Inefficiencies failing the Tax Apparatus in Pakistan

The following write-up was published in the Oct-Dec 2017 Quarterly Edition of “Policy Insights”, the largest accountancy body ACCA’s regional publication covering MENASA

Link: ACCA’s Policy Insights’ Published Link

Link: Main Page

Inefficiencies failing the Tax Apparatus in Pakistan

(by failing the genuine Taxpayers)

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is a semi-autonomous federal institution that is responsible for auditing, enforcing and collecting revenue for the government of Pakistan. It’s one of the most critical components of the revenue collection apparatus in Pakistan. As such it is supposed to be the pinnacle of professionalism, discipline and support to tax payers.

During the last budgetary season, Chairman FBR invited this writer, while representing ACCA (UK) and LTBA at a historic pre-budget seminar that was organized with the collaboration of ICAP, ICMAP, ACCA, LTBA, PTBA, LCCI and several other Tax Bars, to send him proposals about the issues in and reforms for FBR. Below is a brief overview from that perspective.

Currently there are approximately 1,210,000 active income tax return filers as per the FBR directory issued in August 2017, out of a population of roughly 218 million in Pakistan. This is a meager 0.55% of the total population. A huge proportion of these filers, file NIL returns is another topic. On the other hand every Pakistani is paying indirect taxes on whatever they consume. The evident lack of trust of the taxpayers on the system and the resulting regressive taxation policies are a big hindrance in the attainment of an optimal taxation system. We’ve often discussed the problems with the taxation policies in Pakistan and proposed practical solutions. Frankly speaking there is only so much FBR can do in this regard since the policies are often driven by the IMF, World Bank and/or the political interests in the country. However the areas where FBR can and should play a very effective role are not in the best of states either.

Considering the tiny tax base it was only natural for FBR to attempt to broaden it. However the way they went about it, has been unprofessional to say the least while messing up a good endeavor big time. Notices claiming no existing tax registration based on “economic activities”, usually citing vehicle purchases were sent out to masses. Sounds positive? Hang on, what if it’s shared with you that many of those receiving these notices were not only tax payers already registered but paying millions in Income Taxes annually? This exemplifies a total lack of coordination within the systems and functions of FBR, which is unfortunately becoming a norm of late. Missing out on the records already held by FBR simply reinforces the misconceptions amongst the tax payers that FBR is out to bother already registered tax payers instead of acting as a facilitator and initiating genuine drives to catch tax evaders.

What’s tragic is that while on one hand such steps are undertaken citing the need to broaden the tax base but on the other hand proposals with huge potential to broaden the tax base such as bringing agricultural income and other exempt sections within the tax net as well as converting the CNIC into National Tax Numbers (NTN) and Sales Tax Registration Numbers (STRN) for broadening the tax base have been falling on deaf ears for almost a decade now.

To underline the vast difference in the workings of FBR and similar bodies in developed countries, a personal experience is hereby shared with the readers to illustrate the significant gulf between the international standards and the ones practiced in our beloved country. While working in UK, I needed to change my tax code. For ease of understanding you can say it was like claiming a tax refund and I was not even a British national. It took me one phone call to UK’s HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) during my office lunch hour to get it done by the end of the lunch. Yes, just in less than an hour. Now compare it to the experience of genuine tax-payers in Pakistan who are ridiculed and abused for even minor genuine tax affairs. Presumptive and advance taxes are collected but when it is time to issue refunds in line with the law, actual due refunds are held for months and even years despite completion of all legalities and verification. What is worst is that in most cases the FBR officials verbally accept the cases as genuine but claim that due to the pressure to meet revenue collection targets they are unable to follow the law and deliver the tax payer their due right.

The problem manifests from the nepotism and non-professional attitudes of some officers who treat tax-payers with utmost contempt instead of the dignity they deserve. Un-realistic targets setup by higher-ups then further aggravates the matters with coercive, non coordinated and even illegal measures used by certain sections within FBR. The widespread corruption within the department further worsens the matters.

