FBR Blocks Mobile Phone SIMs of Half a Million Non-Filers

FBR Blocks Mobile Phone SIMs of Half a Million Non-Filers

Islamabad, April 30, 2024 – The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has taken stringent action against non-filers by blocking the mobile phone SIMs of half a million individuals.

The measure, aimed at urging citizens to fulfill their tax obligations, was announced on Tuesday when the FBR released the names of those affected.

The initiative is based on Income Tax General Order No. 01 of 2024, which is directed at those who are liable to file an Income Tax Return for the tax year 2023 but have not appeared on the Active Taxpayer List (ATL). Under the powers granted by Section 114B of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, the FBR has mandated the disconnection of mobile services for these non-compliant individuals until they rectify their status with the tax authority.

The FBR emphasized the urgency of this measure, stating that the mobile SIMs of those listed in the Income Tax General Order will remain disabled until they are restored either by the FBR itself or the respective Commissioner Inland Revenue who has jurisdiction over the person. This decisive step is part of the FBR’s broader strategy to widen the tax base and enhance compliance rates across the country.

Furthermore, the FBR has coordinated with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and all telecommunications operators to ensure the immediate implementation of these measures. A compliance report is expected from these entities by May 15, 2024, to assess the effectiveness of the initiative and ensure that all listed non-filers are accounted for.

The move has stirred significant reactions across various sectors. Tax experts and analysts view this as a critical step towards addressing tax evasion and encouraging a culture of compliance among Pakistan’s economically active citizens. However, there are concerns about the impact on individuals who may be unaware of their filing obligations or those who have been erroneously listed as non-filers due to administrative oversights.

Consumer rights advocates have also raised issues regarding the abrupt nature of service disconnection, suggesting that a more gradual approach might have been more appropriate to allow affected individuals sufficient time to respond to their non-compliant status. They argue that the sudden loss of mobile connectivity can disrupt daily activities and pose significant inconveniences, especially in today’s digitally connected world.

In response to these concerns, the FBR has reiterated its commitment to facilitating taxpayers and has advised those affected by the order to contact their local tax office for guidance on how to restore their ATL status and subsequently, their mobile services. The FBR also highlighted that extensive public awareness campaigns had been conducted prior to the implementation of this measure, aimed at educating citizens about their tax obligations and the potential consequences of non-compliance.

As the deadline for the compliance report approaches, it remains to be seen how this aggressive strategy will influence the broader landscape of tax compliance in Pakistan. The FBR’s approach to enforcing tax laws through technological means marks a significant pivot in how the government manages fiscal policy and taxpayer engagement, reflecting an increasingly assertive stance against tax evasion in a bid to strengthen the country’s economic foundations.