Pakistan - Tax Structure

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    Taxation System

    Federal taxes in Pakistan like most of the taxation systems in the world are classified into two broad categories, viz., direct and indirect taxes. A broad description regarding the nature of administration of these taxes is explained below:

    Direct Taxes

    Direct taxes primarily comprise income tax, alongwith supplementary role of wealth tax. For the purpose of the charge of tax and the computation of total income, all income is classified under the following heads:

    1. Salaries
    2. Interest on securities;
    3. Income from property;
    4. Income from business or professions
    5. Capital gains; and
    6. Income from other sources.

    Personal Tax

    All individuals, unregistered firms, associations of persons, etc., are liable to tax, at the rates randing from 10 to 35 per cent.

    Tax on Companies

    All public companies (other than banking companies) incorporated in Pakistan are assessed for tax at corporate rate of 39%. However, the effective rate is likely to differ on account of allowances and exemptions related to industry, location, exports, etc.

    Inter-Corporate Dividend Tax

    Tax on the dividends received by a public company from a Pakistan company is payable at the rate of 5% and at the rate of 15% in case dividends are received by a foreign company. Inetr-corporate dividends declared or distributed by power generation companies is subject to reduced rate of tax i.e., 7.5%. Other companies are taxed at the rate of 20%. Dividends paid to all non-company shareholders by the companies are subject to with holding tax of 10% which is treated as a full and final discharge of tax liability in respect of this source of income.

    Treatment of Dividend Income

    Dividend income received as below enjoys tax exemption, provided it does not exceed Rs. 10,000/-.

    1. Dividend received by non-resident from the state enterprises Mutual Fund set by the Investment Corporation of Pakistan.
    2. Dividends received from a domestic company out of income earned abroad provided it is engaged abroad exclusively in rendering technical services in accordance with an agreement approved by the Central Board of Revenue.

    Unilateral Relief

    A person resident in Pakistan is entitled to a relief in tax on any income earned abroad, if such income has already been subjected to tax outside Pakistan. Proportionate relief is allowed on such income at an average rate of tax in Pakistan or abroad, whichever is lower.

    Agreement for avoidance of double taxation

    The Government of Pakistan has so far signed agreements to avoid double taxation with 39 countries including almost all the developed countries of the world. These agreements lay down the ceilings on tax rates applicable to different types of income arising in Pakistan. They also lay down some basic principles of taxation which cannot be modified unilaterally. The list of countries with which Pakistan has concluded tax treaties is given below:

    Austria
    Belgium
    Bangladesh
    Canada
    China
    Denmark
    Egypt
    France
    Finland
    Germany
    Greece
    India
    Indonesia
    Iran
    Ireland
    Italy
    Japan
    South Korea
    Lebanon
    Libya
    Malta
    Mauritius
    Saudi Arabia
    Singapore
    Poland
    Romania
    Switzerland
    Thailand
    Sri Lanka
    Sweden
    Turkmenistan
    U.K.
    Turkey
    Tunisia
    Kazakistan
    U.A.E.
    U.S.A

    Customs

    Goods imported and exported from Pakistan are liable to rates of Customs duties as prescribed in Pakistan Customs Tariff. Customs duties in the form of import duties and export duties constitute about 37% of the total tax receipts. The rate structure of customs duty is determined by a large number of socio-economic factors. However, the general scheme envisages higher rates on luxury items as well as on less essential goods. The import tariff has been given an industrial bias by keeping the duties on industrial plants and machinery and raw material lower than those on consumer goods.

    Central Excise

    Central Excise duties are leviable on a limited number of goods produced or manufactured, and services provided or rendered in Pakistan. On most of the items Central Excise duty is charged on the basis of value or retail price. Some items are, however, chargeable to duty on the basis of weight or quantity. Classification of goods is done in accordance with the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding system which is being used all over the world. All exports are exempted from Central Excise Duty.