It’d be reasonable to point out that although PRAL (Pakistan Revenue Automation (Pvt) Ltd) does mess up things at times, many of its’ positive endeavors were blocked for fears of eradicating corruption using different pretexts by certain sections of FBR. For example, PRAL once finalized a completely automated system of issuing refunds to tax payers with even an online payment instrument. Naturally there was a huge hue and cry. The project was dumped and the corrupt manual practices continue to date.

Now as if all this was not enough, even the laws governing the whole taxation system are made mockery of within FBR by several officers undermining the good work and efforts undertaken by their more professional colleagues. Just ask any genuine tax payer or tax practitioner about the treatment meted out to them by most FBR officials and you’d be shocked. Due to limited space, this topic will have to be continued in future write-ups.

As for now, perhaps the policy makers and senior FBR officials should consider this dire situation seriously to rectify all the serious problems within FBR. If they fail to do so, the next time they complain about low proportion of tax payers in Pakistan as compared to UK or other developed countries, they should realize that they only have themselves to blame. 

About author:

The author is Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading tax expert, experienced fellow Chartered Certified Accountant CFA Charterholder, and anti-money laundering specialist with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

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Pakistan’s 2nd to None

At a top financial institution with participants after completing a project on  . A long day can be tiring but professionally rewarding if successful.

I’ve always believed and my belief keeps on strengthening that we only need to garner the abilities of our people in a just way while focusing on education.

In terms of brilliance, hardworking people and potential,  is 2nd to none

ACCA Pakistan “Working Group on Taxation”

IMG-20160516-WA0046.jpg

Assalam O Alikum (Peace be on you),

The above is a picture from one of the events launching ACCA’s last pre-budget proposals. We’re planning for a revamp of the ACCA taxation committee and opening up to have some more competent professionals join us with their valuable contributions for the profession, country and their Alma-mater.

Below is the snapshot of a recent email from ACCA to members across Pakistan. Please feel free to share this in your circle and get in touch if you’re the right person.

Dear ACCA Members
ACCA Pakistan MNP has decided to setup a working group under the Taxation Subcommittee. The objective of this working group will be to interact with the Federal Board of Revenue initially and expand its remit to the Provincial Revenue Authorities under the leadership of Omer Zaheer Meer, FCCA, Head of Taxation Sub Committee, ACCA Pakistan and offer the following:

  • Provide regular feedback and suggestions on circulars/policy matters pertaining to taxation
  • Prepare budget proposals (initially federal and later on expand them to the provincial proposals too) and forward them to Federal and Provincial Ministries of Finance.
  • The budget proposals should be prepared in such a way that they present a holistic as well as sectoral suggestions for Pakistan’s Annual Budget
  • Discuss, deliberate and critically evaluate issues pertaining to taxation and present the critical evaluation to Federal and Provincial
  • Profile the ACCA Pakistan Members Network Panel and the subcommittee to the taxation regulators in Pakistan

This working group will consist of 3-5 members working in the taxation sector in strategic positions with considerable experience of the sector. Members with a diverse view point on taxation of different business sectors are encouraged to share their CVs and a personal statement describing their claim to merit for these position with us.

Those members who are keen to join this working group should send us their CV and personal statement by replying to this email. We will look forward to your responses by 24 February 2017.
Haroon A Jan
Regional Head of Member Affairs – MENASA
ACCA Pakistan
61-C  Main Gulberg  Lahore Pakistan

Kind Regards,

Omer Zaheer Meer,

Managing Partner,

Millennium Law & Corporate Company

Session on FATCA

From: members.pk
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2016 6:05 PM
Subject: Webinar on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a recently implemented law which creates a new reporting and withholding regime for financial institutions but impacts individuals and other businesses too.  FATCA, despite being a US regulation, has global implications as it effectively covers all US persons. State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Pakistan Banks Association (PBA), Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), individual commercial banks, non-bank financial institutions and other stakeholders in their respective capacities

It is a very important area for the banking and financial services sector, and equally important for professionals from other sectors and industries.

