Tax refunds should be adjustable against liability recommended

KARACHI: Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) has recommended inter adjustment of income tax and sales tax refunds should be made part of the law.

In its recommendations for budget 2020/2021, the representative body of foreign investors and multinational companies working in Pakistan, highlighted the issue of delay and procedural hassle in processing of outstanding refunds.

It said that protracted delays in settlement of tax refunds is one of the biggest contributors in distorting the commercial image of Pakistan in all the perception and ease of doing business surveys and a major factor negatively impacting inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.

This has been regularly pointed out at the relevant forums, including to the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the OICCI added.

Moreover, through Finance Act, 2019, government has introduced refund bonds for the settlement of long outstanding income tax refunds.

These refunds bonds have maturity of three years with 10 percent simple interest per annum payable at maturity.

“As of February 2020, tax refunds pending of OICCI members aggregated to Rs86 billion, which remained unsettled for a very long time, some of which are pending prior to 2005.”

However the refunds process is still long drawn and refunds of many companies have not been processed for many years although Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) already has information readily available on the system.

Furthermore, despite specific directions in the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, fair mechanism of issuance of government bonds in lieu of income tax refunds is not provided yet and where issued, these bonds are neither being traded freely in the market nor being discounted by the banks mainly due to low interest versus current prevailing discount rate.

The OICCI recommended following:

All pending tax refund be cleared within next six months in an orderly/ prearranged manner.

Verification process for refunds should start automatically as soon as an application for refund is filed by the taxpayer and tax refunds be cleared within 45 days.

A timely settlement of the determined refunds should be made, and if there is a liquidity issue then issuing marketable Government bonds/securities be considered.

Amend current fixed interest rate of 10 percent to floating interest rate linked with KIBOR.

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