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FBR launches nationwide drive today to net tax-evaders

By Mehtab Haider
January 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In a nationwide campaign, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is all set to launch door to door survey for collection of information from hundreds of thousands of residents living in posh areas of the major cities to identify potential tax evaders.

The FBR will kick-start the national campaign for achieving broadening of narrow tax base on Wednesday (today) from posh sector of E-7 Islamabad to identify the high net worth individuals for bringing them into the tax net. The official documents as well as top officials of the FBR disclosed to The News on Tuesday that on the directives of the Prime Minister Imran Khan, the chairman FBR is undertaking the exercise to identify potential tax evaders. The FBR will seek information through survey forms.

“We want to launch this campaign from those living in luxurious houses as owners or tenants to give a loud and clear message that the broadening of tax base will be done without creating any harassment,” said the FBR official. In the past, all surveys launched by the FBR had failed to yield any desired results mainly because either the exercise was scrapped halfway or the collected data could not be used for converting the gathered information for tax collection. So the FBR will have to enhance its capacity to utilise this information. The highly narrow tax base where the number of filers stood at just 1.4 million out of total 206 million population highlights that less than one percent of the country's population are return filers. The FBR is facing a massive tax shortfall during the current fiscal in the range of Rs 150 to 170 billion and without broadening the tax base the country’s fiscal woes cannot overcome.

The FBR teams have been assigned to distribute one-page form among the residents of E-7. Through this form, the FBR is seeking details about the name of the owner, the Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) number, National Tax Number (NTN), occupation/profession, date of acquisition of property and monthly rent. The FBR team will collect details about the size of plot, ownership as per record of CDA, building (floors) and rented portion if any. This exercise would be expanded to Defense Housing Authority and Bahria Town in Rawalpindi and other posh areas of Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar simultaneously in the coming weeks.

According to standard operating procedures (SOP) approved by the Chairman FBR, the tax machinery selected sector E-7 for the pilot exercise being a small, compact and a high end area in Islamabad. It has around 300 plots and around 20 streets. The small, motivated and dedicated teams may be formed at the Broadening to Tax Base (BTB) Zones and PRAL may be asked to establish small data cells for data coding and cross matching. The FBR’s administration has set apart funds for the officials collecting this much needed information from the posh areas. This campaign shall be jointly conducted by the Directorate General-Broadening of Tax Base and Directorate General-Immoveable Properties FBR. For smooth and transparent execution of this campaign FBR has devised the following unified SOP which shall be followed by all concerned in letter & spirit.

Selection of location: E-7 Sector of Islamabad is selected as the first post of this nationwide campaign due to its compactness and prime market value. All subsequent locations shall be selected by relevant directors BTB and IMP at Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad and by chief commissioners at other urban centers. All such selected locations shall be notified by Director General, BTB FBR Islamabad for record and monitoring.

In future with enhanced momentum and for larger benefit university students can be co-opted in this campaign. This option would help FBR in sharing of its workforce burden. Each field team member shall be paid Rs500 per day and the admin wing shall spare funds for the campaign. In a selected location the campaign forms shall be distributed in sequence and for all omissions the team in-charge shall record the reasons. The campaign forms shall be delivered and collected by same team. All the retrieved campaign forms shall be handed over to PRAL team on daily basis for data coding and cross matching.