Senate committee irked over FBR’s refusal to share tax record

The refusal of sharing the record of tax relaxations under the gift scheme by Federal Board of Revenue annoyed the members of Senate’s standing committee on finance which met on Wednesday.

The committee’s meeting also witnessed heated arguments among the members over the subject of whether the Supreme Court was superior to the Parliament.

The debate was triggered by the resolution submitted to the committee by Senator Azam Khan Swati of the PTI, demanding a briefing by the FBR on the parliamentarians who have availed tax relaxations under the gift scheme.

In response to the resolution and queries, the ministry of finance had informed the committee, saying that Parliament was not the authorised to obtain such information.

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The reply of the ministry shared by the committee Chairman Senator Saleem Mandviwala annoyed members of the committee who later questioned the supremacy of Parliament.

“It is strange that the FBR can forward information to Supreme Court and to the JIT but Parliament is not worthy enough,” Saleem Mandviwala said adding, “The issue is that the department falling under the purview of this committee has been accused of data tampering – therefore it was our responsibility to seek explanation from them.”

He said that it was not fair that the FBR was not ready to brief the committee on the subject which has already been made public.

Before he could seek a response from the committee members, Senator Mushahidullah intervened and accused the mover of the resolution of triggering a political debate in the committee.

“This is more of a political issue and not really concerns finance and economy,” Senator Mushahidullah said, “I do not understand why you are bringing it up in this committee – as it is already under consideration by the highest court of the country.”

Senator Mushahidullah of the PML-N got enraged, possibly sensing that his words were not convincing enough for the chairman of the committee.

Meanwhile, Senator Mandviwala tried to explain that the main point was the attitude of departments like FBR, but Senator Mushahidullah threatened to take the issue of filing improper documents at FBR further and beyond the point of no return.

Meanwhile, Senator Ilyas Bilour and Senator Mohsin Leghari tried to pacify the situation by suggesting chairman of the committee ignore the matter and leave it to the apex court, whereas, Senator Kamil Ali Agha expressed displeasure over the response by FBR.

Later, the matter was referred to Chairman FBR Tariq Pasha, who read out that the law does not authorise Parliament to seek tax details from FBR.

In another agenda item, the committee was briefed by officials of finance ministry as well as petroleum ministry over Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC).

The committee was also briefed by National Bank President Saeed Ahmed about the disbursements of agricultural loans.

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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