The rampant disregard extended to fulfil one’s citizen responsibility, such as paying taxes in Pakistan has been exposed by the Pakistan Customs once again. In a single case of fiscal fraud, the under-invoicing of a simple commodity like a drink-mix sachet, led to an alarming Rs330 million deficit in paid import duties—a clear violation of the 1969 Customs Act of Pakistan. Evidently, the need to strengthen regulations to uphold accountability and minimise additional losses incurred by the country is still a pressing issue.

Astonishingly, importers were able to procure the consumable item at the astronomically low price of 0.4USD per KG compared to its actual rate of 2.39USD. Accumulating to Rs330 million in unpaid duties, this could just be one out of many instances of deceiving the authorities. Shirking on the import duty on a low-cost edible commodity can bring millions in illegal profits; one can only wonder how much there is to be made if taxes are not paid on luxury imports? If such practices have permeated to other sectors, the potential for loss through tax evasion is unfathomable.

Now that the process of utilising shell companies has been exposed, Pakistan Customs can strengthen their operation against evaders so that the matter goes beyond the trial and error raiding tactic, and the problem is instead nipped in the bud. The government cannot stand by as sources of revenue, along with the profitability of domestic industries, is threatened. Already, it has been able to crack down on the smuggling of illegal items in major cities like Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. With the same fervour, it is well within its ability to counteract tax evasion and ensure adherence to proper procedures.

If practices like under-invoicing, over-invoicing or mis-declaration persist, not only is the government bound to lose out, but a minority faction of society is facilitated and able to illegally benefit at the expense of the majority. It becomes undeniable then that proactive measures need to be taken.