Businessmen Group chairman expresses grave concerns over discretionary powers, increasing of taxes
Businessmen Group (BMG) Chairman and former president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Siraj Kassam Teli, while expressing serious dismay over the announcements made in the Federal Budget 2016-17, highlighted the need to make collective efforts to get numerous budget anomalies removed, particularly those which further burden the existing taxpayers by imposing new taxes, increasing the existing tax rates and granting more discretionary powers to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
Speaking at a post-budget meeting held at KCCI to review the impact of many anti-business and harsh decisions taken in the Federal Budget, BMG chairman pointed out that the last three budgets announced by the government already granted massive discretionary powers which created immense problems for the business and industrial community of Karachi.
“This year’s budget is worse than what we have seen during the last three budgets. It has been prepared to pimarily please the feudal lords only, as announced by Mr. Ishaq Dar himself during the budget speech. While on the other hand no pro-business measure or relief has been announced to revive the economic activity and provide a level playing field”, he added.
Vice Chairman BMG & Former President KCCI Haroon Farooki, President KCCI Younus Muhammad Bashir, Senior Vice President KCCI Zia Ahmed Khan, Vice President KCCI Muhammad Naeem Sharif, Former Presidents KCCI AQ Khalil, Haroon Agar, Abdullah Zaki, Iftikhar Ahmed Vohra, Former SVP and Chairman of KCCI’s Special Committee for Budget Proposals Muhammad Ibrahim Kasumbi and KCCI Managing Committee members were present at the meeting.
The participants pointed out that the federal budget and Finance Bill 2016-17 have entirely focused on tariff and tax concessions granted to feudal lords. Therefore they feared that the loss of revenue was likely to be recovered from the industry and trade based in urban areas through additional taxation measures amounting to Rs204 billion.
They said that the recently announced budget has not focused on dealing with falling exports. Pakistan needs to expand export markets in regional countries, particularly with countries who already have Free Trade (FTA) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTA) with Pakistan. The meeting participants further expressed deep concern over government’s attitude towards KCCI’s proposals since many of these proposals were ignored despite the repeated assurances given by the decision makers at numerous meetings held at the FBR prior to the Budget.
Terming Finance Minister’s budget speech as “Election Speech”, they said that it was clearly an attempt to capture the vote bank of land gentry.
They said that no effort can be seen to broaden the tax base and the existing tax payers were being further burdened to generate more revenue. Moreover, there was no effort to include the income from agriculture in the definition of incomes which are to be taxed – another element that seeks to benefit the feudal lords.
According to the meeting participants, the concept of taxing the Non-Filers is faulty and must be protested. It is a matter of serious concern that out of a total population of 180 million, only about 1.1 million are filers which clearly indicate the shortcomings of FBR to bring the prospective tax payers into the tax net and the consequences of such shortcomings are being levied on to the entire nation in the form of further taxes.
Contrary to KCCI’s proposals, all discretionary powers of the FBR and Inland Revenue (IR) officers have been retained and kept intact which consequently prevents the broadening of tax base and allows for the harassment of taxpayers, they added.
They said that it was a matter of grave concern that FBR has once again heavily relied on Indirect Taxes including Customs Duties, Sales Tax, FED on beverages and cigarettes and Withholding Income Tax while no road map has been provided for economic growth and diversion of capital from real estate towards industry and trade.
BMG Leadership and KCCI office bearers strongly believe that by way of reduction in slabs of customs duty, a new Pandora ’s Box has been opened. The changes in slabs has put many industrial raw materials and commodities under higher slabs of customs duty with an intention to increase revenue by Rs204 billion.
The meeting participants further noted that various pressure groups have been able to obtain or retain the concessionary attitude of the regime through intense lobbying prior to the budget. The Finance Ministry and FBR have succumbed to the pressure and therefore failed to present a budget which benefits the nation. Instead, a significant amount of revenue has been sacrificed.
They further mentioned that no reduction has been made in the rate of WHT of 6.5 percent on commercial importers of raw materials, which will lead to the misuse of exemption and most of the commercial importers will now divert to importing under the industrial category – resulting in a loss of revenue. In fact, the government has only been able to collect around Rs150 billion in WHT from commercial importers at source.