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CLOSED-DOOR SESSIONS IN ISLAMABAD ON 16TH, 17TH – World experts to discuss 5-year plan to boost tax collection

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 5, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

by Ikram Hoti

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE NEWS’ (Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD: International experts are converging on Islamabad to hold “closed-door” sessions on December 16-17 to devise a five-year plan of taxation in the post-IMF-agreement era to boost tax collection in Pakistan without burdening the poor majority who are already suffering history’s worst stagflation.

The sessions are to be aimed at dealing with Pakistan’s national taxation and introduce sub-national taxation for the first time. Details of this version for Pakistan will be chalked out at the sessions of experts. It is IMF condition to improve collection but Pakistan has remained hesitant and needed international help not only in a foreign exchange injection but also in expert assistance that could plan the rescue without causing much stir, inflation and poverty enhancement.

The World Bank and the DFID are the main sponsors of the Dec 16-17 workshop and the media would not be informed about the conduct of, and decisions, at the workshop but The News has been able to acquire some details.

In the first place, the format for the sessions is “closed door’ so that there can be uninhibited discussion of the “issue and concerns of the main stakeholders.”

International experts will include Professor Martinez-Vasquez, Michael Keen, Christopher Waerzeggars and Carlos Silvani, along with the staff of a number of international agencies including the IMF, WB, WHO and DFID.

A “blueprint” for taxation and reforms will be prepared with a clear plan to increase the collection of taxes from 10 per cent (one of the lowest in the world) of GDP to 14-15 per cent.

A new mechanism would be proposed for this purpose to tax areas where the subsistence economy of the poor does not undergo additional cost. This would be simultaneous with another mechanism that would ensure plugging all slippages by installing an online connectivity between the Customs, Income Tax and Sales Tax Departments.

This connectivity would ensure information input to the three sides from taxable business generated in the country and through imports and exports. Efforts already made administratively and technically in this connection would be examined and the Pakistani bosses would be asked to explain why feet were dragged on this previously IMF-sponsored (1995) mechanism and it could not made operational.

They will also be asked to explain as to why the gap between the businesses generated and the taxes collected on them remained unattended and nothing significant was ever done conclusively to asses the gap and to minimise it. That would be a sensitive issue, as it would relate not only to the corruption and dereliction on the part of the tax machinery but also to politicians, the bureaucratic channels in the civil and military apparatus.

A key element in this regard would be the establishment of a tax system that “does not penalise investment and production incentives or discriminate against the poor, and, at the same time, provides adequate revenues in an orderly manner yet under a tight timeframe of 4-5 years.”

It is projected to achieve economic stability while keeping in view the revenue-incentive objectives. This tax reform strategy would need to be closely dovetailed with the administration reforms. A complete reassessment of the Pakistani tax system has already been conducted for this purpose.

The proposals for reform would be offered by Michael Keen of the IMF (Reforming the Income Tax and GST); Kasper Richter of the World Bank.

(Summary of the Bank’s Project Proposals); Ms Ayda and Mr Petit of the WHO (Excise System); Professor Martinez-Vasquez of Georgia State (Tax Policy Options); Carlos Silvani, head of the WB Review Mission (FBR Reforms Review and the Way Forward); Professors Roy Bahl and Sally Wallace (Sub-national Taxation).

“The purpose of the brainstorming sessions is to achieve the objective of a significant enhancement in Pakistan’s domestic resource mobilization as part of its stabilisation and reform strategy.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE NEWS’ (Pakistan)

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