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Wednesday July 17, 2024

Senate finance panel told: FBR to hike property valuation to 90pc of market rates next month

FBR also intends to introduce a simplified scheme for retailers as Tajir Dost Scheme miserably failed

By Mehtab Haider
June 22, 2024
Headquarters of the Federal Board of Revenue in Islamabad. — APP/File
Headquarters of the Federal Board of Revenue in Islamabad. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The FBR on Friday informed the Senate panel that the valuation of properties in major cities would be jacked up from 75 percent to 90 percent of the market rate through the issuance of notification by next month. The FBR also intends to introduce a simplified scheme for retailers as the Tajir Dost Scheme miserably failed during the voluntary period as only 78 retailers preferred to come for registration.

Senator Faisal Vawda while talking to a select group of reporters said after the Senate panel meeting that the budget would be passed at all costs and the same will happen on the privatisation front.

“We are going to revise upward the valuation rates of properties soon after approval of the budget 2024-25. The SRO (Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) will be issued in July 2024 and it will jack up the FBR’s valuation rates from the existing 75 percent to 90 percent of the rate at least,” the FBR’s Member Inland Revenue (IR) Operation Mir Badshah Wazir stated during the Senate Standing Committee on Finance meeting held under Chairmanship of Senator Saleem Mandviwalla at Parliament House.

Senator Sarmad Ali asked the government to abolish 10 percent GST on newsprint and argued that the media industry was already facing a difficult situation so it should be withdrawn. However, Senator Farooq H Naek extended his support for the imposition of 10 percent GST on newspapers arguing that no one reads newspapers so it should be taxed. However, the Senate panel recommended abolishing 10 percent GST on newsprint.

The FBR’s Member said that the FBR was making efforts to broaden the tax base and added 1.5 million new tax filers in the outgoing fiscal year. Senator Anusha Rahman stated that without drastic measures the tax filers would not increase and proposed to put non-filers behind the bars. The FBR informed that the numbers of tax filers stood at around 4.5 million but the Senator Farooq H Naek and other inquired how many were nil-filers. There would be more than 30 percent who will be zero filers but the FBR high-ups preferred not to share any exact numbers of nil filers.

The FBR high-ups stated that the tax machinery unearthed Rs756 billion of alleged tax frauds in shape of fake/flying invoices and arrested 70/80 persons. The steel sector, he said, was allegedly was one of the major sources of fake/flying invoices and scrap of steel was being used to run the business of fake invoices causing major losses of Rs60-70 billion to the national exchequer on annual basis.

Senator Anusha Rahman belonging to PMLN raised question that why FBR failed to collect taxes from a retail shop located in Model Town Lahore and cited example that the small shopkeeper collected the tax from her but the FBR failed to bring it into national kitty.

Both the FBR Member IRS Operation and Member Policy replied back that the FBR was facing severe Human Resource (HR) constraints as out of 18,000 sanctioned posts, the existing workforce stood at 12,000 and 6000 posts were vacant. “We need help to fill the vacant posts,” said the FBR Member IR Operation.

Representatives from Beaconhouse National University presented a proposal to eliminate a 25 percent tax rebate on salary income for teachers. They argued that retaining this rebate would lead to a 30 percent increase in tax liability for full-time faculty. They further noted that, cumulatively, these policies could result in a three to five-fold rise in tax payments for university faculty compared to other salaried professionals earning similar incomes. However, Senators did not agree to this proposal.

Additionally, the Pakistan Retail Business Council (PRBC) raised concerns about taxation reforms, highlighting that compliant retailers face disproportionately higher effective tax rates compared to non-compliant counterparts.

They recommended maintaining the sales tax rate for POS-connected retailers at 15 percent, citing losses in market share to the undocumented sector and store closures following recent tax increases. The committee queried officials about the unregistered market sector, expressing ongoing concerns despite efforts to resolve this issue. Officials reported that over 30,000 shops were registered in the last fiscal year.

The FBR member replied that only 78 retailers get registered under Tajir Dost Scheme and now the FBR would introduce a simplified scheme next month.

The committee recommended regular dialogues with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to address retail sector concerns and proposed enhancing human resources within the sector for improved efficiency. They also suggested a comprehensive review of FBR operations and performance.

Dr Khurram Tariq, President of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, proposed measures to prevent duplicate deductions at source and alleviate liquidity challenges in the export industry. He recommended avoiding an additional 1 percent advance tax and transitioning all entities from the final tax regime to the normal tax regime without conditions. However, these proposals were not endorsed by the FBR policy members.

Senator, Faisal Vawda raised discussions on increasing salaries for media reporters through the Finance Bill, 2024.