ISLAMABAD - Caretaker federal cabinet on Saturday decided in principle to extend tax amnesty scheme for another couple of months, keeping in view the good response it has received lately.

Held under the chair of Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (r) Nasirul Mulk the cabinet took up host of issues including granting extension to the Afghan refugees in the country.

It was decided to extend the interim stay of registered Afghan refugees for another three months and let the matter to be decided by the next government.

The cabinet was also briefed by finance minister on the recently held Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris where the case of Pakistan was forcefully pleaded.

The international agency expressed satisfaction over the measures taken by Islamabad but put it on the grey list, saying that more steps were required on part of Pakistan to get off the hook.

The federal cabinet in its meeting also approved an amendment to include National University of Technology (NUTCH) in Schedule-II of Rules of Business, 1973.

It approved Financial Institution Rules, 2018 and appointing FIA as the Investigating Agency as required under Section 20(7) of Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance (FIRO), 2001.

Budget of Capital Development Authority for the year 2018-19 was also given approval.

Sources in the government confirmed that the caretaker cabinet appreciated the belated good response to the tax amnesty scheme, which was introduced by PML-N government in its last days in power.

It was decided to extend the scheme for another couple of months so that more people could benefit from it and in return could provide some breathing space to the money-starved national economy.

Sources in the government said that though they were working on modalities of extending the scheme but it was decided in principle that the scheme would be extended. Most probably the scheme would be extended till Sept 30.

The scheme was lacklustre in the beginning and people’s response was very poor. It was initially introduced through ordinance and faced strong resistance from almost all the opposition parties in the parliament.

The scheme was provided parliamentary cover by middle of June when it was approved as part of the federal budget. Still there was no appreciable response as it was widely being believed the apex court would scrape it.

But the scheme suddenly picked up when in middle of June when the apex court’s explicitly stated that it would not be taking any action against it.

Until now more than 5,000 people have filed returns declaring their foreign and local assets. The total proceeds came to the national kitty amounted to approximately Rs80 billion by June 28 – two days before the close of the scheme which was initially fixed at June 30.

Sources in the government confirmed that people were in the queues and much more proceeds would pour in with the extension in the deadline.

The government has taken extraordinary precautions to keep information of declarants confidential. FBR Chairman Tariq Pasha and his core team including Member Policy Dr Muhammad Iqbal and Special Assistant to Chairman Malik Amjad Zubail Tiwana are the only ones with access to the information.

Government sources said that people were still declaring their foreign assets through challans, but were facing some problems. People in the Middle East want to declare their assets but have several problems like weekends on Friday and Saturday.

People in Europe and other western time zones, where Saturday and Sunday are off-days, are also facing similar problems while the deadline also happened to fall on a Saturday (June 30).

The declaration on domestic assets has no such issues however. The FBR has already made an arrangement with the banks for not only opening of branches on Saturday and Sunday but also extended the timing for receiving the taxes.

No data is available on the number of declarants for domestic assets, or the amount collected in taxes through the scheme thus far.

The amnesty scheme allows people to voluntarily declare domestic as well as foreign assets that had till April 10 been held beyond the tax authorities’ knowledge and reach. It offers varying rates that will be charged on these assets, ranging from 2 to 5 percent, depending on whether it is a domestic or foreign asset, the asset class, and whether or not it is being repatriated to the country.

In the 1958 amnesty scheme, an amount of Rs1.12 billion was recovered from undeclared assets, followed by Rs920m in 1968, Rs1.5b in 1976, Rs10b in 2,000 and Rs3.16b in 2008. There are several other schemes which were also offered in 1985, 1991, 1998, 2012 and 2016.