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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Cabinet considers FBR revamp today

Secretary Revenue Division/FBR chairman has signed the summary for the restructuring plan of the FBR and its digitization and forwarded it to the Cabinet Division

By Mehtab Haider & Rana Ghulam Qadir
January 23, 2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar chairs a meeting. — APP/File
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar chairs a meeting. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet is scheduled to meet under the chairmanship of the Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Tuesday (today) to consider approval of the restructuring of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and its digitization amid stiff resistance meted out by top notches of FBR.

The FBR officers belonging to both the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) and Customs Group have decided to make a representation before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday (today) ahead of the cabinet meeting in which they are going to sternly oppose the interim government’s move for approving a summary of the restructuring of FBR possessing key and drastic changes in the structure and administration of tax collection machinery.

However, the Secretary Revenue Division/FBR chairman has signed the summary for the restructuring plan of the FBR and its digitization and forwarded it to the Cabinet Division. Now the Federal Cabinet is scheduled to meet today to consider granting its nod.

There are two more agenda items for the federal cabinet including ratification of the decisions taken in the ECC meeting but the main agenda item is related to considering approval of the restructuring plan of the FBR.

“Based on Section 230 of the Election Act under which the Commission issued an instruction to the interim government on August 15, 2023, for taking day-to-day affairs and holding of general elections, such summary is in total contrast and in violation of the ECP directives,” the officers of FBR who are opposing the proposed restructuring of the FBR told The News here on Monday. They were of the view that the caretaker government did not have powers for such sweeping changes in the FBR.

It is quite interesting that the restructuring plan was going to be considered by the cabinet when there is no policy document in the public domain. Only the presentations, then SIFC minutes, and now the summary would be tabled before the cabinet for getting approval.

Last Saturday, the SIFC’s top military brass played a key role in convincing the Secretary Revenue Division/Chairman FBR to send the summary. Now the question arises how much tax to GDP ratio would be increased as a result of the restructuring of the FBR? How much broadening of the tax base would be expanded over the next five-year period?

The officers of the FBR have expressed fears that the DGs of IRS and Customs would be appointed from the FBR cadres but the Secretary of Revenue Division might be appointed outside of the FBR fold. There would be federal secretaries in the proposed boards so the mighty bureaucrats would be the ultimate beneficiaries of this whole process.

The official said that it was objected to how the private chairman of the board would be selected to avoid conflict of interest so it was decided that it would be nominated from academia. It’s easy to talk about this in papers or presentations but when it is done practically then they will come to know how much it is difficult to do. The collection of taxes is not an easy task to discharge where conflict of interest may prove a headache for the coming regimes in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, 7-point agenda has been issued for today’s cabinet meeting. Briefing will be given by Revenue Division to cabinet meeting on the restructuring and digitalization of FBR. The cabinet will approve this summary. The cabinet will also approve extension in the tenure of service of SME Bank President (CEO) Tahir Hassan Qureshi. Approval for the appointment of members of Islamabad Health Care Regulatory will also be given on the summary of Ministry of Health. Nod will also be given for the formation of Search Committee for the appointment of vice chancellor of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University under the Health Ministry’s summary. The ratification of the decisions of ECC will also be given. Approval will also be granted to the decisions of January 9 and 17 about the legislation of cabinet.