Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
June 24, 2019

Big data


June 24, 2019

The FBR unveiled two new online portals on Friday with the objective of showing how much it knows about the financial details of Pakistanis. The online portals will contain information of around 53 million people, which would include their bank accounts, properties, travel history and other financial details. The assumption would be that the online availability of such details would create a sense of panic amongst those who have been avoiding paying income tax. Once again, PM Imran Khan made a short televised speech to ask the public to make use of the government’s ongoing tax amnesty scheme; the government says that there will no second chances. By revealing the new FBR portal, the tax apparatus is aiming to show those who are evading taxes that it knows the status of their financial assets and wealth – even if it does not have data about their exact incomes. Revenue Minister Hammad Azhar and FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi held a press conference to launch the portals, which they say will show the world the data available with the tax machinery. This is a big brother type move to spur tax evaders into action based on fear.

One must wonder whether this is a strategy that would work. Many tax evaders would have already assumed that the government has access to their official bank accounts and properties. Moreover, the decision to charge Rs500 for accessing one’s own information on the system appears to be a strange one. The fee can be avoided if one goes directly to a Nadra centre, but why members of the public would make such an effort to access their information is a bit puzzling.

Moreover, many have expressed the justifiable fear that the public FBR database could become a mechanism for criminals to access the data of any citizen they are able to obtain the CNIC number of. The FBR chairman himself said that the only two things needed to access the data are a CNIC and a cell phone number. This appears to offer a huge mining ground for criminals of all folks, despite the FBR chairman’s promise of ensuring the security of data. As it stands, the FBR chairman also noted that the data would not be used to issue notices, but could be used for making tax assessments. He also said that the portals do not mean that Nadra has access to our bank accounts, but it is hard to avoid this feeling after the FBR has told bank to share details on accounts. These questions will continue to come as the FBR attempts to flex its muscles using controversial mechanisms. One will have to see whether this online availability of data will have an impact on income tax collection in the country.

Topstory minus plus

Opinion minus plus

Newspost minus plus

Editorial minus plus

National minus plus

World minus plus

Sports minus plus

Business minus plus

Karachi minus plus

Lahore minus plus

Islamabad minus plus

Peshawar minus plus