The tax directory of parliamentarians released by the Federal Board of Revenue is bound to be an interesting document. With the national conversation steering towards the importance of paying due taxes, the details of income tax paid by members of the Senate and National Assembly in 2017 is certain to draw attention from the public and can reveal some very surprising facts about the members of Parliament.

One such surprising statistic is this- out of 342 National Assembly members, only 325 filed their returns in the tax year 2017 while 98 Senators filed returns out of a total 104 members of the Upper House of Parliament. In both Houses, 23 members had not filed their returns for the last tax year. Perhaps this fact prompted Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar to emphasise the need for the influential to be brought into the tax bracket.

There were other surprises as well- tax payment by Prime Minister Imran Khan fell by about 35 per cent to Rs103,763 in the tax year 2017 from Rs159,609 a year ago, while that of former premier Nawaz Sharif saw a staggering fall of more than 2 million. Many have chosen this revelation as an opportunity to criticise Imran Khan for preaching about the importance of paying tax while paying little in amount compared to his fellow cabinet members- yet the criticism is not fair. The directory reflects only the amount payable for income tax- there is a vast difference in income and wealth. A person can be wealthy yet pay little in income tax due to them deriving their wealth not from their income- with Imran Khan’s properties, this seems to be the case. Perhaps here is where criticism of our tax laws is warranted- there are a lot of loopholes through which the wealthy pay less in taxes than those far poorer than them.