After failing to achieve the desired results from the tax amnesty scheme, the government has finally extended the date of filing tax returns till March 15.

The government has also increased the rate of Withholding Tax (WHT) on banking transactions for the non-filers, from 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent, in order to bring more traders under the tax net, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced after meeting representatives of the business community here on Monday.

He urged the businessmen to now take advantage of the Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme, and added the scheme was aimed at increasing the tax collection. At the same time, however, he stated, “The government has other options, too, to make non-taxpayers pay the tax.” The minister said the government had announced the scheme to bring 0.5 million traders under the tax net.

He admitted the government had failed to get the desired response, as only 300 traders availed the scheme during February, which, at last, resulted in the extension of the deadline by 15 days.

The government could generate only Rs32 million from the scheme. As many as 194 traders filed tax returns in Lahore, 45 in Sialkot, 41 in Bahawalpur, 12 in Islamabad and 5 in Peshawar.

“The government has enhanced the WHT rate in a bid to force the non-taxpayers to file their tax returns,” said an official of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)while talking to The Nation.

“The government had levied 0.6 percent tax on banking transactions in the current fiscal year’s budget, which became the base for announcing the scheme. Later on, it reduced the rate to 0.3 percent,” he added.

Dar told the media after the meeting that the government generated Rs13.7 billion from the WHT, from July to January of the ongoing financial year.

Talking about the revenue collection, the minister informed that 20 percent increase in the tax collection was recorded in February this year, compared to the one recorded in the same month last year.

To a question about delay in the population census, he replied that Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ preparations in this regard were complete, and that the government wanted to hold next general elections on the basis of the census.