Keeping in view of our tradition of keeping our members and affiliates up-to-date on important professional developments, we’ve organized a session on this current and highly in-demand topic.

Trainer’s Profile

Mr. Omer Zaheer Meer is an experienced accounting, finance, management and economics professional holding FCCA (senior ACCA member), CFA Charter, the Anti-Money Laundering Specialization, BSc (Hons) in Applied Accounting and several professional certifications from UK along-with 15 years of experience gained in top management positions in leading British and Pakistani companies.

Currently, he is the Managing Partner at Millennium Law & Corporate Company (pioneer ACCA practising firm in Pakistan) and a Director on the board of multiple organizations. Mr. Meer is an experienced trainer having worked with esteemed organizations in corporate, public and academic sectors. His portfolio includes having conducted mandatory promotional trainings of Government Officers at MPDD (Punjab Govt) as well as conducting programs at National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), HBL, LCCI, LTBA, Bahria University (Pak Navy), UET, e.t.c.

He is a regular contributor to various national and international publications like Daily Nation, Daily Times, Express Tribune and Blue Chip magazine.

Mr. Meer is also a life member and third-time serving Chairman Liaison Committee of Lahore Tax Bar Association, Member of Global Taxation Forum (ACCA UK), Member MNP and Chairman of the Taxation Subcommittee of ACCA (Pak), Member Taxation Committee LCCI, Director Millat Thinkers’ Forum, Member Hamdard Thinkers’ Forum and professionally associated with globally reputed organizations like ACCA (UK), CFAI (USA), UKSIP (UK), PRIMA (USA), PRMIA (USA),  MPDD (PAK) & www.mymfb.com

Topics Covered

        I.            What is Money Laundering?

      II.            Sources of Black Money

    III.            Money Laundering – Method

    IV.            Notable Cases of Money Laundering

      V.            Anti – Money Laundering (AML)

    VI.            Effective AML System

  VII.            Acronyms

VIII.            FATCA Regulations (including for Individual/Sole Proprietorship Accounts, Entities
and Change in circumstances of Existing entities) along-with impact on various stakeholders including businesses and individuals

    IX.            Q & A Session

Audience
ACCA Members & Affiliates, other Tax Professionals and professional accountants

When and Where
The event will be conducted only through Webinar.

Date & Time
3
0 September 2016, 03:00pm – 06:00pm

Registration

The participation fee for this webinar is Rs.5,000 and can be paid at all the ACCA Pakistan Offices to the Customer Services representatives.

The fee is fully waived for ACTIVE ACCA Members and Affiliates. 


All Members and Affiliates interested in attending the event should register before 29 September 2016 by filling up the registration form available on the link below.

Click here to register

CPD Units

03 Units

Haroon A Jan
Head of Member Affairs
ACCA Pakistan
61-C  Main Gulberg  Lahore Pakistan

cel: +92 (0)300 8466 322

tel: +92 (0)42 3598 7022
fax: +92 (0)42 3575 9346

Breaking new ground by combining our world leading ACCA Qualification with a Masters…

www.accaglobal.com/msc

 

Formal Launch of My Youtube Channel

Dear Readers and Friends,

Assalam O Alikum! (Peace be on you),

The constant suggestion by many of you to launch a formal Youtube channel covering my key public and/or professional engagements with a dimension of educating and enlightening has been turned into a reality.

It is with pleasure that I announce on this auspicious day of Friday that my team has successfully launched the same. The channel can be accessed at:

There are already some very interesting videos covering some of the key current issues and opportunities such as Immovable Property Taxation Issues, CPEC, Budget Proposals, Finance Act, e.t.c.

We aim to constantly update our channel with valuable knowledge sharing videos. Your feedback and appreciation would be the fuel to keep us going in this effort. I hope you find this useful and wish you all the best in your lives and careers.

Take Care,

Omer