Daily Times Editorial 22 August 2019

Expanding the tax net

 

The government has taken the right step to expand the tax net by issuing notices to eligible people and business owners. In this regard regional tax offices are issuing notices to owners of private schools and tuition centres to pay their due taxes in big cities. The clutches of tax officials should also reach small towns where such businesses are doing exceptionally well. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), under its maverick chairman Shabbar Zaidi, has issued notices to unregistered private schools and tuition centres in Islamabad, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore. It is recommended that the phased drive should reach all cities to issue notices to unregistered taxpayers, both the owners of businesses and their employees. FBR has already started a drive to register doctors in Karachi and the drive should soon reach other cities as well. Similarly, unregistered hospitals and their employees must be brought into the tax net.
When the previous chief justice Saqib Nisar took up the issue of exorbitant school fees and ordered a few elite schools to present their audit reports, much to the shock of everyone, it emerged that the owners were drawing salaries as hefty as Rs8 million, whereas school chains’ incomes ran in the billions. Seeing public tendency to go for private schools and hospitals, which speaks volume of the failure of public education and health sectors, plenty of schools and hospitals have opened up in almost all cities. In Karachi alone, the BTB has issued notices to 6,324 private schools, including A-level tuition centres, pre-nursery training schools and other academies. Not only schools, BTB has issued noticed to the parents of students who pay more than Rs200,000 per annum as tuition fee but did not exist on the tax roll. Similarly, in Rawalpindi, notices have been issued to unregistered schools and their employees.
The services sector, which often runs along the informal economy, has been avoiding taxes. Several professions and occupations, which make money under the per-hour regime, need to be registered. In other countries, those providing informal services from their homes are also made to pay taxes. In our part of the world, the formal services sector, which runs advertisements bragging about its huge economic successes, often wards off government’s efforts towards documentation. Not anymore. Well done, FBR. *

 
 
 

All eyes on Kashmi

 

The Modi government is visibly feeling the heat of its unilateral actions in India-held Kashmir. And Pakistan’s aggressive domestic posture, not to mention Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora’s mammoth demonstrations in London and cities in the US, has put India on a tight leash. After receiving an unwelcome call from US President Donald Trump, who is increasingly showing interest to mediate, Modi dialed his British counterpart Boris Johnson and complained about a series of demonstrations outside the Indian high commission in London against the revocation of the special status of occupied Kashmir. On the Indian Independence Day on August 15 this year, which Pakistan declared a black day, tens of thousands of people with Pakistani and Kashmiri flags demonstrated outside the high commission. The Modi government, on the other hand, failed to mobilise supporters in favour of its actions. Now, Modi alleges that demonstrators attacked Indian women and children with bottles and eggs. The British media has yet to report of any such incident. The London police say they arrested four people for obstruction of police and possession of an offensive weapon.
It is the responsibility of every host country to protect foreign diplomatic missions. Johnosn is not new to the corridors of power, so he does not need to take a lesson on his responsibility about the protection of foreign diplomats in his country. By and large, the August 15 demonstration was large and peaceful. Instead of resorting to baseless allegations, the Indian prime minister had better review the strict restrictions imposed on the movement of the masses in Srinagar and other parts of the occupied territories. A human tragedy is in the making because of the ceaseless curfew imposed by Indian troops in held Kashmir. People are being arrested and flown out of the valley to other parts of India. Hopefully, Johnson would have used the occasion to remind the caller about his own obligations back home. This is a blatant exhibition of terrorism to confine millions of Muslims and other people to their homes.
The foreign ministry and Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora need to keep reinforcing their efforts to inform the world about the seven-decade dispute, which makes South Asia a nuclear flashpoint. The day is not far when Kashmiris would have realised their right of self-determination. *

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