LAHORE - The business community is again divided over the issue of new countrywide strike call given by one faction of the Anjuman Tajiran Pakistan on Aug 5 against imposition of 0.3 per cent advance withholding tax on banking transactions of non-filers.

The finance minister, after making consultations with the business community and the Federal Board of Revenue, had reportedly agreed to reduce the tax from 0.6 to 0.3pc.

ATP President Khalid Pervez, who rejected the agreement, announced countrywide strike at a press conference at the federal capital, according to a statement issued here on Monday. However, Secretary General of All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran Naeem Mir disassociated it from the strike call, saying a countrywide convention of traders to be held in Lahore on July 24 would decide the future course of action after consultation with trade bodies. He added that Khalid Pervez must avoid dividing traders as his previous strike call on July 7 also proved to be a failure.

He urged the Khalid Pervaiz group of traders not to sabotage the positive outcome of talks earlier held with the government and call off the shutter down strike, as it would only divide the business community and damage their interests.

All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran central general secretary Naeem Mir, while addressing a press conference on Wednesday at press club, appealed to the traders body of Khalid Pervaiz Group to withdraw the strike call of shutter down on Aug 5 because the government has started implementation of the agreement reached between FBR and traders all groups including Khalid Pervaiz Group. He criticized Khalid Pervaiz, calling him the joker of traders community. “All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran was the first which raised the voice against 0.6 percent tax on banking transactions and our strong protest forced the government to sit on table for negotiations.”

The representatives of traders group included APAT central president Ajmal Baloch, general secretary Naeem Mir, Punjab president Mehboob Sirki, Sheikh Siddiq (Khalid Pervaiz Group’s Rawalpindi president), FPCCI President Mian Adrees, Afzal Khan, Mian Abdul Mannan and all chambers presidents.

“The government agreed with the demand of traders to abolish present income tax system for traders, implementing turnover tax for them to the maximum ratio of 0.25 per cent. The turnover tax would be agreed according to various trades and sectors between trade bodies and FBR,” he added. Under the agreement, the turnover tax, currently at 1 per cent, has been reduced according to various trades and sectors. This is the major concession.

He said that the business community was satisfied with the outcome of the talks, appealing to all traders and industrialists to now file the income tax returns and become honorable citizens of the country. All the businessmen who were non-filers would become filers in the next three months. From October 1, the ordinance would lapse and the government would again start charging 0.6 percent tax on all the banking instruments traded by the non-filers. It was also decided that 0.3 percent WHT is adjustable for filers up to 30.92015.

The traders are ready to join hands with the FBR to enhance tax net, playing their role to unearth new taxpayers, but the tax department should also consult the real stakeholders before formulating national tax policy.

Meanwhile, government would have to find out an amicable solution to the withholding tax on bank transactions to ensure a business friendly atmosphere in the country. “The economy is well on the track and cannot afford any confrontation between the government and the business community”, LCCI President Ijaz A.Mumtaz said.

He said that though expansion of tax net is need of the hour but government would have to find out new ways to bring the untaxed sectors into the tax net. He said that measures like imposition of withholding tax on bank transactions would not be doing any service to the economy as it has been observed that tax collection machinery has no authentic data to specify difference between filers and non-filers.

Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that though formation of a committee and cut in withholding tax is a step in right direction but business community is yet not satisfied and want complete withdrawal of withholding tax.

He said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry is with all the trade and industry associations against this imposition of tax on bank transactions.

He said that if tax on all bank transactions is imposed forcefully, it would not only hamper the trade and economic activities but would also tarnish the image of the government.

The LCCI President said that a number of trade & industrial associations have approached to the LCCI and informed that imposition of tax on all banking transactions has caused unrest and put the interests of business community on stake.

He said that imposition of this tax would force business community to conduct its monetary transactions in cash that would promote the undocumented economy.

Ijaz A. Mumtaz said all business-related decisions should be taken in consultation with the stakeholders as being done in the developed countries.

He said that Federal Finance Minister would be asked to take all trade and industry related decision in consultation with the business community which is backbone of the economy.

Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry advocates the broadening of tax net but all measures should be taken in consultation with the stakeholders.