The Federal Board of Revenue’s decision to disconnect electricity and gas connections for non-filing commercial consumers might sound like an overreach by the government in widening the tax net, but this radical step sounds like exactly what might be needed. One of the government’s successes in this past year has been working seriously to widen the tax base, and this has borne fruit in the case of domestic consumers.

But many commercial consumers across the country have fought the government tooth and nail to keep their business and income undocumented. This cannot be allowed to go on any longer, and the government’s decision to use power and gas as the stick necessary to bring commercial consumers in line might just do the trick.

Extreme decisions like this are both out-of-the-box and carry serious enough repercussions so that commercial consumers might just have to finally become filers in the system. The momentum is on the government’s side in any case; widening the tax base has been a key electoral promise and the ruling party enjoys widespread support for its efforts in improving tax collection in the country.

If the government does manage to achieve the targets it has set for itself in tax revenue collection, a lot of Pakistan’s financial problems will be alleviated as a result – from increase state revenue to fulfilling a fundamental condition in the IMF loan and any others we might seek out from the ADB or World Bank in the future.

Even if the government fails in carrying out many of the major structural changes that it is looking to implement in the economic system, widening the tax base alone is something previous regimes have struggled with; PTI’s success in this endeavour will be remembered positively by the whole country. It can only be hoped that the government facilitates FBR’s efforts to implement this new idea into the tax laws.