ISLAMABAD-Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha said that the government has set the restriction for foreign travelers to buy US dollars only through cheques and cash carrying limit of $5000 to strengthen the regulatory regime, improve documentation and control illegal activity.

Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, which met under the Chairmanship of Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, has expressed concerns over the cash carrying limit reduction for foreign travelers from $10000 to $5000. The committee advised that all foreign currency outward remittances/sale transaction of USD 2,000/- or above (or equivalent in other currencies) against PKR shall be conducted by the Exchange Companies through bank transfer/ cheque from personal account of the customer. It was further informed that to control unnecessary outflow of funds, State Bank of Pakistan has revised the cash carrying limits abroad except to Afghanistan to $5000 per visit and 30,000 annual limit per person from 18 years and above whereas below 18 the limit is 2500 US $ per visit and 15,000 US $ annually.  The committee also lamented repeated and heavy taxation of electricity bills and a number of food items and items of daily use. The FBR presented the details of sales tax collected through electricity bills from the consumers which is 17 percent applicable across the board on supply of electricity being a taxable good. 

Meanwhile 3pc is charged from the persons who have not obtained sales tax registration or who are not on active taxpayer list, and Extra tax is chargeable on supplies of electric power to industrial or commercials connections. Similarly, Rs1950 plus 12pc of the amount exceeding Rs20,000 for commercial consumers is being collected and Rs 1950 plus 5pc of the amount exceeding Rs20,000 for industrial consumers. The FBR presented that the GST regime is structured in a manner targeted towards placing reduced burden upon low/middle income segments of society.

The committee took serious notice of the irrational behaviour of the officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (BoR) for erroneous notices, illicit harassment and illegal charges of anti-money laundering on senators and tax filers and demanded suspension of the officers involved in such activities. Senator Dr Afnan Ullah Khan raised the issue regarding illegal harassment by the FBR officers to citizens/filers on the pretext of increase in assets which creates unrest amongst the citizens/filers. He said that one official of the FBR namely Khalid Sultan who is the Commissioner spoke to him through telephone and said that he is a very powerful bureaucrat and no one can challenge him. Senator Afnan Ullah khan while disapproving the behaviour of the FBR officials said, “I have been cleared by the Islamabad High Court and Federal Tribunal and the officer intentionally with mala fide intention is trying to influence me which will not be tolerated and I will take the matter till the end unless the officer is being suspended”. 

The stance of the FBR officials was that the assessing officer upon analyzing the discrepancy and considering it definite information, issued notice, as per assessment procedures, no approval from the Commissioner is required for confronting discrepancies based on definite information , and assessment of such cases falls within the purview of DCIRs/ACIRs. It was further informed that the senator neither filed application for rectification nor requested for revision. Aisha Ghaus Pasha also condemned the behavior of the FBR officers and said that she will take up the matter personally with the Chairman FBR and the Special Assistant to Prime Minister, and serious action will be taken against the officer to avoid such types of threats in the future. The committee decided to further investigate in the matter, before taking it into the Privilege committee.

The matter of Senator Kamil Ali Agha regarding notices issues by FBR to all online filers was also disposed of. The FBR investigated into the matter and identified 31 similar erroneous cases in which the proceedings have been dropped. The matter of Kamal Ali Agha was disposed and the committee demanded details of such cases in all sectors of the country, to which minister of state agreed and assured that required information will be submitted to the Committee in two weeks and also assured that FBR will deal with online filers with care and accuracy. Senator Saleem Mandviwalla while taking up the matter of number of cases of FBR pending for adjudication in courts and total amount stuck due to litigation said that the FBR needs to stop filing uselessness cases. A detail of pending litigation cases customs as on 31.10.2022 were tabled in the committee with a total number of 13,296 involving amount of Rs229.7 billion. The committee received briefing on containers stuck at port Qasim due to Customs. The FBR apprised the committee that presently 988 containers are held up at Port Qasim, Karachi due to State Bank of Pakistan’s Circular through which such consignments are being released after the approval of the State Bank of Pakistan. It was also apprised that in addition to above around 860 containers are also held due to non-fulfilment of various IPO conditions contraventions/misdeclaration and courts cases. The Chairman Committee said that why not the disputed items should be moved out of the courts, the matter was disposed of.