LAHORE - The businessmen on Tuesday staged a protest demonstration against the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI).

They said the policies of FBR including bank account attachments, misuse of discretionary powers under section 38-B and raids at business premises are badly affecting the business activities. The demonstrators chanted slogans against anti-business tactics of the tax machinery and demanded of the FBR to stop misuse of 38-B that is crushing the business community like anything. Participants said that they would close down their business and take to the streets if respect is not given to the business community by the FBR.

LCCI Acting President Amjad Ali Jawa asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to take notice of the situation as bureaucracy wants to create misunderstanding between business community. Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif should also present case of the Punjab business community to the federal government, the participants demanded.

Amjad said that Section 38-B of Sales Tax Act, 1990 is being harmfully used by the officials of tax department. They are visiting markets and godowns to unjustifiably harass the business people. They not only take coercive measures to raise unlawful tax demands without providing any supporting document but also carry all the available records with them.

The protesters were of the view that teams from tax department should visit the markets, if indispensable, but they should immediately stop harassing business community. They said that if there is an urgent need for stock taking and ascertaining the sales tax liability of any particular business unit, the FBR officials should take association concerned or the Lahore chamber on board.

All the participants said that FBR should stop harassing filers as non-filers and ones outside the tax net are not accounted for at all which discourages businesses to come into the tax net. Registered businesses are required to comply with various departments involving a lot of financial and time resources whereas unregistered businesses are free from all such hassles, they added.

They said that there are 3.5 million registered taxpayers out of which only around 1 million file their tax returns. The government should take all the measures to ensure filing of returns by remaining 2.5 million individuals and businesses, they added.

They said that attaching bank accounts for recovery of outstanding dues is hampering business growth and tarnishing the business-friendly image of the government. They said that bank accounts should not be attached without prior notice to the taxpayer and after seeking approval in writing of Commissioner in the light of reply submitted by the taxpayer. The recovery should be after the decision of the Tribunal and not before that.

They said that unfortunately if the FBR initiates a recovery case, the taxpayer is not allowed to defend as FBR itself is the complainant and a judge. Instead of focusing on controlling under-invoicing, curbing smuggling and expanding the tax net, the FBR seems to be inclined to pressurise registered taxpayers who are already suffering due to high rate of sales tax, income tax and Custom duties by creating fictitious cases for recovery of outstanding dues to meet revenue target.