A parliamentary panel on Wednesday expressed serious concerns over the huge taxes levied on mobile users and directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to formulate a comprehensive strategy for the benefit of consumers.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat met with Kishwar Zehra in the chair summoned the Chairman PTA and Chairman FBR. Besides, the panel also called the Chairman National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and the head of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to the next meeting to give their response on the issuance of fake SIMs.
The issue was referred to the committee by the National Assembly as it had reservations over the taxes levied on mobile cards. The committee showed its annoyance with the FBR for not investigating the veracity of tax returns filed by mobile companies showing them in deficit.
The NA panel observed that the taxes levied on mobile cards were very high and the withholding tax was also imposed on the consumers who did not fall under the ambit of filing tax returns. It noted that the consumers living in the areas exempted from taxes by the government also paid taxes on mobile cards.
The PTA and FBR officials presented their viewpoint, however, they could not satisfy the committee members with their responses. The committee expressed dissatisfaction over the responses given by PTA and FBR regarding the facilities provided to mobile users; the taxes levied on mobile cards; and the issuance of fake SIMs. Further, the committee summoned Chairman PTA, Chairman FBR, Nadira, and FIA to the next meeting.
In his response on behalf of PTA, Member PTA Khawar Siddique Khokhar informed the committee that the imposition of tax on mobile cards fell under the purview of FBR, while the PTA issued licenses to mobile phone companies and oversaw if they ensured uninterrupted service delivery to customers. He said mobile phone service in areas where mobile companies could not function was provided under the USF fund.
Explaining FBR’s response on the taxes levied on mobile phones, the FBR spokesperson said that 16 percent federal excise duty was levied on consumers of mobile phone cards in the federal area while 19.5 percent tax was levied in the provinces. In addition, withholding tax was also levied.
Member National Assembly Murtaza Javed Abbasi, who raised the question of the heavy levies, said the mobile users were subject to 11 percent withholding and 19.5 percent general sales tax. He regretted that taxes were also being collected from those who did not come under the tax net. PTA has not protected the rights of mobile users, he remarked. He added that mobile users got a balance of Rs 61 on loading a Rs 100 card.
The Member PTA claimed that Pakistan had the lowest mobile tariff in the region. He said that 10 percent withholding tax and 19.5 percent sales tax on mobile balance were being deducted. He maintained that the federal excise duty was 16 percent. General sales tax and federal excise duty were also deducted on mobile balance usage. It is the prerogative of government and FBR if taxes are to be reduced, stressed the Member PTA.
The FBR official informed that sales tax was collected by the provinces and federal excise duty was collected by the federation. As per law, mobile companies are subject to profit tax, but no mobile company is profitable, he remarked.
Abbasi asked how could the companies in deficit were operating. He said that taxes were being taken from the consumers while the companies were not paying any tax and workers were being taxed. Companies do not pay any tax, said Abbasi, adding that mobile companies do not show their profits. He emphasized summoning Chairman PTA to present a solution to the problems being faced by consumers.
Mohsin Dawar expressed annoyance that despite the requirement of biometric verification, people had five SIMs registered in their name while they did not know it. To this, the PTA official said that anybody could check how many SIMs were in his/her name by sending an SMS to 668.
To a question from the NA committee members about tax collection from mobile phone companies, the FBR spokesperson said that according to the tax returns submitted by the companies, all the companies were in deficit and only consumers were taxed. The committee expressed dissatisfaction that the tax returns submitted by the mobile companies were fake and the FBR also did not investigate the tax returns of these companies.
The committee also discussed the Civil Servants Amendment Bill, 2001, and adjourned the proposed bill till the next meeting. A bill by MNA Ali Gohar Khan which was sent to the committee by the National Assembly was also discusssed in addition to the bill pertaining to the Federal Employees’ Benevolent Fund and the Group Insurance Amendment Bill 2021.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and NMAs Saleem Rehman Sahib Ali Nawaz Awan, Ms. Azmi Riaz, Rasheed Ahmed Khan, Rana Iradat Sharif Khan, Ms. Shahnaz Saleem Malik, Ms. Seema Mohi-ud-Din Jamili, Raza Rabbani Khar, Syed Mahmood Shah, Mohsin Dawar, Movers; Alia Kamran, Sher Akbar Khan Sahib Murtaza Javed Abbasi Sahib Ali Gohar Khan Naveed Amir Jiva were present in the meeting