An appeal to Sindh Human Rights Commission
October 7, 2021
The plight of sanitary workers
October 13, 2021
Dear Dr. Ashfaq Ahmed Tunio, 11 Oct. 2021
Member (IT) FBR,
Greetings and respects,
I am grateful for your phone call and the e-mail message. Your mention that I could send my suggestions for improvement of FBR system, processes and Forms is highly encouraging and deeply appreciated.
I wish to assure you that I have no interest in criticising or berating the FBR. However myself and hundreds of other citizens who were consulted on this subject, sincerely believe that FBR, by creating a system in which 100 % people cannot fill the complex income tax return, and 98 percent do not pay any tax at all, has let down Pakistan and has become the single greatest obstacle in the progress of Pakistan. This obstacle must either be reformed or removed as a first prerequisite for Pakistan to move forward.
To give you a simple example of why the current system is dead and dysfunctional. I wrote an e-mail on 3rd October to 35 individuals that included the FBR Chairman and all FBR members, and then followed it up by a postal letter on 4th Oct, 2021. Not a single official responded to the e-mail message. So the top 35 FBR, Finance , and IT related bureaucrats of Pakistan are either so callous or so clueless that they cannot read, understand or respond to a citizen’s email who is trying to make some suggestions (however faulty) for the benefit of FBR itself. It is only after receiving the PAPER letter, that one kind soul , out of the 35, responded by a phone call. This simple example may sum up the entire debate on why Pakistan is a hundred years behind the rest of the world.
I had made numerous suggestions in my email and letter. They are summarised in the following lines.:
  • The need to have every citizen file a tax return;
  • The need to simplify and make a half page income tax return Form in Urdu and English;
  • The need to get rid of Challans and PSIDs and enable each citizen to pay thru mobile phone money transfer system, without leaving one’s home ;
  • The need to stop this charitable debate about filers and non-filers. There ought to be no facility phone, gas, electricity, purchase of cars, property, air tickets, bank account etc etc , if the individual does not file the obligatory tax return – even if the income is zero;
  • The need to bring the entire system of tax and other payments within the fold of formal economy and banking channels. Please learn from M Pesa, Kenya, if you are shy of learning from western countries;
  • The need to incentivize tax payment and make a system that compensates those who are below a certain income level. So a poor person by filing a tax return and declaring his credentials, would be eligible to receive some amount from FBR in return. ( a common practice in most sensible countries). This could also eliminate the need of political charity schemes such as BISP and EHSAS;
  • The need to have the data on how much money is earned by each individual and each household;
  • The need to understand from tax returns that millions of people are being exploited and not being paid even the minimum legal wage. If every one submitted a tax return , the FBR (and the GOP) would have known that thousands of janitors who enter raw sewage gutters in various Municipalities of Pakistan are paid only Rs.10-12,000 per month. Likewise some 50 million formal and informal workers cruelly receiving less than min wage could be easily detected by a simple income tax return;
  • The need to introduce wealth tax and inheritance tax to create greater equity in society.
It is ironic that the FBR has zero thought, feedback, comments, ideas for way forward, agreement or disagreement on any of the above mentioned aspects of its job.
I would deeply appreciate and support FBR’s moving forward, after I get some specific feedback on the suggestions already made and briefly listed above.