PR LAHORE - We, the presidents of All Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry gathered on 9th February, 2019 at Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. We have signed and issued the following joint declaration.

• All participants unanimously reiterated the significance of industry and trade, and supported measures taken by the government of Pakistan to revive the national economy. They also supported government’s effort on ease of doing business.

• All raw materials must attract zero or low custom duties. Government must eliminate Regulatory Duties (RD) and Additional Custom Duty (AD) on raw materials, so that local industry is able to compete with smuggling and mitigate the effect of low tariff FTAs.

• Rate of duties for trade and industry must be same, so that SMEs who procure from trade should have a level playing field.

• Custom Duties (CD) on intermediary products be reduced so that our industry is able to import quality materials, components and machinery from the rest of the world at the same duty rate at which it imported through different FTAs.

• Nonpayment of refunds is drying out liquidity from the markets. Payment through promissory notes should also be extended to all sectors including five zero rated sectors.

• Refunds be issued automatically without application, or pre-audit, within 60 days as per rules.

• The government should take steps to reduce the interest rate since it has made borrowing expensive for private sector and discouraged investment.

• There should be a window of low interest rates for SMEs

• The exemption from the payment of Sales Tax on imported plant and machinery for Greenfield projects should also be granted to brownfield projects and BMRE. Special tax facilitation is needed for sick units, for which rules should be framed.

• The Provincial governments should re-zone areas in and around urban centres, both for industrial and commercial use to help entrepreneurs invest in green field and other projects. The government should demarcate industrial and economic zones and set up SEZs urgently.

• Land provided to foreign investors should be offered on 50 years lease only. For Pakistani investors, option should be available for freehold and leasehold properties.

• Foreign investment should only be allowed as a JV with Pakistani investors or as a public listed company so that local investors also benefit.

• All existing industrial units should be regularized without penalty.

• Warehousing of raw materials should be allowed in EPZs and SEZs.

• Company Office should be formed for registration of new companies. Registering a company should be separated from regulating a company.  Regulation should start once the company gets operational.

• There should be one tax collection authority for the collection of both federal and provincial taxes.

• The total number of taxes should be reduced to 5 by clubbing

i- Labour related taxes e.g. EOBI, PESSI, WPPF, WWF

ii- Professional and Property Tax

iii- Federal and Provincial Sales Tax.

• The frequency of tax payments should be reduced by reducing the frequency of the tax payments of EOBI, PESSI and Sales Tax.

• Steps must be taken to separate tax collection, from service provision, so that departments like PESSI, EOBI etc. stop sending inspectors for tax collection and provide government services like hospitals, pensions etc only.

• All audits should be risk-based (with one-month prior notice) rather than random audits.

• There should be holiday for all taxes and levies (federal and provincial) for 3 years for the newly registered companies, especially SMEs.

• No tax exemption should be given on imports, if the equipment, machine or part is locally manufactured. Local industry has suffered and feels left out when government allows tax free import of complete turnkey projects.

• To enhance the tax base, fixed tax system should be introduced at the SME level.

• There should be exemption from audit for taxpayers who deposit 20% more tax over the last year.

• The tax exemption certificates to commercial importers & manufacturers be issued automatically if their withheld tax is equal to last year’s tax.

• The additional Sales Tax of 3% for non-filers be eliminated. It is actually an additional tax on compliant taxpayers.

• Discretionary powers under Section 177, 214C, 138, 175 of (Income Tax) and 40B, 25 37, 38A, 40 and 48 of Sales Tax be minimized in consultation with stakeholders.

• There should be a single audit for Sales Tax, Income Tax and Withholding Tax.

• All incomes must be treated and taxed equally.

• Energy prices must be uniform in all provinces including electricity and gas.

• Reduction of public holidays.

• The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights should be promulgated.