The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) expects a substantial increase in the number of return filers beyond 4.2 million after the introduction of a “green channel mode” for salaried individuals/pensioners through a simple return form.
Addressing a press conference at the FTO Secretariat on Tuesday, FTO Advisor Legal Almas Jovindah said that the FTO will ensure that the new return form is notified in 30 days. The FTO is seriously pursuing the matter with the FBR to facilitate the salaried individuals/pensioners, he added.
When a salaried individual opens the return through the IRIS online system, there are 34 different columns/tabs opened and only 4 are relevant to the salaried individuals. Thus, 30 tabs/columns in the return are irrelevant for the salaried individuals/pensioners.
While filing a return such a person has to unnecessarily go through all the fields to fill up the relevant fields. Besides, the so-called simplified form introduced through software wizard is also beyond the comprehension of an ordinary individual who is neither familiar with tax terminology nor is he computer literate. In “Wizard”, out of 66 tabs/columns, only 10 are relevant to salaried individuals/pensioners, Jovindah stated.
The FTO has directed Member (Policy) and Member (Information & Technology) to devise a new return and also reopen a new window in the existing IRIS for salaried taxpayers within 30 days. The FTO has also directed Member PR to widely publicize the said streamlined return filing facility for awareness through media and SMS for the salaried/pensioner class.
In order to provide a simplified version of returns it is, therefore, befitting to devise a separate tax return for salaried individuals having only minimum fields relevant to their source of income.
Muhammad Naseer Butt, FTO Senior Advisor (Income Tax), informed the media that the existing return asks irrelevant questions from the salaried individuals/pensioners like Resident or non-resident status, etc. A separate IRIS window should be opened for the salaried class asking only a few relevant questions.
He said that FTO has also started a new exercise to determine the accuracy of values of the immovable properties of FBR/DC values across the country.
Majid Qureshi, FTO Advisor/Registrar, informed that the number of return filers would witness a jump after the introduction of the new return form.
This data has been shared by the FBR with the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) during its own motion investigation of the FTO against technical gaps with respect to process flow and systemic errors in the registration processes of the FBR.
While investigating the said complaints, it transpired that in many cases IRIS system failed to respond to queries of the taxpayers.
The FTO has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to deploy a dedicated team of professionals to continuously monitor the flow of traffic on the registration system to avoid any systemic errors and chokes.
According to the recommendations of the FTO office on the issue of Broadening of Tax Base (BTB), the FBR should also develop and issue an SOP specifying ways and means to give timely responses to queries of the aggrieved taxpayers and a reasonable timeline for each response be fixed for clarity.
The FBR should also upgrade the online system of filing returns and registration should be undertaken periodically to provide state of art online facilities to the taxpayers, Qureshi added.