    Sales Tax

    · Sales Tax is levied at various stages of economic activity at the rate of 15 per cent on:

    · all goods imported into Pakistan, payable by the importers;
    · all supplies made in Pakistan by a registered person in the course of furtherance of any business carried on by him;
    · there ia an in-built system of input tax adjustment and a registered person can make adjustment of tax paid at earlier stages against the tax payable by him on his supplies. Thus the tax paid at any stage does not exceed 15% of the total sales price of the supplies;
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    by Mohammed Ashraf | Published on 5/3/2005

    The Central Board of Revenue (CBR) has made a Task Force on improving taxation structure. The prime goal seems to broaden the tax base apart from increased revenue collection, educated taxpayer, improved tax-GDP ratio, improved tax system and decreased size of parallel economy. This article is an endeavour to have a bird’s eye view over the existing tax culture of Pakistan in the light of tax structure including impediments in broadening the tax base and suggestions for improvement.

    Tax Culture

    In terms of taxation, the Pakistani society can be categorized as the ignorant, the tax literate and the corrupt. I used to think of killing the tax advisor of my company, who used to keep quoting my company owner each of my mistakes, the most famous case law – ignorance of law is no excuse – and that case law shambles my job. When Allah [SWT] gave me some knowledge about taxation and at one instance, I quoted the same case law to my father – I got a slap in return for making him afraid like the taxman.

    During the practice period of decade and half, I found a lot of people coming with the problem of taxation after being caught on the occurrence of an event and the simplest answer after sympathising with them is the above mentioned case law. After listening to that case law, they normally looks at me as something evil or a brother of taxman – but that’s the truth. I though hard about such attitude of the people and found some reasons. I think the reasons of such ignorant attitude are harsh attitudes of taxmen, low literacy rate, lack of tax education, lack of intention to pay tax, afraid of coming into tax net, uncompetitive corporate tax rates, mishandled personal tax structure and the utilization of tax money.

    The tax literate societyis the most horrified portion of our society. The core reason is that the law has equated tax planning with the terms 'avoidance' and, by extension, ‘evasion’; however, I agree that there are some forms of tax avoidance as "improper and immoral". CBR needs to be well-advised to remember the crucial difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance involves using the tax rules to one's own legitimate advantage. By contrast, tax evasion is the illegal reduction of one's tax liability, for example by understating income or over-claiming expenses.

    CBR people believe that accountants would have much to answer for if they failed to ensure that clients did not pay more tax than necessary being the culprit of nourishing the tax literate society. CBR may surely agree over the fact that as professional advisers, accountants should advise clients to claim available depreciation and initial allowances in order to maximise in-year loss relief, to bring forward unadjusted depreciation or initial expenditure for optimisation and, where appropriate, to incorporate to take advantage of lower rates of Taxes and exemptions available? This is entirely consistent with the function of the tax system to provide incentives to businesses; the reality is that the vast majority of accountants do their tax planning in a transparent, legitimate fashion and have little appetite or time to devise complex tax avoidance schemes.

    CBR is not correct to suggest that we are operating in an environment rich in tax-avoidance, where legislation is filled with "loopholes and errors". If anything, the problem lies in the fact that the law is so intricate that it leads directly to the situation where the average taxpayer frequently over-pays or under-pays tax and misses deadlines for filing and for making elections for specific relief’s. The sheer complexity of the tax system actually helps the CBR to pocket untold hundreds of millions in tax receipts, interest payments and penalties.

    In the complex world of tax, the overwhelming majority of businesses are trying to operate fully within the law. Few have bad intentions - all they want to do is get their tax calculations correct, pay the right amount of tax on time and get on with running their businesses. The problem is that CBR seems to see tax avoidance everywhere and each business has to waste a huge amount of time defending itself in the face of often commercially ignorant CBR probes.

    It should also be borne in mind that, in the current challenging economic environment, businesses do not even get the chance to utilise all their tax depreciation allowances, because they have insufficient profits. They do not manage to offset all their group or single entity losses and they certainly cannot imagine entering into any arrangements or schemes to reduce their tax liabilities.

