Who in the government stops the publication of the fiscal yearbook?


ISLAMABAD: Inspired by his words, Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to make Pakistan a welfare state like the Scandinavian countries. While his government is far from realizing this dream, a step taken in this direction under the PML-N government also appears to be on the verge of backing down. This is linked to the tax case, which has been made public between Pakistan, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

As of 2014, two directories were published by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) – one with information on the annual income tax paid by lawmakers, and the other with details of all tax filers. in Pakistan. The directories would be published no later than May-June, but this year there was an excessive delay and the RBF does not commit to its publication. The News spoke to RBF officials three times on different occasions to inquire about the publication date. The first such contact took place in July, but the then spokesperson did not offer a specific timeline. “This directory decision is to be made by the president of the FBR and then handled by the Facilitation and Taxpayer Education Wing (FATE) member.” Then, in September, The News contacted the president of FBR who said his department was working there.

When the RBF spokesperson was approached now, he said the president had contracted COVID-19 and that any approval in this regard was pending his recovery. “As this is a political decision, the files would be submitted to him once he resumes his duties,” spokesman Asad Tahir Jappa said.

He said he was involved in more important tasks than this. Another cause of delay is leadership, he said, as the new president was recently appointed in August of this year. With the October shutdown, the directory publication appears to be experiencing further delays, making it less likely this year.

The tax data was made public by the government of Nawaz Sharif after The News produced a few series in 2013 and 2014 unmasking tax information from lawmakers. At that time, many lawmakers did not have a national tax number or did not file an income tax return. Then Finance Minister Ishaq Dar strongly opposed this and issued a deadline ordering FBR to register on NTN to lawmakers who had run out of net, and ordered non-reporting members to submit tax returns in case they want their name to appear in the directory.

April 15, 2014 was a historic day when Pakistan joined the rank of countries where tax data is made public with the publication of the directory containing the tax information of all tax filers. This followed the publication of the fiscal directory of parliamentarians on June 9 of the same year. Since then, the practice continued until last year, and the government appears to have abandoned this plan now. This is what the non-binding responses of the officials of the RBF suggest.

Finns call November 1 “National Envy Day” when tax information is released. The exact year is not known, but it is a decades-old practice in Finland. Norway has been publishing income tax returns since 1863, when they were posted on town hall walls. Anyone could request tax data anonymously. In Sweden, a single call to the tax authorities is enough to find out what someone has paid. Almost all income tax details are public, and Swedish media often publish lists of the highest earners. These policies would be rooted in cultural traditions. The Swedish concept of the ‘law of the rim’, which means that no one is special or should stand out, is at the origin of this practice.

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