FBR’s move to block SIMs of non-filers under scrutiny by PTA

Authority reportedly reviewing bureau's decision, aiming to ensure compliance while protecting telecom consumer interests, amid ongoing discussions with stakeholders

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced on Thursday that it is currently reviewing the Federal Bureau of Revenue’s (FBR) decision to block 500,000 SIMs belonging to non-filers.

In a statement issued by the PTA, it was stated, “We are actively engaging with cellular mobile operators and relevant stakeholders regarding this matter.” The regulator emphasized that any developments regarding this issue will be communicated accordingly. Their primary objective is to ensure compliance with regulatory frameworks and legal provisions while safeguarding the interests of telecom consumers.

This statement from PTA comes following FBR’s announcement about blocking SIMs of individuals not appearing on the active taxpayer list but who are obligated to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023 as per the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001. The FBR had moved to take the action in response to prevalent tax evasion issues that have negatively impacted the country’s financially strained economy.

FBR labeled this move as a “strategic step,” mentioning that non-filers can restore their mobile phone SIMs by filing their tax return for the year 2023. The compliance report, due on May 15, requires PTA and all telecom operators to ensure adherence to the Income Tax General Order (ITGO) immediately.

Earlier, the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) also mentioned that they are thoroughly evaluating this order within the applicable legal and regulatory framework.

It’s worth noting that FBR gained additional powers last year to broaden the tax net. Under Section 114B of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, they were authorized to disconnect utility connections and block mobile SIMs if taxpayers failed to respond to issued notices.

Additionally, FBR has collaborated with PTA to identify SIMs of under-filers who didn’t file their returns despite being notified and possessing taxable transaction records.

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