LAHORE: President Dr Arif Alvi has said Pakistan must enhance its tax collection and the tax-to-GDP ratio in order to overcome its perennial financial woes and end its undue reliance on foreign aid.

He was addressing a seminar on the role of the Federal Tax Ombudsman at the Governor House here on Saturday. Governor Balighur Rehman and Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Dr Asif Mahmmod Jah were also present.

The president stressed the need to facilitate taxpayers by dispensing speedy and cost-effective justice to them against the maladministration of tax officials. He said adopting a people-friendly attitude and open-door policy by tax officials would encourage more people to voluntarily join the tax-net.

Dr Alvi also underlined the need to end frivolous litigation by the tax administration against the FTO’s decisions in the cases where the cost of litigation exceeded the amount of tax involved to save government department’s time and resources.

He said taxes were essential for effectively running the governance system, adding that the business community should voluntarily comply with the tax regime, whereas the tax machinery should facilitate the taxpayers and make filing of taxes easier, besides reducing the cost of tax compliance, to further widen the tax base.

The president said the latest IT tools, including complaint management system, web-based chat bots, web portals and mobile applications, could be used to enhance the registration and resolution of tax payer’s complaints.

He urged the FTO to effectively play its role in the resolution of complaints by creating awareness among people about its role and services. The president appreciated the FTO for incorporating the alternative dispute resolution to mediate between the taxpayers and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for reaching mutual agreement and settlement among the parties.

He said the process of lodging complaint by the affected party should be made easier by using electronic means of communication and recording statements by the complainants and witnesses. He said this would encourage the affectees to approach the FTO for resolution of their issues caused by the maladministration of tax officials.

Mr Alvi said Pakistan had enacted laws to ensure protection of women’s property rights, wherein Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment at Workplace would help the women in vacating encroached upon properties registered in their name within stipulated time period. It was a big step towards the economic and financial empowerment of women, he added.

He said although Pakistan was going through challenging times, it had all the essential ingredients to rise to glory in a short span of time “provided we embrace emerging and developing technologies in all fields, desist from getting involved in petty issues, focus on bigger visions and missions and work for the progress and prosperity of the country.”

The governor urged efforts to encourage more people to pay taxes as Pakistan had a low tax-to-GDP ratio as compared to other countries. He said that an unfriendly attitude towards the taxpayers should be strongly discouraged and completely eliminated as it deterred the people from becoming part of the tax net.

Dr Jah said the FTO office was providing relief to taxpayers in 45 days in a cost-effective manner, using online and other modern means of communication. He said the tax ombudsman had provided tax refunds to contractual employees of different government organisations, including the PTV. He informed that an unprecedented increase in the registration and resolution of taxpayers’ complaints had been witnessed.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2022

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