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Business & Economy

FBR’s Toothless Exercise to Block Non-Filers’ SIMs: A Pointless Blunder to Impress IMF?

The federal government’s proposal to block SIM cards of non-filers is not only laughably ineffective but also targets powerless people. Many ave pointed out this is just a litmus test for a new loan program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Agreed?

If the government is serious about tackling tax evasion, it needs to go after the real culprits: the wealthy ruling elite who blatantly flaunt their disregard for the law.

Let’s be clear: blocking SIM cards primarily affects those with little to no influence. It’s a poorly thought-out attempt that will likely disrupt the lives of everyday citizens without making a dent in Pakistan’s low-tax puzzle. If the aim is to compel compliance, why not focus on politicians/judges/mafias/military who enjoy luxury lifestyles without contributing their fair share?

For starters, let’s do this:

  • Stop non-filers from going on lavish Umrah/Hajj trips.
  • Suspend the passports of those who took multiple international trips last year without filing taxes.

It’s hard to miss the irony of tax evaders enjoying vacations abroad while ordinary citizens bear the brunt of ineffective policies.

  • Audit the parents of children attending elite/posh schools/colleges. If their fees don’t align with the declared expenses on tax filings, it’s a clear red flag. But this would mean our bureaucrats and other ‘untouchables’ would have to justify their extravagant lifestyles. And who in power is brave enough to take on that challenge when some active politicians/ministers might have been recently called out for their notorious history of tax evasion?

This week’s Dubai Leaks exposé tells us there’s more to gain from taxing Pakistani-owned property overseas than blocking mobile phone SIMs of small earners at home. It is common sense to be aware that the only non-filers who matter are adept at sidestepping these weak measures, leaving the state floundering in its own bureaucratic mire.

Truth is the wealthy have little incentive to pay taxes when their offspring are nestled comfortably in positions of power and bureaucracy.

A far more effective strategy would be to deny non-filers the renewal or issuance of passports. Additionally, prohibit non-filers from buying or selling property and cars. This would certainly force compliance far more effectively than crippling the 98 percent of the cellphone industry dependent on SIM cards. Please note that barely 2 percent of the population files taxes with the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR). The rest either prefer not to file their income or can’t afford to expose themselves.

So, FBR bhai jaan, instead of ridiculous proposals that only hurt the masses and inspire hatred, the government should apply pressure where it really matters. Implement stringent checks and target luxury expenditures and high-value assets, education expenditures, passports, property, and the real net worth of individuals, and you’ll find tax compliance dramatically improving.

Stop targeting the powerless and start holding the powerful accountable. Especially Punjabis and Sindhis. Grow a pair!

Discussion

  1. FBR should start from its own ranks and see who file and who do not file and audit their lifestyles.
    As a starter the government should now stop the CSS program all together as it only produces officers who are morally and legally corrupt. Clean the house before trying out on normal civilians.

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