NA body laments delay in FBR reforms, demands set timeline

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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue was on Wednesday briefed about the reforms initiative adopted by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the way forward for improvement in the country’s taxation system. 

Apprising the committee about the salient features of reforms, Adviser to Prime Minister on Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain stated that the International Monitoring Fund (IMF) had suggested the government some crucial reforms to achieve its revenue targets. 

He said the FBR’s automation system and digitalisation process would minimise the interaction between taxpayers and tax collectors. 

He also elaborated functional and organization restructuring in FBR, including improvement in human resources, policy management, integrity management and reduction of withholding tax and expenditure scope. 

The committee members, however, expressed their apprehensions regarding the delay in the outcome of reforms, saying that a timeline for reforms must be defined.

The FBR chairman briefed the committee about details of reforms’ framework and its expected results.  

He said the board had decided to implement the ‘weeding out deadwood’ initiative through early retirement rules and dismissal of corrupt staff through efficiency and discipline rules. 

He further stated that FBR was focusing on alternate dispute resolution mechanism for the smooth functioning of businesses. 

Meanwhile, the committee also discussed the Pakistan Single Window (PSW) Bill, 2020 (Government Bill) and was briefed by the project director about the requirement of this legislation.

He said that PSW was a facility which would allow parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all imports, exports and transit-related regularity needs. 

He also apprised the committee that PSW was finalized with the consensus of the stakeholders while providing the legal basis for the approved functional, operational, governance and revenue model. 

He added that PSW would help unlock Pakistan’s potential as the regional hub and trade & transit by simplifying harmonizing and automating regulatory controls. 

After detailed discussion, the committee unanimously recommended that the said bill may be passed by the National Assembly.

Moreover, FBR Member Dr Muhammad Ishfaq informed the committee about the updated status with regard to income tax and sales tax refunds.

The stakeholders were also present on the occasion to express their concerns on the problems being faced by the exporters due to glitches in the FBR’s FASTER system. 

The committee expressed its grave concern about the income tax claims pending since 2007, and directed the FBR to prepare a comprehensive briefing in this regard. It also recommended the FBR to arrange a meeting with stakeholder/exporters for early redressal of the issue.

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