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Pakistan’s tax collection agency, the Federal Board of Revenue, released a 17,000 page directory on Wednesday of those people who paid tax and filed tax returns in the previous year. This was the first time such an exercise was conducted in a country where barely one million people out of a population of 140 million pay income tax.
The list has caused confusion and elicited protests, with many of the country’s top tax payers saying that the move puts them in the limelight and could make them targets of criminal gangs.
SM Muneer of the Din Group, one of the country’s top tax payers told finance minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday that the government should have released the list of tax evaders not tax payers. “They are punishing us for paying our taxes,” said Muneer, who also represents the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Two months back, a more select list comprising the country’s top politicians was published by the government. The list showed that not a single lawmaker figured in top 100 taxpayers list. Both then president Asif Zardari and prime minister Nawaz Sharif were seen to pay very little in income tax.
On this occasion, a more comprehensive list was issued as finance minister Ishaq Dar said that the government wanted to publicly shame defaulters. The names of most celebrities, including cricketers and film stars, were missing from the list.
Shahid Afridi, for example, is registered twice but under both names, the tax paid is under five lakh Pakistani rupees. Veena Malik’s name does not feature on the list either.
Amongst government servants, there is a lot of discrepancy over who paid how much tax. The tax paid by army chief General Raheel Sharif seems to be lesser than what was paid by some corps commanders, say officials.
This may possibly be due to the fact that the army chief’s personal holdings may be lesser than his service colleagues.
Pakistan’s finance ministry informed that the exercise was being conducted ahead of the approval of a $6.7 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.