FBR to back MPs over ‘leaking of tax details’

FBR to back MPs over ‘leaking of tax details’

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Thursday assured lawmakers that it would stand behind them in the court, in case, they decided to sue author of a report which termed them tax evaders and tax dodgers.

The FBR has started forensic investigation and would present its report in parliament within next 15 days, an FIR would also be registered against FBR officials, if they were found guilty of leaking of tax data of lawmakers.FBR Chairman Arshad Ali Hakeem extended this assurance to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance and Revenues during it’s meeting held at Parliament House with Senator Nasreen Jalil in the chair.

PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Leader of the opposition Senator Ishaq Dar (PML-N), Jahangir Badr (PPP), Farhatullah Babar (PPP), Saeed Ghani (PPP), Haji Adeel (ANP), Senator Ilyas Bilour (ANP) Col (R) Tahir Mashhadi (MQM), Ghulam Ali (JUI-F), Usman Saifullah Khan (PML-Q), Kamil Ali Agha (PML-Q) and Kulsoom Parveen (BNP-A) and Minister of State for Finance Saleem Mandviwalla attended the meeting.The meeting was convened to react collectively on media report released by a whereby allegations were levelled against lawmakers like tax evaders and tax dodgers.

The meeting was kept in-camera for half-an-hour to agree on consensus and collective way forward against the media report and than FBR officials and media was invited to attend the meeting. The senators strongly re-acted to the allegations and termed this report as character assassination of politicians and an attack on parliament.

Re-acting to the media report, Senator Ishaq Dar on behalf of the other parliamentarians said that it’s although its illegal to leak the information of a taxpayer, however, termed it as a start of the new way forward and proposed FBR authorities to issue NTN numbers to all remaining members of National Assembly and Senate if any one is found not registered with Income Tax Department. This effort should be extended to all four provincial assemblies so that members of parliament come on national tax number and meet their national obligation of payment of due tax annually.

He also proposed that a tax directory can be published whereby tax payments of each parliamentarians can be mentioned or a separate column in declaration of assets of election commission of Pakistan where they could mention their tax payments. He termed it as a matter of promotion of transparency on the part of parliamentarians.Senator Ishaq Dar said that tax to GDP ratio have came down by 3 percent which means loss of Rs.1500 billion revenues annually.

Chaudhry Shujaat termed media report wrong and handed over tax returns of his and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain to the FBR chairman for making it clear that they have met their tax obligation. Senator Nasreen Jalil said its the obligation of the lawmakers to set an example in accordance with the constitution by meeting their tax obligations. She said that senators are satisfied with the replies given by FBR, however, she mentioned that media should also highlight the issue like tax avoidance by agriculture sector which constitute 22% of the GDP and it’s contribution in tax to GDM is less than one percent.

The FBR chairman, while appreciating the gesture from parliamentarians termed it beginning of a new tax culture in the country and announced that FBR would set up tax help desk in parliament house as well as at all four provincial assemblies and would appoint dedicated income tax officials to help them sorting out their tax obligation and help them filing of their income tax return.

He explained to the committee that according to initial investigation on leakage of tax data of parliamentarians, no one at FBR has done this and forensic investigation has been started to examine who have accessed the master data index through computer and this exercise would help detect the persons involved in data theft. He also presented a CD to the committee and informed the committee that the Journalist who compiled and released the report on the subject have said in his interview that he obtained the data from Election Commission of Pakistan. He mentioned that FBR has not shared data with any of the state institution including Election Commission of Pakistan or NADRA.

The FBR chairman informed the committee that Income Tax Ordinance does not permit FBR to make public tax details of the parliamentarians and if parliament authorizes it would be possible for FBR to make public tax payments of each parliamentarian. He suggested that if rights of any parliamentarians have been infringed they could sue in court and FBR would stand behind them.

The FBR chairman said that as percentage of population in the country only 0.3 percent of the population is paying tax and in India this ratio is at 4 percent of the population and added that FBR is in a process of jacking up to 3 percent of the population.However, Senator Haji Adeel and other senators strongly reacted to this and said that returns filed by parliamentarians to election commission only contain data of their assets and their liabilities and do not contain any requirement to mentioning of tax payments. – Dailytimes