ISLAMABAD  -   Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has said it enjoys powers to raise immediate demand and effect recovery on provisional basis in case of government confiscated local assets under Section 123 of the Income Tax Ordinance.

The scope of this Section is proposed to be extended to discovery of undeclared offshore assets through the current Finance Bill. Now the demand and recovery of tax on such persons can be executed immediately after receipt of information in suitable cases. The measure is necessary to enable FBR to recover tax provisionally before the money moves out of bank accounts and the regular proceedings, which take about a year or two, follow.

The FBR has further said that it can also request assistance in recovery of such taxes from foreign jurisdictions wherever it has bilateral and multilateral agreements. This will ensure that FBR can request freeze of offshore accounts to other countries by conveying demand to such countries.

The FBR is already in possession of information of bank accounts of Pakistanis from 26 countries and this provision will enable FBR to move swiftly in the direction of taxing people involved in holding of offshore assets. As such, this measure has been introduced in addition to measures already available in Income Tax laws, Anti-Money Laundering Act and FIA/NAB laws and, in no way, precludes or overlaps the jurisdiction of such laws and institutions.

The FBR in Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 had sought powers of provisional assessments for creation of tax demands against those who never declare anything in Pakistan in order to move against owners of offshore assets abroad. The FBR proposed provisional assessment in case of an offshore asset not declared earlier if such asset is discovered by the commissioner or any department or agency of the federal or provincial government.

However, the opposition parties had criticised the government on the proposed amendment. Senator Sherry Rehman of Pakistan Peoples Party said that the name of beneficiary of this clause was obvious - without naming anybody. Similarly, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has also criticised the government on the same issue. The PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that FBR has been empowered to regularise any overseas properties under this 'mini-budget'.