Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar presented the budget for fiscal year 2020-21 on the floor of the National Assembly on Friday amid slogans and desk-thumping by opposition members.
Azhar said the government was going ahead with an “expansionary fiscal policy” which was the need of the hour after the economy had contracted due to the coronavirus pandemic in the outgoing fiscal year.
An expansionary fiscal policy means the government is trying to use economic tools to increase spending by individuals and businesses. This can be done in a host of ways such as by cutting taxes so that households and businesses have more disposable income at hand or by reducing interest rates in an attempt to discourage saving or both.
As the minister pointed out, the government has reduced interest rates significantly since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, from 13.25 per cent to 8pc in a span of three months. With the budget, the government was facing a catch 22 — on the one hand it wants to achieve higher tax revenue but on the other, it wants to boost disposable incomes.
To this end, we list some of the changes in taxes/duties introduced by the government in budget 2020- 21.
Raw materials for the following industries have been exempted from customs duty, which will make them completely duty free. The industries include:
According to the government, this exemption will apply to around 20,000 items used as raw materials in the aforesaid industries, which make up 20pc of all imports.
Furthermore, customs duty rates have been reduced — 20pc, 16pc, 11pc and 3pc to 11pc, 3pc and 0pc — for raw materials and intermediate goods used to manufacture items such as rubber, bleaching agents and other products used domestically.
The government has also proposed lowering sales tax — from 14pc to 12pc — for retailers with registered point of sales (POS) systems. So, your neighbourhood general store will most likely benefit from this if they have a computerised system to register transactions. This, the government believes, will give relief to the common man and also help in documentation of economy.
Noticing that the hotel and restaurant industry has been hit badly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has proposed to reduce the minimum tax for the industry from 1.5pc to 0.5pc for six months (April to September 2020).
Mobile phones manufactured locally will get cheaper after the government has proposed to reduce sales tax on these. However, it was not immediately clear how much reduction in the tax rate was proposed.
However, not all duties were reduced. For smokers, the budget has turned out to be a burden on their wallets. The government has proposed that the federal excise duty (FED) on imported cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and vaping liquid be increased from 65pc to 100pc.
Similarly, your favourite energy drink will be more expensive as it has been proposed to increase the FED on caffeinated and energy drinks from 13pc to 25pc.
Food supplements for children
Special food supplements for children with genetic birth problems are proposed to be exempted from all duties and import taxes to reduce their cost.
Since supplementary foods for children and expecting mothers are now being manufactured in Pakistan under the World Food Programme, the government has also proposed exemption of customs duties on raw materials used in the manufacture of these supplementary foods.
The government has also proposed exemption of all duties and taxes on diagnostic kits for coronavirus and cancer.
Withholding tax relaxations
Indirect withholding taxes have been removed for the following:
- Collection of advance tax on education-related expenses remitted abroad
- Tax on steel melters and composite units
- Withholding of balance under pension fund
- Advance tax on functions and gatherings
- Advance tax on dealers, commission agents and architects
- Advance tax on tobacco