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FBR launches audit of 72 sugar mills to bear out evasion findings

By Shahnawaz Akhter
June 23, 2020

KARACHI: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has initiated audit of 72 sugar mills on the recommendations of a sugar inquiry commission, sources said on Monday.

Sources at Large Taxpayer Unit (LTU) Karachi said audit proceedings have been started against 27 sugar mills falling under jurisdictions of Karachi tax offices and 47 sugar mills under the jurisdiction of Lahore tax offices. The sugar inquiry commission constituted by the prime minister identified serious irregularities in supplies for evading sales and income tax. The commission recommended opening up the last five years’ cases of the sugar mills and conducting forensic audit.

The sources in LTU Karachi said the proceedings have begun. Audit notices were issued to the sugar mills. They further said the tax department would conduct composite audit of sales and income tax of sugar mills.

In November 2019, the Federal Board of Revenue launched audit of sugar sector through special panels of auditors comprising tax officials and auditors of chartered accountant firms. The decision to conduct audit through special panels was taken by the then FBR chairman Shabbar Zaidi. The decision was taken on the basis of the official study which revealed huge tax evasion in sugar sector. The evasion was evident as the stock taking carried out by field formations of FBR and the Cane Commissioner of three provinces had a difference of 641,000 metric tons which showed that the sugar mills were underreporting their stock in order to evade tax payments.

The study also identified that the local supplies during the tax period of July 2019 fell 255 percent due to enhancement in tax rate from eight percent in June 2019 to 17 percent in July 2019. The analysis further revealed that the stock holding last year ending June 2018 was 3,147,000 metric tons, whereas closing stock of the year ending on June 2019 was only 2,230,778 metric tons, which showed 29 percent decline. Also, the FBR said sugar mills had declared high quantity of supplies during June 2019 to evade sales tax as the tax rate was to increase in July 2019. Nonetheless, the idea of audit of sugar sector was dropped for unknown reasons and Shabbar Zaidi had resigned from the post of FBR chairman.

The latest report of sugar inquiry commission had also identified similar irregularities in the sugar sector.

The inquiry commission report said the increase in tax impact was Rs3.6 per kilogram due to the increase in general sales tax rate to 17 after July 1, 2019. The real increase in the retail price occurred between December 2018 and June 2019 when it went up by about Rs16 per kg,” the report said. “Similarly, the major increase in ex-mill price occurred between December 2018 to June 2019 when it increased by almost 12 per kg which is from Rs51.64 to Rs63.59/kg. This period saw no increase in sales or other taxes and the price of sugarcane, the major input, was also stable.”