ISLAMABAD: After an unsuccessful voluntary registration push for the Tajir Dost Scheme (TDS), the Federal Board of Revenue has claimed that retailers’ registration reached 17,000 in six major cities during the drive that entered its 22nd day, official sources told Dawn on Thursday.

The voluntary registration incentivised traders and wholesalers to register into the tax framework by the April 30 deadline. However, less than 100 were enrolled under the scheme.

A senior tax official told Dawn on Thursday that since May 1, tax officials have begun communicating with retailers to encourage them to register. The push has had real benefits, with registration reaching 16,175 as of May 22.

According to the official, more than 1,000 traders have been registered in the tax system daily in the past two weeks.

The breakdown indicated that Karachi had the most traders registered under the TDS, with 5,094, followed by 4,204 in Lahore, 2,030 in Rawalpindi, 1,315 in Islamabad, 1,309 in Peshawar, and 785 in Quetta.

Only 300,000 of an estimated 3.5 million retailers are actively filing tax returns. The newly proposed scheme aims to bring the remaining 3.2m retailers in major cities into the tax net.

Despite contributing 18pc to the gross domestic product, the tax contribution of the retail and wholesale sectors stands at a mere 4pc. The government has been striving for years to incorporate this sector into the tax net effectively.

Three different schemes have been proposed since 2019, but could not be implemented due to a lack of political will and strong opposition from the trading community.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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