Pakistan’s income tax collection fell short in March 2020 and are unlikely to meet the target in April as well, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said on Tuesday, adding that a further reduction in the prices of petroleum products will increase the revenue shortages.
Speaking at a press briefing, FBR spokesperson Hamid Ateeq Sarwar said the tax collections dipped due to the coronavirus pandemic. As opposed to March’s target of Rs. 500 billion, the income tax collections amounted to Rs. 300 billion, while the figure was expected to clock in at Rs. 200 billion for April.
Sarwar, a member of the FBR’s Board and working in the body’s Inland Revenue Policy and Facilitation & Taxpayers Education departments, added that the government is slashing prices for the benefit of common people and that permission to import medical equipment is given according to instructions from the Cabinet.
Relief, the FBR spokesperson added, was given to the construction sector as per Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directives. If someone, including builders and [real estate] developers, wished to construct houses, they should inform by December 31 and then they will not be asked about their sources of income, he said.
However, in doing so, they should ensure their projects are ready by September 30, 2022.
He noted that these measures were introduced to provide employment to labor and bolster economic activity in Pakistan. Various taxes have been done away with or waived for the construction sector, he added.
Also present at the press briefing was Seema Shakil — a member of the FBR’s Board and working in the body’s Inland Revenue Operations department — who said 73% of additional refunds have been released since the start of COVID-19 to date, fast-tracking Rs. 52 billion.
Rs. 70 billion was allocated according to PM Imran’s package, Shakil noted. Of that amount, Rs. 30 billion was given to the commerce ministry. Sums worth Rs. 38 billion and Rs. 15 billion were released as sales tax and customs refunds, she added.
“We’re in touch with people via email owing to health risks,” she explained, adding that people should contact FBR by responding to its email to obtain refunds.
Shakil also underlined that updating the IBN will help facilitate refunds, which were being sent directly to people’s bank accounts. Rs. 2.1 billion worth of refunds — for a transaction between Rs. 1 and Rs. 5 million — will be transferred tomorrow (Wednesday), she added.
Refunds for more than 3,000 people who updated the IBN were for transactions between Rs. 1 and Rs. 5 million, she said, adding that another 6,000 were unaware due to failure to update their IBN.
The FBR board member said the organization will now focus on refunds for transactions upwards of Rs. 5 million. “We have removed human intervention from our entire process,” she said.
Shakil also mentioned that the FBR was encountering problems with regard to the withholding tax from banks. “There were challenges in refunds on electricity and gas bills due to CNICs,” she said.
Sarwar, the other board member, said forms had been created in Urdu for income tax return-filers and that the easy tax app is also available on the FBR’s website.
“The taxes on imports have been reduced on vegetable oil and pulses so as to reduce the prices of [food] items,” he added.