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Saturday, June 15, 2024

FBR Cracks Down: Retailers Must Accept Card Payments or Face Penalties

The FBR has announced strict measures to enforce credit and debit card payments, enhance POS system compliance, and curb tax evasion through new regulations and hefty fines.

In a move to enhance transparency and enforce compliance, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has announced stringent actions against businesses refusing to accept credit or debit card payments. The FBR Chairman, Amjed Zubair Tiwana, stated that premises could be sealed based on three daily complaints or five weekly complaints from customers about card payment refusals. This measure aims to shift Pakistan’s economy towards digital transactions and curb tax evasion.

Senator Sherry Rehman raised significant concerns regarding the frequent failure of Point of Sale (POS) systems, emphasizing that even in countries like the UK, small purchases can be made using credit cards. She highlighted instances where high-value transactions were often denied under the pretext of non-functional machines.

Integrating and Licensing POS Systems

The FBR has mandated 1,680 Tier-1 retailers to integrate with the POS system by May 31st. The chairman admitted past vulnerabilities in the POS software, which were exploited for tax fraud. To counter this, a new system involving third-party licensed software companies is being introduced to prevent such issues. Businesses failing to provide receipts for five POS transactions in a week will face fines of Rs500,000.

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The government aims to collect Rs70 billion in the upcoming fiscal year through these measures. Amendments to the Sales Tax Act now empower the FBR to seal businesses found with three non-certified electronic receipts in a day. This initiative is part of broader efforts to digitize the taxation system and ensure full supply chain integration from manufacturers to retailers.

Consumer Protection and Compliance Monitoring

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, chaired by Senator Saleem Mandviwala, has been actively reviewing these changes. Committee members proposed leniency for sales returns, suggesting warnings before imposing penalties. The FBR has also introduced a dashboard to monitor the operational status of POS machines across retail outlets.

To address issues of malfunctioning POS systems, the government will license firms responsible for providing reliable software solutions. Businesses involved in tax fraud will be blacklisted, though they retain the right to appeal to the chief commissioner. These steps are designed to enhance compliance and protect consumer rights.

Sector-Specific Taxation Issues

Representatives from the Pakistan Software Association, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), and the Stationery Association have voiced concerns over high taxation. The standing committee has urged the FBR chairman to discuss these issues with industry representatives. Notably, the committee recommended exempting stationery items from sales tax, considering the educational needs of Pakistan’s 22.5 million out-of-school children.

The FBR chairman hinted at the possibility of reversing the proposal to impose a 10% sales tax on stationery and books. Instead, the sector might be granted tax-exemption status, though this would eliminate the right to tax refunds. These discussions underscore the balancing act between raising revenues and supporting essential sectors.

New Definitions and Legal Frameworks

A new definition of tax fraud has been introduced, encompassing intentional evasion and false documentation. These legal frameworks are part of the amended budget for 2024, aiming to create a transparent system and combat tax fraud effectively.

The Senate committee has rejected an amendment related to the Abandoned Properties Organisation, insisting that the Finance Bill should focus solely on financial matters. Senator Anusha Rahman argued that public funds should be deposited in the national treasury, countering the administrator’s request to retain Rs14 billion for operational costs.

Enforcing Digital Transactions

The committee also highlighted the importance of uninterrupted internet services to ensure the success of digital transactions. Senator Mandviwala noted that frequent internet shutdowns during political events hinder this progress.

Overall, these measures reflect a comprehensive strategy to enforce digital payments, enhance tax compliance, and support various sectors facing taxation challenges. The FBR’s stringent actions signify a significant shift towards a more transparent and digitally integrated economy.