At the outset, the prime minister expressed astonishment that people are willing to give charity but they avoid paying taxes. “It is a very serious issue and FBR needs to play its role in restoring people’s confidence in the tax system.”

Stresses need for ensuring optimal, timely utilisation of uplift funds

Mr Khan said in this situation serious reforms in the tax system were needed for which the process had already been started.

The prime minister said during his interaction with the traders he had received complaints about harassment by tax officials. “The tax department will have to remove fear and apprehensions from the minds of taxpayers,” he said.

The tax officials raised questions about poor tax collection with no return from the government as well as misuse of this money.

But Mr Khan assured them that the money collected from taxpayers would not be misused. “People will pay taxes happily if they are assured that the money will be spent on public welfare and not on lavish lifestyle of the rulers.”

The prime minister regretted that the previous rulers spent the public money on their personal needs, but “we have slashed PM office’s expenditure by Rs350 million and that of the federal government by Rs45 billion”.

He said the government buildings, including the governor houses, would be converted into public places to reduce their expenditures. In the past, Rs830m alone was spent on the renovation of Governor House in Murree, he added.

Mr Khan said his government was committed to providing business-friendly environment to the entrepreneurs.

“We have to collect Rs5.5 trillion in the current financial year,” he said.

Separately, presiding over a meeting to review progress on the Public Sector Development Programme, the prime minister stressed the need for ensuring optimal and timely utilisation of funds allocated under the PSDP. “Planning is eyes and ears of the chief executive,” he added.

Minister for Planning Khusro Bakhtiar, Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and other senior officials attended the meeting.

The meeting was informed that Rs701bn had been allocated for development projects during the current financial year. It was assured that utmost efforts are being undertaken to eliminate delays in authorisation by the Planning Commission for seamless implementation of the approved projects.

The prime minister was briefed on a detailed report prepared to assess the utilisation of the first quarter releases by various ministries and divisions.

He was apprised that the principal accounting officers (secretaries of the ministries) have been empowered to release funds for projects of less than Rs2bn to expedite progress on them.

Mr Khan instructed the Planning Commission to come up with a monthly performance review report so as to determine the reasons behind the under-utilisation of the funds allocated for the vital projects.

He stressed the need to enhance coordination among the ministries for early and effective completion of the projects and said the focus should be on those ministries which were executing development projects as this would facilitate job creation and counter unemployment.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019