ISLAMABAD - After remaining asleep for nearly a month, the officials at the Federal Board of Revenue finally woke up to issue a ‘clarification’ about an investigative report on tax returns of the parliamentarians.

“It is for the information of all that FBR has not contributed to the report of Centre for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan’s (CIRP) titled ‘Representation without Taxation”, said an official statement issued here.

According to the CIRP report issued on December 12, 67pc of parliamentarians and 62pc of ministers in the Federal Cabinet did not file their income tax returns.

 The report further revealed that President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other 34 of the 55 cabinet members did not file a tax return in 2011. Only 49 of the 104 senators paid income tax last year, and of the 341 sitting members of the national assembly, only 90 MNAs filed their tax returns.

The federal cabinet comprises prime minister and his 55 colleagues. However, only 20 ministers filed their tax returns. Of 28 parliamentary secretaries, only seven filed tax returns. Of the 55 MNAs holding key positions in the national assembly and its standing committees, only 15 filed tax returns. 

According to the press statement issued here, FBR has not provided any information on declared annual incomes or tax paid by the parliamentarians to CIRP for any study. Section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 specifically places restrictions on the release of such data.

Recent news items appearing in the press over the last few weeks based on the information available in the report are therefore, apparently not in line with the actual facts on record. FBR, therefore, does not endorse the conclusions drawn in the CIRP’s report.

However, FBR has constituted a committee to probe into the likelihood of ‘data theft’ and any involvement of any FBR officer/official in the matter, if found, shall be dealt with seriously.

It is further clarified that the salary income of the parliamentarians is subjected to deduction of tax at source, and non-filing of return does not lead to the conclusion that no tax has been paid.