Section 216 of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 has explained that public servants cannot disclose information in tax matters.
Following is the text of Section 216 of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001:
216. Disclosure of information by a public servant.- (1) All particulars contained in –
(a) any statement made, return furnished, or accounts or documents produced under the provisions of this Ordinance;
(b) any evidence given, or affidavit or deposition made, in the course of any proceedings under this Ordinance, other than proceedings under Part XI of Chapter X; or
(c) any record of any assessment proceedings or any proceeding relating to the recovery of a demand,
shall be confidential and no public servant save as provided in this Ordinance may disclose any such particulars.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Qanun-e-Shahadat, 1984 (P.O. Order No. 10 of 1984), or any other law for the time being in force, no court or other authority shall be, save as provided in this Ordinance, entitled to require any public servant to produce before it any return, accounts, or documents contained in, or forming a part of the records relating to any proceedings under this Ordinance, or any records of the Income Tax Department generally, or any part thereof, or to give evidence before it in respect thereof.
(3) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall preclude the disclosure of any such particulars –
(a) to any person acting in the execution of this Ordinance, where it is necessary to disclose the same to him for the purposes of this Ordinance;
(b) to any person authorised by the Commissioner in this behalf, where it is necessary to disclose the same to such person for the purposes of processing of data and preparation of computer printouts relating to returns of income or calculation of tax;
(c) where the disclosure is occasioned by the lawful employment under this Ordinance of any process for the service of any notice or the recovery of any demand; (d) to the Auditor-General of Pakistan for the purpose of enabling the Auditor-General to discharge his functions under the Constitution;
(e) to any officer appointed by the Auditor-General of Pakistan or the Commissioner to audit income tax receipts or refunds;
(f ) to any officer of the Federal Government or a Provincial Government authorised by such Government in this behalf as may be necessary for the purpose of enabling that Government to levy or realise any tax imposed by it;
(g) to any authority exercising powers under the Federal Excise Act, 2005, the Sales Tax Act, 1990, the Wealth Tax Act, 1963 (XV of 1963), or the Customs Act, 1969 (IV of 1969), as may be necessary for the purpose of enabling its duty to exercise such powers;
(h) occasioned by the lawful exercise by a public servant of powers under the Stamp Act, 1899 (II of 1899) to impound an insufficiently stamped document;
(i) to the State Bank of Pakistan to enable it to compile financial statistics of international investment and balance of payment;
(j) as may be required by any order made under sub-section (2) of section 19 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 (VII of 1947), or for the purposes of any prosecution for an offence under section 23 of that Act;
(k) to the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Monopolies Control Authority for the purposes of the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969 (XVII of 1969), the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (Control and Prevention) Ordinance, 1970 (VI of 1970), the Companies Act, 2017 (XIX of 2017) or the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Act, 1997, as the case may be;
(ka) Employees Old Age Benefit Institution in respect of information regarding salaries in statements furnished under section 165;
(kb) to National Database and Registration Authority for the purpose of broadening of the tax base;
(l) relevant to any inquiry into a charge of misconduct in connection with income tax proceedings against a legal practitioner or an accountant;
(m) to a Civil Court in any suit or proceeding to which the Federal Government or any income tax authority is a party which relates to any matter arising out of any proceedings under this Ordinance;
(n) for the purposes of a prosecution for any offence under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (XLVI of 1860), in respect of any such statement, returns, accounts, documents, evidence, affidavit or deposition, or for the purposes of a prosecution for any offence under this Ordinance;
(o) relevant to any inquiry into the conduct of an official of the Income Tax Department to any person or officer appointed to hold such inquiry, or to a Public Service Commission, established under the Federal Public Service Commission Ordinance, 1977 (XLV of 1977), when exercising its functions in relation to any matter arising out of such inquiry;
(p) as may be required by any officer or department of the Federal Government or of a Provincial Government for the purpose of investigation into the conduct and affairs of any public servant, or to a Court in connection with any prosecution of the public servant arising out of any such investigation;
(q) to an authorised officer of the government of any country outside Pakistan with which the Government has entered into an agreement under section 107 for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion as may be required to be disclosed in pursuance of that agreement; or
(r) to the Federal Tax Ombudsman appointed under the Establishment of the Office of Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000 (XXXV of 2000); or
(s) to the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) for the purpose of performing functions as laid down in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 (VII of 2010).
(4) Nothing in this section shall apply to the production by a public servant before a Court of any document, declaration, or affidavit filed or the giving of evidence by a public servant in respect thereof.
(5) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall prevent the Board from publishing, with the prior approval of the Federal Government, any such particulars as are referred to in that sub-section.
(6) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall prevent the Federal Government from publishing particulars and the amount of tax paid by a holder of a public office as defined in the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999 (XVIII of 1999).
(6A) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall prevent the Board from providing data to any person approved by the Federal Government to process and analyze such data for broadening of tax base or for checking evasion:
Provided that such data shall be anonymized before transmission to the person and identifying particulars of the taxpayers shall be kept confidential.”
(6B) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall prevent the Board from publishing the names of offshore evaders, in the print and electronic media who have evaded offshore tax equal to or exceeding rupees two and half million Rupees.
(6C) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall prevent the Board from publishing the names of offshore tax enablers, in the print and electronic media who have enabled offshore tax evasion.
(7) Any person to whom any information is communicated under this section, and any person or employee under the first-mentioned person’s control, shall be, in respect of that information, subject to the same rights, privileges, obligations, and liabilities as if the person were a public servant and all the provisions of this Ordinance, so far as may be, shall apply accordingly.
(8) No prosecution may be instituted under this section except with the previous sanction of the Board.
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