Islamabad : 67% of parliamentarians failed to file tax returns

 ISLAMABAD: The report states that 67% of parliamentarians and 62% of ministers in the Federal Cabinet did not file their income tax returns.It has been authored by Umar Cheema, an investigative reporter of The News and co-founder of the newly-registered Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP).Another non-government organisation, the Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) provided technical assistance and has financed the publication of this 68-page report. This is the first report wherein tax data of lawmakers is being released anywhere in the world.

A kind of a bombshell, the report carries details of all Members of Parliament and the amount of taxes they pay. There are many MNAs and senators who still do not have National Tax Numbers (NTNs).Several ministers and noted party leaders are without NTNs. Several lawmakers registered for NTN after their elections. Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Maluana Fazlur Rehman are among those who acquired NTNs after February 2008 elections. According to Cheema’s findings, President Asif Ali Zardari did not file a tax return in 2011 and neither did 34 of the 55 cabinet members including Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Information was not available for one cabinet minister.Of the 20 cabinet ministers who did pay, most made only negligible contributions, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, with 142,536 rupees and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar with 69,619 rupees. The cabinet member who paid the most was Water and Power Minister Ahmad Mukhtar with 1.09 million rupees. Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah paid the least with 43,333 rupees.Among all the lawmakers in the upper and lower houses of the federal parliament, 67 percent failed to file tax returns in 2011; 28 percent did and five percent were not possible to verify, according to the report.

The report also carries a list of top-five and bottom-five taxpaying senators and MNAs in addition to the party wise position of tax filers. The highest tax payer Senator is Aitzaz Ahsan from the PPP who paid Rs12,975,996 in taxes while the lowest is Mushahid Hussain from the PML-Q who paid Rs82. The highest tax paying MNA is Jehangir tareen (PML-F) who paid Rs17,053,172 in taxes while the lowest is Sheikh Rohale Asghar (PML-N) who paid Rs16,893.

Unfortunately, not a single party has shown significant compliance to the tax laws making it mandatory to file the tax returns. And those filed returns have shown such a small amount of income that does not match with their living standards. The report has dedicated one chapter each to the practices of tax disclosure by political leaders at international level and the record of Pakistani leaders dating back to President Gen. Ziaul Haq. Addressing 1986 annual dinner of the Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Karachi, Zia suggested Islamic punishment for tax evaders, saying this evasion is a crime bigger than theft.After his death, the tax authorities probed his record and found out he never filed tax returns right from 1959 to 1988. His family was told to file his returns that were ultimately done.

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