ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance & Revenue Senator Ishaq Dar Monday took serious note of “illegal and unwarranted leak” of tax information of the family members of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) as the offence is a blatant violation of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.
“This [leak] is clearly violative of the complete confidentiality of tax information that the Income Tax law provides,” said an official handout issued by the finance ministry. However, the statement did not rebut the allegations leveled against the family of the army chief.
“In view of this serious lapse on the part of to-date unknown functionaries, the Finance minister has directed the SAPM on Revenue Tariq Mehmood Pasha to personally lead an immediate investigation into the violation of tax law and breach of FBR data, affix responsibility and submit a report within twenty four hours,” the statement asserted.
Sources in the FBR, however, told Pakistan Today that under the law, no official can share or leak the tax details of any taxpayer as the tax details are protected under section 216 of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 as explained in the disclosure of information by the taxpayer.
The law states that any statement made, return furnished, or accounts or documents produced under the provisions of this Ordinance; any evidence given, or affidavit or deposition made, in the course of any proceedings under this Ordinance, other than proceedings under Part XI of Chapter X; or any record of any assessment proceedings or any proceeding relating to the recovery of a demand, shall be confidential and no public servant save as provided in this Ordinance may disclose any such particulars.
“If some official violates the privacy of the taxpayer under section 198 of Income Tax Ordinance 2001 with regard to unauthorized disclosure of information then he/she can be fined (not less than five hundred thousand rupees) or could be subjected to imprisonment for a term not exceeding (one year) or both,” said the official.
Sources said that there are two systems in place with regard to access of someone’s tax details. “One is the IRIS system and the second is the Integrated Tax Management System (ITMS)”.
“No one, except an designated official, in the IRIS system can access the tax record including wealth statements of any individual whereas any official can access or misuse the tax record of any individual under ITMS,” said the official.
Recently, Justice Yahya Afridi in the detailed judgement of Justice Qazi Faez Isa case in a separate note mentioned, “Section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, commands confidentiality of the information of a tax filer and breach therefore exposes the delinquent to penal consequences under sections 198 and 199 of the Ordinance”.
It is worth mentioning here that the incumbent government had also established a 10-member committee under the supervision of the Minister for Law and Justice to fix responsibility, who had leaked confidential tax information of Justice Qazi Isa and his family.
However, contrary to the law, the official said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had directed the federal government to make tax details of all public office holders by September 30, 2022, but the government has failed to fulfill the condition of the IMF.
It is pertinent to mention here that a website namely, Fact Focus, has published an article about members of Gen Bajwa’s immediate and extended family, alleging that they started a new international business, shifted capital abroad, and bought foreign properties.