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April 20, 2019

FBR nails Rs1.5 billion from offshore assets’ owners

KARACHI: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has recovered an estimated Rs1.5 billion in taxes from concealed offshore assets owing to an international assistance related to exchange of financial data, sources said on Friday.

“The FBR has sent hundreds of notices to business individuals in offshore assets and recovered a handsome amount from at least 30 businessmen,” an official of the FBR said on condition of anonymity. The official was not sure about the recovered amount, but sources said the FBR recovered more than Rs1.5 billion as tax on undeclared offshore assets.

The sources said the FBR tightened noose around business individuals by leveraging data obtained under an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) treaty.

In September 2016, Pakistan signed a multilateral convention of mutual administrative assistance in tax matters with the OECD under which member countries exchange financial data of individuals and entities to discourage tax evasion and use of money for terror financing.

The country received first batch of bulk information from OECD member countries in September 2018. It received data from various major countries where Pakistani residents made transactions of undeclared money during the first year of automatic exchange of information, the FBR sources said.

The apex tax authority started sending notices later, but recovery proceeding commenced in January 2019. The FBR was engaged in sorting out the data between September and December 2018, according to the sources.

An official said notices of concealment were sent to people belonging to different segments of the society. “However, recovery has so far been made from business individuals.”

The sources said the FBR initiated collecting data under common reporting rules from financial institutions for the second year of automatic exchange of information. They said the financial institutions are required to provide information of investments made by non-residents by May 31, 2019.

The sources further said the country is expected to receive further data this year.

The government planned to introduce another tax amnesty for undisclosed offshore and local assets. The tax authorities managed to raise Rs120 billion in lieu of tax payments on local and offshore concealed assets under the amnesty in April to July last year.

Critics questioned the reason of new amnesty despite success of OECD automatic exchange of information and the Financial Action Task Force’s pressure on the country to curb money laundering and terror financing. Experts said an amnesty to offshore undisclosed assets might compel OECD to stop sharing data with Pakistan. The sources said a large number of tax evasion cases are still in pipeline and major tax recovery is expected.