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The News

Published Date: Dec 24, 2013

Tax and lies

The stench of
hypocrisy continues to stick to our elected lawmakers, who feel no shame
in continuing to levy taxes on the middle and lower classes even as
they dodge contributing their fair share for the public good. A joint
study by a think tank and a tax watchdog organisation, found that nearly
50 percent of lawmakers in both the national and provincial assemblies
did not pay any income tax. Out of those, 12 percent do not even possess
National Tax Numbers (NTN). A large number of legislators, including
such bigwigs as Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, did file taxes but even
then their returns were significantly less than what they declared in
their nomination forms. These facts should be remembered every time our
representatives decide to reduce subsidies on electricity and other
items necessary for the survival of the public and increase the
regressive GST. The reason they have to keep punishing the common man
further is because they and those like them do not see the need to
follow the law and pay their taxes. Enforcement in the country is so lax
that only the salaried class, whose taxes are deducted at the source,
ends up paying income tax. Legislators, as we have always suspected and
are now finding proof for, have no incentive to change this culture
since they are the chief beneficiaries of the status quo.

every legislator who has not filed income taxes or lied about the
amount of taxes paid on his or her nomination form would be disqualified
by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) or the courts, just as was
done to those who lied about their educational qualifications. Such
action cannot be taken, however, since tax returns are private and
cannot be revealed to the public, even if lawmakers have lied about
them. The time for taking action was when the nomination papers for
prospective candidates were being scrutinised by the ECP. The tax and
wealth information provided by the candidates was sent to the Federal
Board of Revenue for verification. The FBR, however, could not share the
tax information with the ECP and only verified the candidates’ NTNs,
statements of assets and liabilities and income tax returns for the last
three years. As we can now see, the FBR was deliberately negligent in
its duty. Dodging taxes crosses party lines and since the FBR will end
up serving whichever party forms the government it ended up verifying
declarations that bore no relation to reality. With the FBR unwilling to
carry out its duties, the organisation itself, along with all the
delinquent legislators, should now have to face justice in the courts.