Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin on Monday called upon the public to forget the idea that they could get away by evading taxes, saying those not paying their dues shouldn't even be allowed to vote.
Addressing the Kamyab Jawan Convention in Islamabad as the chief guest, Tarin announced that under his supervision, the government would abolish all taxes except the income tax and general sales tax (GST) in the coming years.
"[When] the German finance minister came to meet me, she said 'no representation without taxation'. If you don't pay taxes, you don't have the right to representation or vote either," he told the gathering, jointly organised by the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) and the Kamyab Jawan Programme.
He said people argued that they did not pay taxes because the government did not provide any facilities in return, but pointed out that such people used roads, electricity, and benefited from the maintenance of law and order, the army defending them at the borders and the police.
"Where will all this [money] come from? So forget that there will be no tax. However, we will simplify [the tax regime]. There will only be two taxes — income tax and consumption tax (GST)," he said, adding that taxes such as withholding and turnover tax would be scrapped in the next 2-3 years
The adviser said he had also straightforwardly told traders from across the country at a meeting last week that "we all have to pay the tax. If you think we will not, then our country will not progress."
He, however, assured government facilitation for the traders, saying he had put an end to "harassment" at the hands of the Federal Board of Revenue and that in case of any disputes, third-party audits would be carried out.
Tarin said the government now had all the data of tax evaders, including their bills, bank accounts and information about travel, cars and houses, which it would use to estimate such people's income through artificial intelligence as well.
"You will get a bill saying this is your income and this is the tax due," he said, emphasising that authorities would not use any force but request people to pay their dues if they thought they had been accurately calculated.
"It is the state's right to receive tax," he added.
He noted that the current tax-to-GDP ratio in Pakistan was nine per cent which was very low and needed to be doubled to 20pc.
Raising the ratio to 20pc could improve the growth rate and provide employment opportunities to the youth, he said.
Promising consultations with traders, the adviser said he had offered them to bring a delegation to him and share their complaints so that they could be resolved.
Tarin further said the government wanted to bring back Pakistan's past economic glory when the country was one of the four largest economies in Asia.
In the 1960s, “we were counted among economies like China and Japan, when we were economically strong,” he recalled, adding that the government was focusing on human resource capital and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which would be its top priority going forward.
He cited the provision of interest-free loans, skills development courses for young people, agricultural loans, home loans in easy instalments and health cards as steps in this direction.
Tarin emphasised that the country could not move forward without empowering its youth, which accounted for 60pc of the population.