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Friday June 21, 2024

Taxing matters

By Editorial Board
January 05, 2022

Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to adhere to a if-you-think-it-it'll-happen school of thought – which is all fine and good, except the people of the country have struggled through the past year with crippling inflation. So the PM asking his senior party leaders to tell the people that there is in fact no inflation at all is bizarre to say the least. While there has been a slight fall in inflation between November and December, the rate essentially remains in double digits, notably for food items, the basic need of all households. In this situation, it is difficult to understand how PTI members are to convince the public that inflation does not exist at all, and that they are merely imagining it each time they fill their petrol tanks, or step out into a market to buy food.

At the same time, according to economic experts, most of the tax revenue we are collecting comes from salaried individuals [withholding taxes] and others whose taxes are deducted at source. These are often people who belong to middle-income groups and can barely afford to manage in times when the burden of buying basic items including medicines, has risen dramatically. In contrast, parliamentarians and officeholders seem to be paying very little tax in total. According to figures released by the government, 161 MPs pay no tax at all and are either not registered with the FBR or pay a zero amount as tax. Others also pay an extraordinarily low amount of income tax, with CM Punjab Usman Buzdar paying Rs2000 in 2019 and former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani doing even better with zero tax.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has noted that there are many people in the country who are not paying the tax that would be expected in comparison to their assets. As a result, tax notices are to go out to 15 million people over the coming month, comparing the tax they have paid to the assets in the form of cars, houses and their travel history. One wonders how many parliamentarians there are in the list. It seems obvious that if the government is to prove there is no inflation, it will have to push down the prices of food items which have risen dramatically. In addition, the lawmakers need to set the right example by helping fill the government coffers by paying out the amounts they owe as taxes – and perhaps the PTI can take the lead in that.