ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday asked customs department and related banks to keep their offices open on Saturdays at ports to clear containers’ congestion in the wake of recent strike of goods transporters.
It is estimated that more than 18,000 containers have piled up at ports leading to their non-clearance by customs and port authorities. These include 7,000 containers of exportable commodities and 11,000 of imported goods.
“The minister took serious notice of the issue and asked for its early clearance”, FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa told Dawn on Tuesday.
Mr Dar took this decision while presiding a high-level meeting to review FBR’s performance in the last five months.
The meeting, held at FBR house, lasted for four hours and discussed various proposals to encourage and facilitate taxpayers and the business community.
The FBR chairman said that the congestion at ports will be cleared in the next three weeks.He said it was also decided that income tax officers would also facilitate taxpayers in filing of their returns this fiscal year.
In this connection, the chairman said all field Inland Revenue Officers would now be available on Saturdays till Nov 30 in their offices to assist and facilitate the taxpayers.
Mr Bajwa said that more than 212 kiosks had also been established throughout the country at important places including business centres.
An official statement of the finance ministry said that the Mr Dar directed the FBR officers to take necessary steps to collect revenue and achieve the targets set by the government.
The direction came at a time when FBR is facing a shortfall of more than Rs35 billion in the first four months (July-October) of the current fiscal year.
The FBR chairman said the revenue collection would improve in the next few months as the board was monitoring the collection under various tax heads.
Asked about any new tax measures, he said no such decision was taken at the moment. “We will review the performance of the revenue for the time being”, he said, adding that the board was expecting more revenue with the income tax returns to be filed by end of this month.
He said the FBR was also working on customs valuation of high-risk products of under-invoicing. “We have identified the products of high risk which will be subjected to increase in valuation.”
This measure is expected to generate revenue under customs as revenue under this head remained low in the last few months.
However, experts believe that as a result of increase in valuation price the diversion of these products to transit cannot be ruled out which may end up in local market.
According to the statement, Mr Bajwa briefed the finance minister about FBR’s efforts in assisting and facilitating the taxpayers and business community.
The finance minister was also briefed separately on issues relating to Customs, Sales Tax, Income Tax and Federal Excise Duty.