Pakistan to coordinate with UAE, Europe to curb under-invoicing, tax evasion
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to establish electronic data interfaces with different countries including the United Arab Emirates, European states, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Singapore to curb under-invoicing and tax evasion, officials said. The government has been struggling to combat incorrect declaration and under-assessment of goods by importers to evade customs duty. Importers usually change invoices in the connivance with government officials to pay minimal taxes while clearing their consignments from ports.
“The under-invoicing and tax evasion by importers run into millions of rupees annually and we want to curb it by coordinating other countries,” Dr. Hamid Ateeq Sarwar, Member Inland Revenue Policy at the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), told Arab News.
Elaborating the plan, he said the electronic data interface with Afghanistan will be established by February this year and the project will then be extended to other countries as well in different phases.
“We don’t expect much to gain from Afghanistan as they don’t have the capacity to handle the imports and exports, but at least we will be able to find difference in invoices of importers if any of them attempts to alter them,” he said.
Sarwar said the FBR was planning to complete the project with the UAE, European countries and Singapore by June this year. “Once we are connected with the electronic data interface of a country, it will be almost impossible for importers to alter their invoices,” he said. The cash-strapped nation has been struggling to increase its tax revenues by combating smuggling and under-invoicing by importers.
The country has suffered an economic loss of around $11 billion in terms of customs duties and withholding tax during 1972 to 2013 as the under-invoicing was recorded to be around $92.7 billion during the period, according to Mukarram Jah Ansari who is director-general valuation at the FBR.
Pakistan has been working closely with the World Customs Organization, an intergovernmental body headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, to sign agreements with other countries for electronic data interchange.
“We have been receiving very encouraging response from all the countries … numerous international organizations have been helping us to reform our tax system,” Sarwar said. “In today’s age, all the countries have open economies and it is in their interest as well to sign such mutual pacts.”
On the other hand, importers and businessmen have welcomed the move, hoping it will help discourage smuggling of the goods and boost genuine imports and business in the country.
“Once the smuggling and under-invoicing of the imported goods is stopped effectively, we will witness a competition among genuine importers which will boost the economy and increase revenue collection,” Anjum Nisar, chairman Pakistan Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Importers’ Association, told Arab News.