The Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), in a briefing with the presidents of business chambers and industry leaders from all over Pakistan, disclosed that The Value Added Tax (VAT) is a suggestion not a law, unless approved by the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies. While allaying fears of the business community, he said that according to a World Bank report, Pakistan has to collect between Rs700 billion to 800 billion extra in taxes every year so the FBR deems it crucial for health of the economy that a VAT be levied. The FBR chief, it appears, has misconstrued the World Bank statement. The report has, in fact, disclosed loopholes in the tax system that cause enormous leakage of taxes and the WB has actually suggested recovery by implementing tax laws more effectively. However, rather than recovering the concealed/untaxed wealth in various privileged sections of the society who have accumulated massive riches in the last ten years due to laxity in tax policies, the FBR has found the easy way out of taxing further. The worst part is that FBRs new VAT would be payable by the consumers which also include the poorest of the poor strata of society. Moreover, VAT is not another name for General Sales Tax (GST) as stated by the FBR spokesman in response to a question raised by representatives of the business community. If this is true than why impose it when GST is already on the books? The VAT, if implemented, would aggravate the already hyper inflation and make lives of the general public, especially those among them with limited or fixed incomes, absolutely unbearable. Instead of adding further misery to the wretched conditions in the country, FBR should try to strengthen its existing Income Tax Law and make all those who have taxable income pay what is due. If they would only do that and nothing more, there will be no need to impose another tax. If the loopholes in tax laws are plugged, corrupt apparatus of the tax machinery fixed and every person liable to tax brought to book with every penny due to him collected, I am sure we would have way more than Rs 800 billion extra collected in taxes. A last point, really a minor little irritant, pertains to FBRs determined and constant attempts at appeasement of the business community on the VAT issue as though they were to bear the burden of this tax? I fail to comprehend why because they are only intermediary collectors of the VAT from consumer at the time of making a sale. The only problem for them, as far as I can see, is that they would have to be registered with the tax department and might not be able to hide their real transactions in future. -AMANULLAH TURK, Dubai, March 17.