Friday June 21, 2024

FBR shares data of 10,000 non-filers with PTA, telcos

FBR shared two batches of 10,000 non-filers with the PTA and Cellular Mobile Operators but blocking of SIMs could not be kick-started

By Our Correspondent
May 12, 2024
Representational image of a tax return form. — APP File
Representational image of a tax return form. — APP File

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has so far shared two batches of 10,000 non-filers with the PTA and Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) but the blocking of SIMs could not be kick-started.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took a strong exception on Saturday when he was informed that so far SIMs could not be blocked. Then the FBR came into action and shared a fresh batch of another 5,000 data of non-filers along with CNICs to PTA and CMOs and asked them to block their 10,000 SIMs within a few hours. The list was shared at around 2:00 pm with the direction to disconnect their SIMs till 6:00 pm. However, it is not yet known why the SIMs could not be blocked so far. This scribe made efforts to contact FBR Chairman Amjad Zubair Tawana in the last 48 hours but no reply was received.

The representatives of mobile operators are tight-lipped and said they were reviewing the situation. However, when asked whether the blocking of SIMs had started, they preferred not to reply. Sources said that the blocking of SIMs could not be started yet.

The CMOs will have to send out messages to their customers for blocking their SIMs, which could not happen.

Tax Expert Zeeshan Merchant stated in a TV programme that the blocking 506,000 SIMs will result in a tax revenue shortfall of at least Rs608 million annually, to the national exchequer. Given the industry Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of Rs280 per month, a cellular subscriber pays around Rs100 in taxes monthly (35 percent). Thus, on annual basis Rs1,200 x 506,000 becomes equivalent to Rs608 million. Since usage patterns between the targeted SIM owners will deviate, this impact is likely to be even higher. There are a total 192 million users of mobile phones in the country and the FBR shared CNICs of 506,000 non-filers who might have possessed more than one mobile connections.

Initially, the FBR has identified around 2 million potential non-filers and wanted blockage of their SIMs but after hectic discussions, it came up with the number of 506,000 non-filers with the direction under 114-B of Income Tax General Order for blocking the SIMs till May 15, 2024.

On Friday night, the FBR had announced that the tax machinery and CMOs had agreed to block the SIMs of non-filers in batches and shared the first batch of 5,000 SIMs for blockage on Friday. The Federal Board of Revenue has engaged in a series of significant meetings with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and telecom operators across Pakistan to ensure the effective implementation of Income Tax General Order No. 1, issued under Section 114 B of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001. After several deliberations, the telecom operators have agreed to initiate the manual blocking process in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it. In this regard, the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers has been communicated to the telecom operators for compliance on SIM blockage. Subsequent batches would be sent to them on a daily basis. Moreover, telecom operators have also commenced sending messages to non-filers regarding blocking of SIMs for intimation purpose.