Saturday May 18, 2024

PTCL promises 'safeguarding interests of consumers' after FBR's SIMs disabling order

Diligently examining FBR's order within applicable legal and regulatory framework, says company

By Business Desk
May 01, 2024
A representational image of several sim cards. — AFP/File
A representational image of several sim cards. — AFP/File

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) has promised "safeguarding the interests of the concerned consumers" after the Federal Board of Revenue took a "strategic step" for tax compliance by ordering to block over 0.5 million SIMs of non-filers.

A spokesperson for the PTCL said in a statement that the company was “closely monitoring” the recent directives from the country’s top tax collection body to block SIM cards linked to around 0.5 million computerised national identity cards (CNICs) categorised as non-tax filers.

This matter is of utmost importance to us, and we are diligently examining this order within the applicable legal and regulatory framework, the statement read.

“Our priority is to ensure compliance with the applicable legal provisions, while safeguarding the interests of the concerned consumers,” it added.

The company said that it was in close coordination with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to address the issue effectively and responsibly.

FBR's 'strategic step' for tax compliance

A day earlier, the federal government directed the telecom authority and the other telecom companies to block mobile phone SIMs of over 500,000 non-filers, in a robust action against tax evaders amid the prevailing financial crisis facing the cash-strapped country.

In a statement, the FBR said: “In exercise of the powers conferred under section 114B of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, the FBR is pleased to issue this Income Tax General Order (ITGO) to disable the mobile phone SIMs in respect of following persons who are not appearing on active taxpayer list but are liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023 under the provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

The FBR asked the PTA and all telecom operators to ensure compliance with the Income Tax General Order (ITGO) with immediate effect, besides making public the names of 506,671 non-filers.

“The mobile SIMs in respect of the above-mentioned individuals will remain blocked until restored by FBR or the Commissioner Inland Revenue having jurisdiction of the person,” the FBR added, terming it a “strategic step” to show commitment to tax compliance among taxpayers.

Additionally, the tax collection body also sought a compliance report on May 15.

It further said that the non-filers could get their mobile phone SIMs restored by filing their tax return for the year 2023.

It is pertinent to mention here that the tax collection body, last year, secured additional powers in a bid to increase the tax net and was authorised, under Section 114B in the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, to disconnect utility connections and block mobile SIMs if a return is not filed in response to notices issued to them.