    It is not even a case of people who live in glass houses throwing stones. It is more the case that these people do not recognise that they live in a glass house. The danger in the Government's fight against fraud and its aim to ensure that everyone pays their "fair share" of tax, is that the crackdown will fail to hit the correct targets. There is no question that tax evasion is wrong - apart from being illegal - and that the Government should focus its efforts on its prevention. Any part of the additional CBR funding which clamps down on such behaviour is money well spent. I support any measures which prevent or combat fraud, but I am, however, concerned that tax inspectors looking for soft targets may concentrate on small businesses and individuals, rather than tackling serious and deliberate fraud. Furthermore, if the authorities try to erode the ability of firms to plan their tax affairs effectively under the law, this will be to the serious detriment of businesses and the economy and, ultimately, against the interests of Pakistan. However, tax literate society has remembered the following.

    Maktab-e-tax ka dastoor nirala daikha

    Usko appealoo sai chutti na mili jis nai sabaq yaad kiya

    [School of tax has a unique rule. One who learns the lesson used not to get the leave from the appeals]


    Corruption has pervaded all sectors of our society. But in today's business environment, the implications of corruption at a local level reach far beyond national boundaries. Corruption has become a major concern. The impact of corruption on our society cannot be overstated. It increases the risks and costs of business, damages investor confidence, hampers economic development, and reduces country credit ratings. It brings the integrity of professions and of business into question. It deprives government and regulators of credibility and weakens the forces of law and order. In such a scenario, public morale inevitably suffers and social hardship can be the inevitable result.

    Everyone has a moral duty to fight corruption. But no one can wage this battle alone. Governments must commit themselves to taking the first step in introducing a solid legislative and regulatory framework proscribing corrupt acts, dealing firmly with all who commit them, and protecting those who "blow the whistle" from the dangers of retaliatory action.

    What is corruption? Bribery, fraud, illegal payments, money laundering, and smuggling - all these come to mind as obvious examples. But corruption does not always involve money: it can present itself in the guise of special favours or influence. In today's complex and rapidly changing environment, the potential variations of corruption are as many as there are criminal minds to devise them. An all-purpose rulebook is inconceivable: the fight against corruption must take the broadest possible approach if it is to have real impact.

    As far as CBR is concerned, it failed to take advantage of a most famous case law of post second world war in relation to crime and corruption. During the Second World War a wine seller sold the wines to the enemy forces. At the end, a case of treason has been filed against the wine seller for selling the wine. The evidence was concrete and the judge was about to penalize the culprit, suddenly, the Inland Revenue filed a claim that the profits of the wine seller needs to be calculated in order to collect the tax. The core reason is that income tax needs to be paid even over the illegal business profits but such payments do not legalize the business. CBR has tilled now failed to work over this area.

    SUGGESTION FOR IMPROVEMENT

    As stated earlier, I think the reasons of non-payment of taxes and ignorant attitude are harsh attitude of taxman, literacy rate and lack of tax education, no intention to pay tax from the earnings, afraid of coming into tax net, loopholes tax legislation, competitive corporate tax rate under global tax competition, personal income tax structure and utilization of tax money.

    CBR is now improving in the area of harsh attitude of taxman only in relation to Income Tax owing to the scheme of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001. However, CBR is now moving towards Sales Tax and the most important step in this regard is the suspension of Sales Tax Audit for six months but this is not a long term solution. Legislators need to improve the basic structure of Sales Tax Act, 1990 to make it taxpayer friendly. Every problem in the Sales Tax Act, 1990 is solved either through a Circular or SRO which complicates the issue. It is suggested that the Sales Tax Act, 1990 need to be revamped right from the scratch bearing the existing Sales Tax Structure, Problems, Organisational Structure of Sales Tax Department, Long/Short term Macro and Micro Economic policies in mind. In furtherance, CBR need to work on Excise Tax and this requires a clear indication from the government either to abolish it and replace it with Sales tax or Continue with Excise Tax.

