ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) and other traders’ organizations on Wednesday announced to hold four-day countrywide strike against the new tax system during current month (August).

Addressing a press conference, President APAT Ajmal Baloch said that a complete shutter down strike would be observed on August 15 and August 16 in the first phase while in second phase, the traders will close the markets on August 26 and August 27.

He said that traders had already observed countrywide strike on July 13 against the government’s taxation policies. However, the government has not ready to address the problems of the traders, he added.

Baloch said that business activities had shrunk by 38 percent due to the government’s economic policies. He criticised the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and said that the steps to improve country’s economy are actually creating difficulties for survival of the masses. The country is moving towards destruction with the new policies, he informed.

The traders said that government had formulated the budget on the direction of International Monetary Fund (IMF). The APAT has demanded of the government to withdraw the decision of giving CNIC copy on the sales invoice of Rs50,000.

Business activities had shrunk by 38 percent due to govt’s policies

The government should introduce fixed taxation system for the traders. The government should not make the traders as withholding agents. Wholesalers and retailers should be given exemptions on the registration of sales tax.

Similarly, the government should restore minimum income tax threshold to Rs1.2 million per annum.

Meanwhiole, in Lahore, an announcement in this regard was made by Anjuman Tajiran leaders Naeem Mir, Ashraf Bhatti, Sohail Mehmud Butt, Waqar Mian, Amjad Chaudhry and others at a joint news conference at the Lahore Press Club. They said the government has been informed that all traders’ bodies have supported the strike call.

They said if the government did not take back the unjustified taxes, the duration of strikes could be extended.

Naeem Mir said the government should give a fixed tax scheme in consultation with retailers. Unless the demand was met, he said, the protest would continue. He said after Ashura a strike call could be given for an indefinite period.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) has called upon the FBR to finalize the fixed tax schemes in consultation with traders’ leaders so that the new schemes should be acceptable to all categories of traders and help in improving the tax revenue of the country.

Ahmed Hassan Moughal, President and Rafat Farid Senior Vice President, ICCI said that FBR was reportedly working on fixed tax scheme with two slabs for small traders accordingly to which small retailers would pay annual tax of Rs.20,000 and Rs.40,000.

However, they urged that FBR should take the leaders of trading community fully on board before finalizing these schemes to launch a consensus fixed tax regime. Ahmed Hassan Moughal said that FBR should make categories of traders and impose fixed tax on them according to their tax paying ability.

He said such a scheme would promote tax compliance in trading community and help in promoting tax compliance as well. He hoped that fixed tax regime would also minimize interaction between taxpayers and tax collectors and eliminate the chances of corruption.

ICCI President said that Finance Bill 2019 has required manufacturers, importers, distributors and wholesalers to write CNIC numbers of purchasers on bills and also collect the amount exceeding Rs.50,000 through cheque.

He said these measures have enhanced the problems for traders and urged that government should reconsider them. He said that government has also bound all commercial importers to write sale price on imported products while the value addition tax would be collected on retail price.

He said that traders were not happy with such tax measures and emphasized that government should revise them. He said that under the new rules, shopkeepers and traders with sales exceeding Rs.10 million per annum will automatically become withholding tax agents and deduct 4.5 percent tax from the suppliers while they will also submit income tax returns after every six months.

He said that these measures have placed extra load on traders as they will have to spend lot of time to complete the withholding tax requirements. He said that instead of putting more tax burden and additional requirements on traders, government should promote ease of doing business that would facilitate the growth of business activities.