FTO advises traders to file cases of misuse of powers by tax officials

KARACHI (July 23 2003) : Federal Tax Ombudsman Saleem Akhtar has advised business community to bring before him cases of improper, excessive and illegal use of discretionary powers by tax collection officials.

Addressing members of Site Association of Industry (SAI), he said that discretionary powers are a legal requirement to meet certain requirements but problems start when dispute arises and use of power starts hurting the party.

He said that he has received some complaints against use of discretionary power and, where it was found that it was misuse of power, relief was granted.

He admitted that the business community is reluctant to file cases against misuse of discretionary powers by tax collecting officials, fearing revenge.

Justice Saleem Akhtar assured the businesses community that he would take action against those officials who indulge in taking revenge, if the matter is brought to him.

He admitted that there are some black laws which exists in every country including Pakistan and added that Ombudsman has no power to rectify these laws.

Only courts are the right place to file a case for rectifying these laws.

The Tax Ombudsman said that he has powers to take suo motu action against tax officials but it is very difficult to exercise these powers.

He noted that he twice tried to take suo motu action but it could not be materialised.

Once he tried to take action on a news item appeared in a section of press but nobody even bothers to give reply and details of the case.

He said that anybody or group or association can file a case with Ombudsman against tax collecting agencies.

The case should be based on oath and documents.

After receiving the case he would send it to the concerned tax collecting agency for reply with 15 days.

On receipt of reply, he would call both parties and decide the case on merit.

The decision is bound to be implemented.

In case of non-implementation of decision, he said, he has power to start contempt of court proceeding against the official concern, with penalty including removal from services, demotion, entering remarks in his service book, stopping promotion etc.

He said that he has so far recommended for departmental action against tax officials in 77 cases and added that one Deputy Commissioner of tax was removed from service on his recommendation.

Replying to a question, he advised business community to bring to his notice the SROs which are contrary to laws, and assured the questioner that he would take action on these SROs.

Welcoming the guests, SAI chairman Haroon Farooqui said that discretionary powers given to tax collecting agencies are to the extent that the same can make somebody billionaire and somebody pauper in similar circumstances of the issue.

In the opinion of Dr Ishrat Husain, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), these discretionary powers generate the maladministration and highhandedness of tax collectors and remedy of which probably lies only with the office of Federal Tax Ombudsman.

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