    Literacy rate and tax education are mutually exclusive in the case of small cities and towns. The problem is not mutually exclusive in the case of main cities like Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad etc. This situation requires two different strategies. In the small towns and cities, Government needs to increase the literacy rate as this is something beyond the ambit of CBR, however, in major cities CBR needs to increase the tax literacy rate. This does not only involve creation of taxpayer facilitation centre and the advertisement in the newspapers and television but something more than that like TV dramas, training by CBR to taxpayer – Compliance expected by CBR, Avoid paying additional taxes, Be Safe and Secure in terms of Inadmissible taxes, The Direct/Indirect Tax Regime etc.

    TV Drama may include normal taxation problems, common misconceptions of peoples, problems normally faced by the ordinary taxpayers etc. The training will serve two purposes for the tax management purposes. CBR will get first hand information from the taxpayer and their representatives to solve their problem without requiring a middle man. In future, there will be no need to revamp the law after a span of long time as this process will continue to educate the two actors of a process – Taxman and Taxpayer.

    Another most common problem is the lack of intention to pay taxes. This lack of intention is based on the loophole in the taxation laws. This argument is based on the concept that when a law requires a person to get itself registered with the respective tax authority. For instance, there is no requirement in Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 for registration of a person under the law; however, the requirement is for filing of Income Tax Return. The Taxation Structure Task committee needs to look at the most common problem, from CBR point of view, of ascertaining the point of time of registration. I would suggest basis year rule of UK for improving the tax year concept and VATA 1994 for registration under Sales Tax law on advance stock basis at the time of induction of capital.

    The most common problem of CBR is that people are afraid of coming into the tax net owing to variety of reasons. People are afraid about their past, this is their prime concern, as they do not know what will be going to happen with them about their past. However, a number of immunity schemes had been introduced for the taxpayers in the past but nothing specially have been planned for bringing the new taxpayers into the tax net.

    Taxation administrative and legislative loopholes are another grey area and much had been written by the experts over legislative aspects; hence, I am confining this to administrative aspect. Suppose, a person imports some goods and sells the same without altering its basics of the goods, that is, Import trading. Said person files his sales tax return and statement under section 115(4). The Sales tax department match the data with the import data input at the custom stage and get the closing stock figure by reconciling the same with the goods imported automatically. The Income Tax department verifies the statement under section with the custom stage input and sales tax input through an online verification on its integrated computer system on WAN. Such a setup will serve as deterrent to the fraudulent aspects apart from the fact that less botheration for the taxpayers also. I will discuss this idea in greater depth in my next article.

    Tax utilization is the most critical area which needs some thought with the passage of time. This aspect has two aspects, micro and macro level. From micro aspect, what the benefits existing taxpayers is getting? And what the benefits will a prospective taxpayer may get? These two questions need to be answered in order to increase the tax GDP ratio. From macro aspect, what is the formula and basis of utilization of tax money? Is the Government authorized to use the money for debt servicing of the past loan or it needs to be utilized for the benefits of the citizens – These key question are some sort of policy decisions which needs to be taken at the strategic governmental level not at tactical level – CBR. Tax structure task committee may submit these queries as part of their recommendation.

    Governments must recognise that corporation tax rates must be internationally competitive if they want to attract and retain companies and jobs. But cutting tax rates is an ongoing process in order to stay competitive. Pakistan’s corporation tax rates are much higher than the OECD averages. It is worthwhile here to note that between 1996 and 2003, average corporate tax rates in EU member states fell from 39% to 31.68%, and in OECD countries from 37.5% to 30.79%. This overview of trends in corporate tax rates around the world suggests that how countries are seeking to provide a competitive environment for business.

    In order to gain the advantage of geo strategic location of Pakistan, committee must suggest a drastic corporate tax rate reduction pre-requisite for seeking the requisite increase in share of international and European corporate headquarters.

