An information technology (IT) firm has offered Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to carry out a national tax survey to register new retailers, retail companies and unregistered retail outlets with the FBR under government policy to expand the tax net. Sources told Business Recorder here on Friday that the FBR has apprehensions about the expected protest from the retailers across Pakistan in case survey is being conducted without any authentic strategy. Moreover, the IT firm has also offered to conduct a street to street survey on national level to document retailers. However, the FBR is reluctant to launch the survey till a foolproof mechanism is being developed for survey purposes. The idea behind the survey seems to document retailers using IT technology and services of IT experts. The documentation of the retailers on the spot through the physical survey may have serious implications. In this regard, the FBR is examining the pros and cons of the proposed tax survey of retailers. In this connection, a meeting was held at FBR Chief Broadening Tax Base (BTB). The Chief BTB presided over the meeting which was attended by Jilal Khattak, SA to Member (Operations), Rai Naheed Ahmad, Second Secretary (BTB) and Haroon Ijaz Khan, business head of M/s Addon, an IT concern along with his team. The BTB chief acknowledged that data about retailers has always been a weak link on part of FBR. The policymakers at
FBR have always been desirous of robust data about retailers across the country that could be translated into increase in revenue and number of taxpayers.
The representative of the IT firm responded that the geographical information system (GIS) is a cutting edge technology and future of the various tax and municipal authorities in the world. Data of geo-tagging ensures that no business concern is ignored. He further elaborated that retailer’s data will be gathered by making use of smart phones through android applications. The data will then be stored in data bank and it can further be synchronised with the Pakistan Revenue Automation Limited (PRAL) data of the FBR. The queries from FBR were as to how beneficial this could be in respect of increasing the number of tax filers and subsequent increase in revenue. From the discussion with representative of the IT firm, it transpired that the firm can conduct a street to street survey (across Pakistan or in pilot cities) to register the retailer with basic information, like name, nature of business and address, and build up a data base for FBR. This data base can then be matched by FBR and field formations to enlist new taxpayers. The data base will also contain geo-tagging of the retailers but without any pictures or visuals of the business concerns. Sources added that the proposed methodology of documenting retailers on spot through survey has its pros and cons. It could raise protest from the retailers, if conducted in haste. In order to reach a policy decision about the outsourcing of geo-tagging of retail outlets, it is proposed to convene a meeting at FBR including officers from RTO, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, to take perspective from the field officers as well.