ISLAMABAD, Jan 29: Over the past 54 months, the PPP-led coalition government has given tax exemptions to certain influential lobbies and the elites which amount to more than the loans acquired from the International Monetary Fund to correct the balance of payment.
Between 2008 and Dec 2012, the government took loans of Rs604 billion from the IMF and granted tax exemptions to the tune of about Rs719bn, the Federal Board of Revenue informed the Senate on Tuesday.
Almost 84 per cent of tariff and duty was exempted or reduced for the benefit of the lobbies through statutory regulatory orders (SROs) issued by the government, said the FBR in a written reply to a question raised by PML-N Senator Nuzhat Sadiq. She had asked about the year-wise figures of exemptions given to various sectors through the SROs.
Former adviser to the government on economy Dr Ashfaq H. Khan told Dawn that it was the responsibility of the government to bring all the sectors enjoying exemptions into the tax net.
“We need to bring our house in order by taxing all sectors which are contributing to economic activity, such as income from agriculture and services sectors like doctors and lawyers,” he said.
“We can mobilise our own resources by bringing all sectors into the tax net as demanded by international financial institutions,” he said.
Less than 0.6 per cent of the 190 million people in the country pay taxes. The National Database and Registration Authority has identified 3.8 million people who are not paying taxes. Who was stopping FBR from performing its duty to bring more people into the tax net, Dr Ashfaq asked.
State Minister for Finance Saleem H. Mandviwalla said in the upper house that the exemptions were a continuation of the policy of previous governments. He said the SROs were issued to encourage certain sectors like textile.
The amount of income and sales tax waived from 2008-09 to 2011-12 was estimated at Rs298.046bn — Rs58.364bn in 2008-09, Rs73.943bn in 2009-10, Rs71.831bn in 2010-11 and Rs93.908bn in 2011-12.
And customs duties waived or exempted through the SROs from 2008-09 to Dec 31, 2012 stood at Rs420.724bn — Rs72.486bn in 2008-09, Rs80.107bn in 2009-10, Rs92.587bn in 2010-11, Rs114.264bn in 20011-12 and Rs61.280bn in the first six months of 2012-13.
The FBR said attempts had been made in the past to prepare a reasonable estimate of quantum of tax evasion, but such estimates were prone to error because of non-availability of veritable information, the large size of unorganised sector and non-documentation of economy.