    Middle and low income earners in particular have been hit hard over the past few years by the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) and by bracket creep, as demonstrated by a recent OECD report into the taxation on wages. CBR thinks that any new tax credit or deduction from taxable income is a direct loss to the revenue – which is just one side of the mirror. This was in part aimed at stimulating the economy by encouraging higher consumer spending. Committee should suggest the induction of medical expense without ceiling and re-introduction of books and children education allowance.

    To help pay for any reduction in income tax rates for middle and low income earners, the government should firstly examine whether there are inefficiencies in the way it collects tax and monitors compliance. A thorough investigation into how efficient the government really is in collecting tax and identifying tax evaders would no doubt uncover significant additional revenue. Middle and low income earners should be the ones to benefit from any additional tax revenue identified through this process.

    Tax Structure Task Committee

    The most beautiful aspect of the committee is its composition. It is a group of people from two actors of the community – Tax Collector and Tax Practitioners including the legend Ebrahim Sidat, however, I reserve my right to disagree with some past issues but I think a teacher is always happy with curious student. The committee is collecting the suggestions from the grass root of Tax Collectors while the problems of taxpayers are known by the tax practitioners. The key aspect in collecting the information and suggesting a conclusion lies in the balance between achieving the targets and on the other resolving the queries of the taxpayers including their current grievances.
  5. Neo
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    Like many developing countries, Pakistan also has very low tax – GDP ratio and mostly relies on consumption taxes. Large majority remain out of tax net because of overall low average incomes. Low revenue collection then results in inflation tax as an alternative to raise revenues. Various programs with IMF has special focus on tax reforms including improved tax governance, increasing share of direct taxes, expanding the tax net, imposition of sales tax on wider scales and improving the tax elasticity and buoyancy. Tax reforms efforts since 1990s are quite visible from significant increase of the share of direct tax in total tax revenues (17.3 percent in 1990-91 and 29.4 percent in 2005-06) and share of sales tax in total tax revenues (15.4 percent in 1990-91 and 41.3 percent in 2005-06). Despite visible changes in tax structure of Pakistan, total tax – GDP ratio is little above 12 percent.
    Share of indirect taxes in total tax revenues is more than direct taxes, however, since 1990-91 this trend is moving in opposite direction, i.e., share of indirect taxes in total tax revenue was 82 percent in 1990-91 which is now reduced to 68.5 percent. Direct tax is comprised of income tax mainly. Share of direct taxes in total tax revenues has been substantially increasing from under 20 percent to 31.5 percent since 1990-91. The sole contribution is through income taxes, i.e., 93 percent of the total direct taxes in 2005-06. Indirect taxes are comprised of sales tax, custom duties and federal excise tax. After the structural adjustment program in 1987-88 Pakistan has started reducing custom duties (50.4 percent in 1987-88 and 19.4 percent in 2005-06). Custom duties were replaced by sales tax, which increased from 11.6 percent of total tax revenues in 1987-99 to 41.3 percent of total tax revenues in 2005-06. Share of excise tax has also declined to 7.7 percent of total tax revenues in 2005-06 from 22.3 percent of total tax revenues in 1987-88.

    It is generally believe that sales tax is a regressive tax but a rigorous study by Sadia Refaqat in 2005 published in Pakistan Development Review concluded that sales tax in Pakistan is not clearly a regressive tax, however 1990s reforms are slightly welfare reducing because sales tax on items such as vegetable ghee, sugar and basic fuels are hurting poor. This is also stated in a study by Faiz Bilquees in 2004 published in the Pakistan Developmetn Review that introduction of sales tax on the petroleum products, gas and electricity directly affects the consumption of poor because they lowered the consumption of other goods. Contrary to this it is theoretically proved that sales tax is difficult to avoid/evade thus to improve efficiency and equity sales tax/VAT is better tax than other.

    In my recent study on the long run determinants of tax efforts, I concluded that per capita income and sectoral share of value added sectors are the main determinants of long run tax efforts in Pakistan. However, increase in revenues from sales tax is due to inclusion of new products under the sales tax net. It is also concluded that indirect taxes are difficult to evade.
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    EDITORIAL (March 06 2009): Tax collections in the first eight months (July-February 2009) of the current fiscal year would appear to be quite impressive in nominal terms but are woefully short of the expenditure requirements of the country and lag much behind the target fixed for 2008-09.

