The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of Pakistan has come up with a way to bolster revenue collection and document the informal economy: it is asking banks to share details about their depositors.
According to an official FBR communiqué circulated among banks, the revenue body wants the names, postal addresses and Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) numbers of depositors. But the banks, say FBR officials, are resisting the move so far.
The controversial directives were issued on the advice of senior officials of the FBR, who have been trying to calculate the amount of tax evaded by individuals, based on the returns filed by banks on cash withdrawals.
In a letter to the Member Inland Revenue, these officials put forward the fact that during FY09 and FY10, banks deducted Rs11, 338 million and Rs12, 863 million respectively under the head of withholding tax, then at 0.3 per cent.
Working backwards, these officials deduced that Rs3.779 trillion and Rs4.287 trillion in cash were withdrawn by depositors in just two years.
“Most of these amounts thus represent informal economy and are prima-facie untaxed so far,” stated the letter.
In a bid to rope in the biggest fish, the FBR decided to focus on those who had withdrawn more than Rs10 million in cash a year. And that’s when they came up against a brick wall.
In their letter to the Member Inland Revenue, the FBR officials complained about the banks’ unwillingness to share data.
“The banks have been off and on (been) requested by the concerned officers to submit the details viz names, addresses, NTNs/CNICs numbers of the persons who have withdrawn such huge amounts of cash from the banks but banks have failed to furnish the details of those persons although the relevant law and rules require them to furnish the information ibid,” stated the letter.
According to a senior FBR official, a 2011 amendment in section 165 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 makes it mandatory for withholding agents to provide details of the people they?ve collected the tax from.
“Besides, the FBR also can ask the taxpayers to furnish details under section 174 and 176 of the ordinance,” he added.