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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid