FPCCI leadership have urged Federal Tax Ombudsman for out-of-box actions to stop FBR officials from alleged mis-interpretation of rules, misuse of discretionary powers, unjustified notices and engagement in other malpractices as business community stay sensitized that they would be hammered one way or another on being vocal and getting relief from FTO.

During the visit of FTO, Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah to the Federation House here on Thursday evening, President, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Ifran Iqbal Sheikh and other senior business leaders appreciated the relief provided to taxpayers on filing of complaints with FTO against the malpractices or undue taxation by Federal Board of Revenue officials.

However, President FPCCI maintained, getting relief from FTO on filling complaints against the tax-collecting machinery was not the ultimate solution. The systemic changes in the statutes and its fair application would include some of the solutions to provide business friendly taxation environment. No doubt, he acknowledged, the taxpaying business community had moral up with easy access, proper hearing and remedy they got from the much-needed prestigious forum of FTO.

However, he emphasized on legal protection against all kind of alleged malpractices by FBR officials that hampered growth of businesses and to stop retaliation by tax authorities when the complaints are filed with FTO. These complaints would increase multifold if the complainants were provided with legal protection.

The business leaders also requested the FTO to intervene in the capacity building of the tax collectors to escape unnecessary litigation, embarrassment of taxpayers and disruptions to businesses. Also, they pointed out, in many cases FBR field officials remained posted on same post or station for long years which needed rationale.

President FPCCI regretted that FBR was a multiple functional organization i.e., investigator, prosecutor, tax collecting machinery, adjudicator, appellant authority, which, what he said, was even against the doctrine of the Constitution where the tax collection machinery could not simultaneously act as executive and judicial authority. The judicial functions should be separate from the tax collection machinery as per constitutional requirement and as well as to increase trust in the tax collecting and administration system.

In 2001, he referred to, his budget speech then federal finance minister announced that the adjudication functions were being separated from tax collecting machinery to align with obligation of the Constitution in this regard.

The Minister had also announced complete revamping of the taxation machinery but FBR did not move any working paper for implementing the separation of tax judicial system from the executive machinery excluding the consideration of same in the Finance bill before its approval.

“We think, FTO office can analyze such multiple functions with taxation machinery and recommend as how the same should be restructured and functionally segregated as per need of the rules of business and the constitution of Pakistan,” FPCCI President said adding that FTO office should also suggest reforms in taxation system to off- load the size of complaints against malpractices by tax-collecting officials at large not included in the formal lodging of complaints with FTO.

Since long, FPCCI, the apex trade body representing private sector of the country, had been strongly advocating for the legislation of the office of Federal Tax Ombudsman to place a powerful independent constitutional watch-dog to stop maladministration causing harassment of taxpayers and ultimate damages to the national economy.

FPCCI struggle yielded and in 2000 the then government decided to constitute the office of Federal Tax Ombudsman with lot of resistance faced from FBR during the time, President FPCCI said.

FPCCI President assured that through this apex trade forum the awareness about the scope of FTO and mechanism of getting remedy would be promoted among the business community of the country in order to promote the available potential for increasing the business and economic activities in the country.

FTO, Dr. Arif Mahmood Jah, who was accompanied by a team of his senior officers, pledged to protect and provide quick justice to taxpayers against all kind of malpractices, misinterpretation of rules and harassment by tax collecting officials. Besides, the FTO conceded to consider the suggestions by FPCCI leadership; most of which were agreed in the meeting.

He said FTO secretariat wanted to meaningfully do its great task of protecting taxpaying business community against the malpractices and harassment by tax collectors only with the support and partnership of representative trade bodies, especially FPCCI.

He sought ownership by the business community to FTO and his team working in the main secretariat in Islamabad and the regional offices in different cities of the country as “we are do our best for your advocacy and for protection.” Any aggrieved taxpayer could file a complaint by post on Form-A, online or through FTO mobile App available on FTO website, said FTO. Federal Tax Ombudsman was an institution for prompt, quick and cost-free justice at door-step of taxpayers, FTO concluded.

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