The government had decided to withdraw duty exemptions of over Rs150 billion given to different industrial sectors through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) in the upcoming budget of 2015-16.

Finance ministry officials said that government, on recommendations of the IMF, had already started withdrawing taxes concessions from the industry, as SROs amounting to over Rs100 billion had been withdrawn during the 2014-15 while another Rs150 billion exemption of duties would be withdrawn in the next budget.

Ministry officials said the plan of ending SRO culture was launched in 2013 on the demand of IMF. Under this plan, all residual concessions/exemptions either in the SROs or Schedules except socially sensitive concessions will be withdrawn over the next year.

 They said that a high-level committee of secretaries, reviewing the SROs has been asked to finalise the list of such orders as budget date is approaching.  In budget 2014-15, a new Fifth Schedule was added to the Customs Act, 1969.

The Parts-I, II and III of the said Schedule contain residual concessions and exemptions available earlier in the rescinded SROs 567(I)/2006 and 575(I)/2006, dated 5.6.2006.

Concessions and exemptions available under SRO 565(I)/2006 were revisited and the same have either been withdrawn or maintained by reducing the extent of concessions. In accordance with the policy to phase out exemption notifications, a number of sales tax SROs were also withdrawn or amended in last budget.

Officials said that FBR had undertaken a comprehensive exercise to eliminate SROs issued over time favouring the elite, select groups and the privileged class.  According to experts, country’s tax system had been riddled with discriminatory exemptions and concessions had been granted to vested groups over a long period.

They said that it goes to the unwavering political will and commitment of the government that despite presence of strong and influential groups, the process of elimination and curtailment of exemptions had been initiated and in the very first year a large portion of the concessionary regime had been withdrawn.

The business community is also recommending withdrawing concessions to a particular sector and all income earners should pay taxes equitably, including on income from agriculture related activities and all kinds of government and banks saving schemes.

All income earners, without exception of any sector, including from agriculture activities, should get themselves registered and obtain proper NTN. Tax authorities should ensure that all NTN holders file annual income tax/wealth returns and wealth reconciliation statements.

The culture of Amnesty Schemes should be completely eliminated as it discourages the honest tax payers. Severe, and visible, penalties should be enacted in the law to punish tax evaders, experts recommended.  

Regular coordination should be done with relevant authorities of countries, considered as tax heavens for stashing away illegal wealth, for information sharing.  Appropriate laws should be made to enable the government to seize local assets, in equivalent value, or levy appropriate taxes, if any person holds any kind of assets outside the country for which source of income could not be.

 Industrial bodies strongly advocate that the performance of the tax collectors should not be judged solely on the basis of tax collected, but their efforts in identifying new taxpayers should be appreciated and rewarded.