News / Asia

Pakistan Publishes List to Embarrass Tax Cheats into Paying Up

FILE - A view of the city skyline at dusk in Karachi, June 24, 2013.
FILE - A view of the city skyline at dusk in Karachi, June 24, 2013.
Reuters
Desperate Pakistani tax authorities are publicly shaming defaulters by publishing their tax details in a directory for the first time, officials said on Wednesday.
 
The cash-strapped authorities find it almost impossible to chase down the large number of defaulters - many of them powerful politicians - through the country's moribund courts.
 
Only around one in 200 citizens files income tax, leaving the state begging foreign donors to help fund crumbling public schools and hospitals.
 
Anger over poor public services fuels the Taliban insurgency and other militant groups destabilizing the nuclear-armed nation.
 
So far, there's little been political will to improve tax collection, since most legislators and many ministers have been tax evaders too. Reformists hope publication of the directory marks a change of policy.
 
“We hope this will become the talk of the town,” said Shahid Asad, the spokesman of the Federal Board of Revenue. “People will be living these luxurious life styles and others will be saying to them - where is your name on that list?”
 
Cracking down on tax evasion is a key condition of a $6.7 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund intended to prop up Pakistan's dwindling foreign reserves.
 
The cash is being doled out in increments and should stop if Pakistan fails to institute reforms.
 
Directory publication signals that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is serious about tackling the problem, said Umar Cheema of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan.
 
“It's a kind of miracle,” said Cheema, who triggered a public outcry when his outfit published two reports showing that nearly 70 percent of Pakistani lawmakers did not file taxes in 2011 and around half did not file in 2012.
 
“Information is the first step towards change,” he said. “Tax has become part of the mainstream debate and people are getting radicalized about tax evasion by the rich.”
 
The publication of the directory makes Pakistan the fourth country in the world - after Sweden, Finland and Norway - to publish the details of all individual and corporate tax payers. Citizens have until May 15 to dispute the records.
 
But some reformists doubt that public shaming will be enough to provoke payment in a country where most of the wealthy are tax cheats. They are calling for prosecutions - no one has been jailed for income tax evasion for more than 25 years.
 
“By publishing this figure, they can't say they have done their job. They should pinpoint tax offenders, start an investigation and prosecute them,” said Ikramul Haq, a professor of tax law and Supreme Court lawyer.
 
“Otherwise what is the purpose of publishing this list? It is just wasting time.”
 
Many judges, generals and legislators were not on the 17,000 page list, he said, underscoring the deep-rooted interests that prevent reform.
 
But Pakistan's problems go beyond just collecting more taxes, said Nadeem Haque, a former deputy head of the country's Planning Commission.
 
Officials waste huge amounts of public funds on perks, ceremonies and land for themselves, he said. If given more cash, they would probably splurge on more luxuries, he said.
 
“We have to build society and institutions. Tax is neither here nor there,” he said.
 
“Without reform this system will remain intact and stifle the poor, who have only two choices: migrate or join some revolution that disrupts this system. The only one available is the Taliban.”

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid