FTO offices being enhanced to ensure inexpensive, speedy justice: Abdul Rauf

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Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Abdul Rauf Chaudhry has said that the number of FTO offices has successfully been raised to nine by setting up four more offices in numerous cities including Faisalabad, Sukkur, Abbottabad and Multan whereas other FTO offices will also be opened in more cities as well in order to ensure speedy justice to the perturbed taxpayers. Exchanging views at a meeting during his visit to Karachi Chamber on Tuesday, FTO added that they have received recommendations for opening an FTO office in Sialkot as well which was being considered but the decision to open an FTO Office in any city depends on the number of taxpayers of that particular city. Besides the aforementioned offices, FTO Offices in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar were actively engaged in resolving the taxpayers’ complaints which were being resolved in minimum possible time.

Secretary FTO Abdul Khaliq, Advisors FTO Manzoor Hussain Kureshi, Shahid Ahmed and Imtiaz Ahmed Burakzai, President KCCI Younus Muhammad Bashir, Chairman GST & Refunds Sub-Committee KCCI Shoaib Ahmed Faridi, Former Vice President KCCI Muhammad Idrees, KCCI Managing Committee members and FBR officials were present at the meeting.

FTO Abdul Rauf Siddiqui further informed that the time required to decide any complaint has been reduced from 60 days to 45 days whereas the FTO received around 1500 to 2000 complaints last year, of which review was filed in 100 cases only either by the complainant or by the Department. Complainant can also lodge their complaint online via FTO’s website or they can send an SMS about their complaint, which will surely be taken up, he added.

 He said that the recent initiatives undertaken by FTO Secretariat were focused on providing inexpensive and speedy justice to the taxpayer aggrieved by tax maladministration.

Referring to concerns expressed by President KCCI over Section 38 of Sales Tax Act 1990, the Abdul Rauf Chaudhry admitted that it was highly unfair on part of FBR officials to misuse their powers and harass taxpayers which will not be allowed at any cost. FTO has taken strict notice of such harassments in numerous cases from time to time and if anyone feels, they were being harassed by FBR officials, they can immediately approach the FTO for assistance which was also empowered to take suo motto notice. He also assured the business community of discussing property valuation with relevant quarters to address concerns over industrial property. With reference to the issue of customs valuation, the FTO opined that the valuation should not be changed overnight and stakeholders should be consulted before implementing the changes.

Abdul Rauf Chaudhry said that the refunds were due right of taxpayers and same should be issued within the specified timeline. He said that there were many representations before the President of Pakistan on refund issue, which were in favor of taxpayers. He also said that there was no relief to taxpayers in case of delayed issuance of refunds.

Earlier, President KCCI Younus Muhammad Bashir, while welcoming the guests, appreciated the efforts being made by Federal Tax Ombudsman towards rectifying the complaints of taxpayers fairly, promptly, justly, and independently.

Referring to 18th amendment, he said that this amendment resulted in raising taxation issues between provincial and federal government that have not been resolved as yet. Owing to this, industrialists and business community was facing grave problems, mainly due to issue of jurisdiction and double taxation, he added while seeking assistance from FTO in dealing with this issue. He further pointed out that more than 60% of the issues faced by the business community were due to the Pakistan Automation Revenue Private (PRAL), the IT wing of FBR. Due to its ineffective performance and poor automation services, sales tax data was not being properly recorded while sales tax refunds cannot be processed due to system faults etc. which requires attention. He further stated that the provincial government lately imposed 14% service tax on indenting commission which was not making any sense as the indenters were engaged in export of services to foreign principals and they were already paying 5 percent Withholding Tax (WHT) to the federal government on such export earnings. “Therefore, export earnings do not come under the purview of services tax by the provinces and this needs to be taken up by Federal Tax Ombudsman which, if resolved, would surely provide some relief to perturbed businessmen who are running their businesses on a very low profit margin”, he added. He further stated that the new valuation rates for the industrial land were too high and it was necessary to take immediate notice of the issue and resolve the same on urgent basis so that transactions and dealings of the property sector could be resumed. KCCI has already rejected the new valuation tables and demanded to restore the previous system with revised rates as two valuations for one property seems to be illogical which would make the accounting procedures more cumbersome, he added.

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