Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the rising foreign debt and low tax revenue have become an issue of ‘national security’ because the government does not have enough resources to spend on public welfare.
The prime minister expressed these views while launching the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)’s first-ever Track and Trace System for the sugar sector on Tuesday. “Our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough money to run our country due to which we have to borrow loans,” he said.
He said that the Track and Trace System will help enhance the tax collection. Khan also stressed the need for promoting and strengthening tax culture in the country by assuring people that their taxes will be spent for welfare of their children instead of luxuries of rulers.
He said that the people will not hesitate in paying tax if their confidence in government machinery is restored. Khan said the technology-based Trace and Track system will ensure utmost transparency in the tax collection and restore people’s confidence.
The prime minister, while appreciating the FBR for introducing TTS, said that this system will have ‘far reaching’ impact on the tax collection of the country. Citing examples from Western countries, the premier said tax to GDP ratio in Scandinavian countries was approximately 50 per cent. “But in Pakistan unfortunately the tax culture was never developed,” he said, adding that the ruling elite of the country never took measures to encourage masses to pay taxes.
Advisor to the PM on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin, while speaking on the occasion, thanked the prime minister for showing his keen interest and participating in the inaugural ceremony for launch of Track and Trace System on Sugar Sector.
He also congratulated FBR for their persistent endeavours to launch this very important project. He also commended Sugar Mills Association for extending whole hearted cooperation for making this innovative intervention possible. “All 78 sugar mills have signed tripartite agreements amongst sugar mills, consortium (licensee) and FBR at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad,” he added.
He further assured the prime minister that through introduction of technology in the tax system, FBR will be able to broaden the tax base as efforts were already afoot to collaborate with NADRA and use artificial intelligence and mathematical modelling to ascertain the potential tax return filers.
He informed the audience that FBR had collected reliable information about 15 million individuals who were taxable income but not filing tax returns. These potential filers will soon be mobilised to discharge their national obligation by becoming taxpayers.
“The FBR enforcement officials will verify the validity of the stamps through different forensic instruments. Moreover, citizens of Pakistan will also be able to check and help with enforcement by reporting any fake stamps through mobile app,” he further added.
FBR Chairman Dr Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed in his presentation explained the scope and significance of this high valued digital intervention.
He stated that several attempts were made at introducing the Track and Trace System in Pakistan starting in 2008 and over a period of 13 years there were 5 unsuccessful attempts which failed due to lack of expertise, want of political will, corruption and other unethical practices.
“The present government took a very bold step and provided FBR with strong support to implement the Track and Trace System not just in tobacco, as previously planned, but added more sectors like sugar, cement and fertilizers,” he added. He also informed the audience that FBR intends to expand the scope of TTS to other key sectors which include beverages, petroleum, pharmaceuticals and steel and soon a proposal in this regard will be submitted to the prime minister for his approval.
He positively hoped that this key intervention in the sugar sector shall yield more revenues, minimise human interaction between FBR and taxpayers and thus ensure ease of doing business. He reaffirmed his resolve to maximise efforts to expand digitisation to all key sectors in order to ensure transparency, plug leakages and thus maximize revenue potential.
The FBR’s TTS will ensure electronic monitoring of the production and sale of important sectors including tobacco, fertilizer, sugar and cement sectors. This will help bring transparency in the system and enhance the country’s revenue.
Under the system, no production bag of sugar will be taken out from the factory and manufacturing plant without a stamp and individual identity mark. In the next phase, the FBR was planning to introduce the track and system in the petroleum and beverages sector.