Cooperation, not harassment, is key feature of VTCS, says Haroon Akhtar
Senator Haroon Akhtar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue, has said the government is committed to addressing concerns of traders and business community and FBR's field formations have been instructed not to harass any taxpayer or issue notice without prior approval to anyone filing under the Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme (VTCS).
"This scheme is the fruit of our sincere efforts, deliberations and discussions held with traders for six long months, and despite negative criticism and baseless doubts from certain quarters, we have rolled out a scheme that offers positive and practical solutions to traders to become filers," he said while addressing a press conference at the Regional Tax Office (RTO) Lahore following a meeting with office-bearers and representatives of various Tax Bar Associations of the country today (Thursday).
Haroon Akhtar said the VTCS had also been hailed by the country's mainstream media as being a major achievement of the government since it was not only non-coercive but it also offered a golden opportunity to document a very large segment of the economy that had historically resisted all attempts to be included in the state’s revenue effort.
He recalled how the past attempts to coerce traders into coming into the tax net had failed because of lack of sincere efforts in motivating and persuading traders to begin filing tax returns and wealth statements in their own interest. "Our scheme is based essentially on the principle of maximum facilitation and that is the reason why traders have been exempted from audit, sales tax registration, filing wealth statement and becoming withholding agents as these were their major demands and we have accepted them in the best interest of the country.
He said the scheme also allowed the traders to pay a nominal amount as tax on turnover while traders under the scheme were required to file a simplified one-page return form instead of a cumbersome process which previously kept them at bay.
Haroon Akhtar said he had personally worked day and night and represented interests of both the government and the traders to make the scheme a success. We were given mandate by the Prime Minister to come up with out-of-box solutions for increasing revenue and broadening the tax base and we have striven in recent months to achieve these goals as evidenced by a massive increase in revenue collection and number of filers crossing one million mark for the first time in Pakistan.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a vision to make Pakistan an Asian tiger and this dream could only be realized through increased revenue generation and resource mobilization. "We are going to remove blots such as low tax-to-GDP ratio and abysmal tax base which been seen and cited as limiting factors by economists and international financial institutions keenly observing Pakistan's growth patterns in recent years," he said.
Haroon Akhtar advised the tax layers and traders; community against falling victim to a baseless propaganda unleashed by the opposition parties against the scheme and exhorted them to avail of what he called a golden opportunity for them to become filers and good responsible citizens actively contributing to progress and prosperity of the nation. He said the scheme was voluntary and not an attempt to whiten black money as had been insinuated by certain quarters and opposition parties acting inexplicably against efforts to enhance the population of taxpayers.
Earlier, M. Mansha Sukhera, President of Tax Bar Association Lahore, welcomed the scheme as being "wholly traders friendly" and thanked the government for formulating what he described as the best scheme that accommodated all concerns and demands of of lawyers and traders.
Speaking on the occasion, Mohsin Nadeem, President of Pakistan Tax Bar Association, also lauded the Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme and the spirit with which all stakeholders, including traders, lawyers and the FBR, had been on one page in formulating this scheme.