Wednesday June 19, 2024

Over 11,000 SIMs blocked as FBR tightens noose around non-filers

FBR blocks 11,252 SIMs under Income Tax General Order, says tax collection body

By Ashraf Malkham
May 23, 2024
Representation image of mobile phone SIM cards. — AFP/File
Representation image of mobile phone SIM cards. — AFP/File

In line with the government’s decision, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Thursday said that more than 11,000 mobile phone SIMs of non-filers have been blocked so far across the country.

In a statement, the spokesperson of the tax collection body said: “11,252 SIMs have been blocked as of May 22 under Income Tax General Order.”

“The FBR is committed to promoting tax compliance and tax culture.”

The FBR, a day earlier, announced that more than 9,000 SIMs of the non-filers had been blocked all over the country as per its directives.

The spokesperson had said the FBR informed the telecommunication companies about the decision to block SIMs in order to curb tax evasion to improve revenue generation amid dire economic indicators in a meeting held earlier this week.

“The decision has been made by parliament, therefore, the government’s decision should be implemented in any case,” he had added.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has distanced itself from the matter of SIM’s blocking.

The authority maintained that it did not have the authority to block the SIMs.

Earlier, two telecom firms blocked another 3,500 SIMs owned by the non-filers on Tuesday, the FBR spokesperson had said.

He further stated that the SIMs of those who file the tax returns will be unblocked immediately.

Gov decision to block SIMs still in effect: IHC

On May 17, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), while hearing a case pertaining to the orders for blocking SIMs of the non-filers, had remarked that the government’s decision to block SIMs of a non-filler was still in effect as the injunction of the court was not related to blocking the SIMs of non-filers.

The court had issued a stay order against the action on the telecom companies in a petition against government for its decision to block SIMs.

The federal government filed a separate petition seeking to lift the stay order on the proceedings against the mobile network companies.

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had clarified that the stay order was solely to safeguard the petitioner and that the injunction was not to block the SIMs. Therefore, the decision of the federal government was still in effect, he had said

“We can understand that the federal government is focusing on economic reforms. This step may have been taken in the context of economic reforms,” the chief justice had remarked.

The court had further pledged to expedite the proceedings and adjourned the case till June.

After lengthy deliberations among the stakeholders, the FBR announced earlier this month that telecom companies have agreed to commence the manual blocking process of SIMs in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it.

The tax collection body had said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telcos on a daily basis.

Earlier, it was decided to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who did not appear on the active taxpayer list but were liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.