    According to the provisional figures released by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) on 3rd March, tax collections during this period amounted to Rs 706.4 billion or 20.7 percent higher than Rs 585.3 billion in the corresponding period of 2007-08.

    The details of the data reveal that direct tax collections rose by 20.1 percent to Rs 260.3 billion, sales tax by 24.3 percent to Rs 283.4 billion, federal excise duty by 29.1 percent to Rs 69.7 billion and withholding tax on imports by 7.3 percent to Rs 92.9 billion. The FBR paid refunds amounting to Rs 49.69 billion or about 10 percent more compared to Rs 45 billion paid during the same period last year.

    Tax managers believe that monthly provisional collection of Rs 75 billion for February 2009 may cross Rs 80 billion on finalisation of updated figures which may push up the total tax collections during the year so far to about Rs 711 billion but such a small increase would not make much difference on the overall picture. Based on the above figures, fiscal authorities of the country may try to portray the rate of tax collections as satisfactory or justify the sluggish growth on the ground of lower growth rate of the economy and depressed level of imports and exports.

    However, such arguments would not be convincing. In current rupee terms, tax collections as a percentage of GDP are likely to be lower than last year due mainly to excessive inflation. In other words, an increase of about 22.5 percent in nominal GDP during 2008-09 (real GDP growth estimated at 2.5 percent and inflation rate at 20.0 percent) as against the current rate of 20.7 percent increase in tax collections would naturally result in a lower tax to GDP ratio during the current year.

    In fact, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin, hinted at such a possibility on 2nd March, 2009 when he said in a press briefing that tax-to-GDP ratio of 10.2 percent fixed for the current fiscal is not likely to be achieved. This is a far cry from his earlier optimistic statements when he seemed confident to raise the tax-to-GDP ratio of the country to 15 percent in the next five years or so.

    Also, as the year progresses, it is becoming increasingly clear that the tax target of Rs 1,360 billion fixed for 2008-09 is almost impossible to achieve. The monthly average of Rs 88 billion realised so far cannot be raised to Rs 162 billion, or almost the double of present level, in the remaining four months of the current fiscal year unless some revolutionary steps are taken in fiscal management of the country.

    However, revolutionary steps are neither in the offing nor seem to be possible to undertake under the prevailing socio-economic conditions. The current political uncertainty in the country has also made the task of the tax managers much harder. Another difficulty is the commitment with the IMF to bring down the fiscal deficit of the country from 7.4 percent of GDP to 4.3 percent during the current year and further to 3.3 percent in 2009-10.

    The overall fiscal situation has almost forced the government to rely increasingly on tariffs on POL products and slash the PSDP to keep the budget deficit within limits agreed with the Fund. Not only has this serious implications for inflation rate, infrastructure development, employment rate and poverty level, but has also distorted price signals in the economy.

    Obviously, there is an urgent need to redouble the tax collection efforts by expanding the tax net and eradicate tax evasion from the system. The FBR has been claiming all along to make the needed moves but, as the data indicate, the results of such efforts have not been encouraging and tax elasticity continues to be very poor. With a tax-to-GDP ratio hovering around 10 percent, the country cannot expect to attain a reasonable degree of development and avoid debt accumulation.

    Alas, everybody in the country is raising the roof about his patriotic credentials but hardly anybody is prepared to pay his taxes. The tax culture in the country obviously needs to be overhauled in a big way to get out of the present morass. This is all the more important when the frontiers of the country are facing a serious challenge and increasing level of poverty calls for more fiscal space to meet urgent requirements of the economy.
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  7. rubyjackass
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  9. Neo
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    Ohh...I ddin't realise that you asked for data in the light of IMF texture.
    I'll do some research. :coffee:
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    The agreements lay down the ceilings on tax rates applicable to different types of income arising in Pakistan...:victory:

    :)