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Thursday June 20, 2024

Move to block Sims of non-filers doesn’t go beyond data sharing

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said the CMOs had sent messages of blocking SIMs to only over 4,000 non-filers

By Our Correspondent
May 21, 2024
This representational image shows mobile phone Sims. — AFP/File
This representational image shows mobile phone Sims. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: With the sharing of 25,000 to 30,000 data of non-filers with Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) by the FBR in different batches, implementation of Section 114B under Income Tax General Order (ITGO) has proved a non-starter so far.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said the CMOs had sent messages of blocking SIMs to only over 4,000 non-filers so far, though data of almost 30,000 such people had been shared with the PTA and mobile operators.

The ITGO under Section 114B empowered the FBR to instruct the CMOs to block SIMs of non-filers who were identified by the tax authorities. But the PTA and the CMOs argued differently and took a stance that the PTA Act possessed overriding effect and under the law of the land, the ITGO could not be implemented.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had sent its viewpoint in an official communication to the FBR, stating that the enforcement of Section 114B of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 and an order issued vide No.C.No.6(30)S(CIR-Operation)/2024 dated 29th of April, 2024, it is to inform that as per applicable legal regulatory regime, the execution of Income Tax General Order, issued under Section 114B of Income Tax Ordinance 2001, did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Accordingly, the ITGO dated 29th of April 2024 referred to the Authority for compliance/ execution would have no legal binding effect being inconsistent with the applicable legal framework.

The PTA preferred to keep mum over the issue and the FBR started sending batches of 5,000 data of non-filers to the CMOs on daily basis. This scribe tried to talk to the PTA high-ups, but no one was available for comments.

One telecom operator approached the Islamabad High Court and secured a stay order, but the remaining telecom operators are simply clueless having no idea how to get rid of implementing the ITGO 114B in an effective manner.

Initially, the FBR had identified around 2 million potential non-filers and wanted blockage of their SIMs, who had not filed their income tax returns in last three years. But, after hectic discussions the number was reduced to 506,000 non-filers with the direction under 114B of Income Tax General Order for blocking SIMs till May 15, 2024. The FBR and other stakeholders including the PTA and the CMOs engaged in a series of meetings, but so far no viable solution could be found out.