Islamabad-Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) has Wednesday alleged that powerful lobbies have been given huge tax exemptions through SROs saying that around 40 different SRO’s have been issued during last one year.

“Powerful lobbies have been given huge tax exemptions through SROs and that the whole tax system is now like an NRO for the elite class,” President Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF), Sahibzada Mian Usman Zulfiqar. He said that SRO culture had strengthened the cartelisation process in the country.

President PBF said that the concessions and zero rating through SROs must be routed through parliament and it may be the discretion of the latter to maintain or drop these concessions. “Though SRO culture was introduced in the era of 90’s for political engineering through individual businesses”.

Sahibzada Usman said that the fact remains that parliament itself lacks the moral muscle to play an effective role and, as such, has never challenged the FBR’s encroachment into its domain. It was under the Customs Act of 1969 that parliament had delegated powers of issuing the SROs to the FBR, he added. But since it is more than manifest now that these powers have been and are being misused, the parliament should revisit the law and, if found necessary, it should be repealed.

The SROs were meant to be an instrument for running the day-to-day affairs but, unfortunately, over the years these have assumed the status of a policy in the country. The SRO culture has, according to an estimate, caused some Rs900 billion worth tax exemptions in the country. President PBF also stated by definition, the use of SROs should be restricted to framing rules and procedures for implementing a tax law or laws. Or it can be used to remove ‘hardships’ and ambiguities — without involving new levies, exemptions, concessions and waivers.

The practice of handing out massive financial favours in the name of tax exemptions, concessions and waivers is not restricted to one particular government or the other. Even from the last one year around 40 different SRO’s have been issued, he added. Usman Zulfiqar urged the government to abolished all companies specific SRO’s which was issued in the last fifteen years because it promoted cartelisation; as Statutory Regulatory Orders (SRO) culture have ruined the country’s economic environment which badly effect the level playing field too.