Benami accounts: FBR asks banks to furnish details in 15 days

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi Monday asked all the heads of banks to collect details of ‘Benami’ accountholders in their respective banks themselves and share the information with FBR within 15 days. The FBR chairman wrote a letter to the heads of banks asking them to provide information to the Board relating to Benami accounts within 15 days under the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017.In his letter, Zaidi has recalled the earlier meeting held with chief financial officers of all banks wherein it was agreed that all the banks will internally make an exercise seeking information from their accountholders about the ‘mandated’ or ‘Benami accounts’ holders within their system. The FBR chairman expressed the hope that requisite steps would have been taken by the banks to gather such information.

He maintained that the FBR is mandated to take action against Benami accounts under the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Ordinance, 2017. The FBR chairman requested the banks to share with the FBR all the gathered information in this regard, which will be kept highly confidential.

The FBR has legal obligation under the aforesaid law to identify such assets. In his letter, the FBR chairman stated that the best approach in this regard is mutual cooperation, voluntary compliance and close coordination between the banks and the FBR.

The Board does not want to contact account holders directly ‘so that people’s trust in the FBR can be maintained.’ According to the FBR, information provided regarding the Benami accounts will be kept confidential. “Under the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017, [the] FBR is responsible for identifying Benami accounts,” the statement read, adding: “If FBR and banks work together, better results can be achieved.”The Board noted the importance of cooperation of banks and requested that they submit all information within 15 days. Earlier this month, the FBR had initiated proceedings against the citizens who failed to declare their Benami properties under the Assets Declarations Scheme, which expired on July 3. In March last, the FBR officials said that the act had been implemented to stop transactions being conducted through Benami accounts, the numbers of which run into hundreds and thousands.