Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) automation process of refund of Sales Tax had started in 2002 through the introduction of the STARR system which was a semi-automated system and refund claimants would file refund claims through Refund Claims Preparatory System (RCPS).
Refund data was taken to field offices on central depositories (CDs) where the refund claims were sanctioned at field level. In the year 2011, the Expeditious Refund System (ERS) was introduced for the processing of refund claims of manufacturers-cum-exporters who could file their refund claims online whereas the Sales Tax Automated Refund Repository (STARR) system continued for processing of refund claims for other sectors.
In the aftermath of the rollback of zero-rating, Fully Automated Sales Tax e-Refund (FASTER) was introduced with effect from July 2019 for processing of refund claims of ex-zero-rated exporters at a fast pace of 72 hours. Since the system was newly made, many system glitches marred the proper working of the FASTER system. Since its beginning, due to these technical glitches in the FASTER system, refund claimants faced problems like many of the cases stuck up at the pre-processing stage, missing amount of refunds, no intimation about the status of a refund, and delays in processing and sanctioning of refunds.
The system was also new for refund claimants and erroneous filing of refund claims through Annex-H was rampant. However, the IR Operation Wing of FBR along with Pakistan Revenue Automation Pvt Ltd (PRAL) in July 2020 started the task of overhauling the FASTER system to make it glitch-free and completely transparent with end-to-end fully automated. Due to FASTER Plus System, Sales Tax refund claims of exporters which were stuck up at the pre-processing stage in the FASTER system due to any reason including erroneous filing stand rolled back to claimants to provide an opportunity to exporters to review and resubmit their claims after removing shortcomings.
The step allowed refunds to thousands of refund claimants to get their long stuck up refunds. To restrict the erroneous filing of refund claims and ensure that only valid refund claims are filed entry-gate checkpoints have been applied. This will ensure that all the refund claims which are filed are processed. No refund claim now can be stuck up at the pre-processing stage. Another salient feature of these checks is that if any refund claimant files his refund claim with errors, the system would guide it in easy non-technical language. Parameters have been updated to categorize ex-zero-rated sectors so that refunds claims are properly channeled through FASTER Module.
A new dashboard has been activated at FBR e-portal to view the stage-wise update regarding refund claims without contacting any officials of FBR or PRAL. A Mobile app to enable a sales tax refund claimant to view the status of refund claim at each stage of processing has been made part of the FASTER Plus System. Updation about refund status could also be ascertained by sending an SMS at 9966 through the registered mobile of the refund claimant.