ISLAMABAD-The matter of collecting heavy taxes including income tax through electricity bills was Tuesday echoed in NEPRA hearing, as the regulator completed formality for passing on the burden of Rs1.52 per unit surcharge to the K-Electric consumers.
In a public hearing arranged by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, the regulator has directed the Power Division to submit the details of how many taxes are being collected from electricity consumers in their bills. NEPRA has conducted a public hearing on the federal government’s motion for levying a surcharge which will burden the KE’s consumers by an additional Rs 24.5 billion during the ongoing fiscal. The regulator has noted that the case of the government to impose surcharge was not strong.
Instant motion was filed by the federal government with respect to Consumer End Tariff recommendations of KE to NEEPRA so as to consider surcharge of Rs1.52/unit. It is important to mention that during the period from July 2019 to September 2020, the consumer tariff of KE was not increased uniformly as compared to XWDISCOs due to pending decisions at various forums. During the hearing, it was informed that decision regarding quarterly adjustment was taken in May 2019. However, it was not implemented due to Covid. However, other distribution companies had implemented the decision of quarterly adjustment. “Why are we referring to surcharges rather than increase in electricity rates on account of quarterly adjustment,” Nepra officials asked. Power Division officials said that Nepra had suggested two ways to recover amount from the consumers either through subsidy or imposing a surcharge. NEPRA was also informed that end user tariff was Rs 32 per unit and there was 10 percent space for levying a surcharge. This is why Power Division has proposed increase in tariff on account of levying surcharge of Rs 1.52 per unit, Power Division official said.
Nepra also raised question whether it was prudent cost of electricity which government was seeking to recover from the consumers. It was informed that collection through power surcharge could be used for public sector projects and pay off financial obligations of the government. Nepra official said that a surcharge of Rs 1.52/unit will cover three-year-old collections from the KE’s consumers. Why such old receipts were not requested earlier, Nepra questioned. K-Electric and consumers were in court which also led to the delay, Power Division officials said. And also due to Covid, the government had stopped to pass on the additional load to the consumers, official of the Power Division further added. An amount of Rs 275 billion was to be recovered from the KE’s consumers that amounts to Rs 17/unit, however, instead of burdening the consumers for the entire amount ,the government had decided to cover a major portion of the amount through subsidy, official of the Power Division said during hearing.
The federal government will bear the burden of Rs 250 billion in the form of subsidy, while only Rs 25 billion burden will be put on the electricity consumers, he added. Member Sindh in NEPRA, Rafiq Shaikh has asked the officials of the Power Division, “This is a quarterly adjustment then why you named it as surcharge.”. Power Division officials replied that there was a legal issue in recovering the amount with retrospective effects. The recovery of old outstandings due could lead to a legal debate and therefore, the government named it as power surcharge. “It should be decided first whether it is a surcharge or in the form of quarterly adjustments,” Rafiq Shaikh further said. Similarly, pointing towards the government motion, member Sindh said that in this application, a hike has also been requested for the lifeline consumers. However, the official of the Power Division said that the hike will not be applicable to lifeline electricity consumers.
It is also necessary to first clarify that lifeline should not be included, Nepra official told Power Division. The federal government will be asked again for the correctness of the lifeline category of the consumers whether it will be applicable to them or not, Nepra officials maintained. The matter of collecting heavy taxes including income tax from people through electricity bills also echoed during the hearing.
Nepra took notice of this matter and decided to hold a separate session regarding collection of taxes from electricity consumers. Notices will be issued to all participants before the session,” Nepra officials said. Power Division officials said that the Power Division itself does not collect or levy any tax and they are collected by Ministry of Finance and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
It is better to call the Ministry of Finance or FBR on this matter, Power Division officials said. However, they claimed that taxes are being collected from electricity consumers as per rules. How much income tax is to be collected from the electricity consumers is specified in the Income Tax Act,” Nepra officials asked. Nepra has directed to submit the details of how many taxes are being collected from electricity consumers. The authority will hold a separate full session on the matter, Nepra said. The Nepra completed the hearing and reserved decision on additional surcharge of Rs 1.52/unit and said that it will issue a decision after reviewing the data. In case of approval, there will be a burden of more than Rs 24.5 billion on K-Electric consumers.