Tax where it is due

Published December 10, 2021

THIS refers to the report ‘Delay in levying health hazard tax disappoints anti-tobacco advocates’ (Nov 17), according to which, organisations, such as the Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan (CTC-Pak), the Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR), and members of Non-Communicative Diseases Alliance (NCDA), have claimed that the adviser on finance and revenue blocked a proposal presented by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) about the imposition of health hazard tax on tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages.

If true, the government has clearly ignored the idea of imposition of the two proposed taxes at the cost of the health of the nation. I fail to understand why the tax authorities, which had earlier imposed additional taxes on mobile phone calls which was subsequently nullified by the Sindh High Court, do not impose heavy taxes on goods that are harmful to society. These harmful products are jointly responsible for diseases like diabetes, and chronic heart and lung ailments, which account for 68 per cent deaths in Pakistan every year.

It must be highlighted that tax was not imposed on both these industries in the current budget, which is similar to backing up the tobacco and beverage sectors. By imposing heavy taxes on such industries, not only the government can generate additional taxes, but it can also restrict the use of tobacco, which is on a decline globally and there is every reason for that trend to be promoted in Pakistan.

On Dec 4, 2018, the NHS had announced the introduction of ‘sin tax’ in Pakistan which could not get materialised. In South Africa, sin tax decreased tobacco consumption by 40pc, whereas the Philippines has almost doubled the health budget within the first year of the imposition of sin tax.

The equation is simple. If you do not impose tax where it is due, you are left with no choice but to impose it where it is not due. I hope those concerned will take all the benefits into consideration and impose due taxes on the two sectors.

Farah Mirza
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2021

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