ISLAMABAD-The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has upgraded the FASTER to FASTER plus system for expeditious and transparent issuance of refunds to exporters. FBR’s automation process of refund of Sales Tax had started in 2002 through introduction of STARR system which was semi-automated system and refund claimants would file refund claims through Refund Claims Preparatory System (RCPS). 

Refund data was taken to field offices on CDs where the refund claims were sanctioned at field level. In the year 2011, ERS was introduced for processing of refund claims of manufacturers-cum-exporters who could file their refund claims online whereas STARR system continued for processing of refund claims for other sectors. In the aftermath of the rollback of zero rating, FASTER was introduced with effect from July, 2019 for processing of refund claims of ex-zero rated exporters at a fast pace of 72 hours. Since the system was newly made, many system glitches marred proper working of FASTER system. Since its beginning, due to these technical glitches in the FASTER system, refund claimants faced problems like many of the cases stuck up at pre-processing stage, missing amount of refunds, no intimation about the status of refund and delays in processing and sanctioning of refunds. System was also new for refund claimants and erroneous filing of refund claims through Annex-H was rampant.

However, IR Operation Wing of FBR along with PRAL in July, 2020 started the task of overhauling the FASTER system to make it glitch-free and completely transparent with end-to-end fully automated.

Due to FASTER Plus System, Sales Tax refund claims of exporters which were stuck up at pre-processing stage in the FASTER system due to any reason including erroneous filing stand rolled back to claimants to provide an opportunity to exporters to review and resubmit their claims after removing shortcomings. The step allowed refunds to thousands of refund claimants to get their long stuck up refunds.

To restrict erroneous filing of refund claims and ensure that only valid refund claims are filed entry-gate check points have been applied. This will ensure that all the refund claims which are filed are processed. No refund claim now can be stuck up at pre-processing stage. Another salient feature of these checks is that if any refund claimant files his refund claim with errors, system would guide it in easy non-technical language. Parameters have been updated to categorize ex-zero rated sectors so that refunds claims are properly channeled through FASTER Module.

A new dashboard has been activated at FBR e-portal to view the stage-wise update regarding refund claims without contacting any officials of FBR or PRAL. Mobile app to enable a sales tax refund claimant to view the status of refund claim at each stage of processing has been made part of FASTER Plus System. Updation about refund status could also be ascertained by sending a SMS at 9966 through registered mobile of the refund claimant.

Meanwhile, the FBR has established a cell to probe fake refund claims in order to make system transparent. The PRAC has started its function from October 01, 2020.

In an official order, the FBR said that to streamline the payment of refund claims and to initiate enforcement measures to minimize the risk of inadmissible refund claims, a system based Post Refund Analysis Cell (PRAC) had been established at FBR headquarter. The cell has been established to ensure validity and appropriateness of refunds sanctioned through FASTER and ERS systems. The FBR said since refund processing system has been programmed in auto-mode without human involvement PRAC has been aimed at bringing transparency and further clarity in automated refund system by restricting the inadmissible claims centrally at the national level. PRAC will work as per set SOPs/mandate to thoroughly scrutinize issues pertaining to inadmissible/excess/not warranted refunds.