Budget FY 2019-20: all taxes to be clubbed into one tax: Umar

With a view to further improving the ease of doing business, the federal government is taking steps to club all taxes into one tax in the next federal budget following which there will be a single tax collector and businessmen will have to pay a single tax and file only a single tax return.

Federal Finance Minister Asad Umer made this announcement while speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday. He said this step is being taken to facilitate businesspeople who are paying various taxes. Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Dr Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan, Punjab Minister for Industries, Trade and Investment Mian Aslam Iqbal also spoke on the occasion.

He said that trust building between the government and business community is need of the hour as private sector will be leading economy in the 21st century while government would act as a facilitator. He said that the FBR and private sector would have to give respect to each other. “Promissory note for industrial sector was the idea of private sector that would help resolve the liquidity issue,” he added.

To a question, he said that interest rate is the matter of central bank, adding that savings are a must for sustainable economic development. Last year, savings were only 10.4 per cent which should be 25 to 28 per cent to achieve the annual growth target of 7 per cent. The State Bank of Pakistan would have to maintain a balance, he added.

He said industries are provincial subject after the 18th Amendment. Federal and provincial governments would take stakeholders on board to get their valuable feedback. He said that special economic zones are of utmost importance. Neither politicians nor bureaucrats are trained to run industrial estates. “I believe that operations of these SEZs should be in the hands of private sector,” he opined, adding that a task force has been formed and soon a package will be announced for the IT sector.

He said an 11-member board has been formed for “Sarmaya Pakistan” that would have eight representatives, including chairman, from private sector while the remaining will be from the government side.

About tourism, the Minister said the government is taking steps to tap the tourism industry potential. Malaysia earned US $23 billion while Turkey gained $43 billion from tourism, he added. Talking to media persons, Asad Umar said there is a visible difference between the PTI government and the previous ones which increased GST to raise revenue while we did not shift burden to the masses.

Responding to a question, the Minister said that the Prime Minister is going to launch “Pakistan Banao Certificate” on January 31 for expat Pakistanis which would provide them investment opportunities. However, there would be no specific amount or tenor of the certificate, he added. About the IMF package, he said: “We are not in a hurry to sign agreement so that the country may not face an adverse effects.”

To another question on achieving revenue target, the Minister said the target of Rs 4398 billion given to the FBR would be achieved comfortably.

Earlier, speaking at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Regional Office, Asad Umar said that matters relating to special economic zones, situation of existing economic zones and cotton crop strategy for 2019 have been placed in the next meeting of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) that would be held on February 5 while the government has focused on SMEs, cottage industry and small traders to exploit country’s economic growth potential. He said the matter relating to cotton production has been placed before the ECC while agriculture ministers from Sindh and Punjab have also been invited to help chalk out strategy for future crops. Besides, the Board of Investment has been directed to brief the ECC about the facilities in existing economic zones besides suggestions to improve the missing facilities and future plans for SEZs.

The Federal Minister said that old system of power distribution and tariff would have to be deregulated besides framing of new rules and regulations.

Speaking at the LCCI, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar said that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are being evolved for issuance of tax exemption certificates. He said raids on business premises have been ceased and SOPs are being formed in this regard as well. He said that tax reforms implementation committee is playing an active role while tax policy and tax administration are being separated.

FBR Chairman Dr. Jahanzeb Khan said FBR reforms are one of the top priorities of the government for trust building. He said alternative dispute resolution mechanism is being promoted to settle issues out of court. “The Lahore Chamber will be FBR’s partner in this regard,” he said, adding that tax-to-GDP ratio would have be made better.

Provincial Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal said that the draft of industrial policy has been approved by the cabinet. The cabinet has also passed labour deletion policy while rules and regulations for land lease policy would be forwarded to the cabinet for approval soon.

LCCI President Almas Hyder said the benefit of the payment of refunds through promissory note should also be extended to all the other sectors in addition to five zero-rated sectors. The government should rezone urban centres, demarcate industrial land and set up SEZs all over Pakistan. He also urged the government to announce tax holiday for new SMES.