Despite rising debt and inflation in Pakistan, its Imran Khan-led federal government has proposed to exempt all registered political parties of Pakistan from the legal obligation of submitting their annual income and wealth records while also declaring their incomes tax-free, according to Finance Bill 2021.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Friday included the 'Political Parties registered with Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the second schedule of Income Tax Ordinances, reported The Express Tribune.
Part one of the second schedule exempts the incomes of entities and individuals from tax. And clause 66 says that, "Any income derived by the following institutions, foundations, societies, boards, trusts and funds" will be exempted from the tax.
The political parties have been included in table one of clause 66, exempting them from the requirement of filing annual income tax returns and wealth statements.
However, any amendment in the Finance Bill that has already been tabled in the Parliament can only be made at the time of budget speech and approval of the Finance Act, which means that the amendment will remain part of the Bill until dropped at the time of approval of the budget.
This comes at a time when the PTI is facing a foreign funding case in the ECP where the petitioner, Akbar S Babar, a disgruntled party, had filed an application for scrutiny of the original PTI bank statements.
Babar has alleged that the bank statements of PTI were being deliberately kept secret by the ECP.
The Express Tribune reported that Dr Ikram ul Haq, advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan and leading tax expert, said it was shocking that only two political parties filed income tax returns in 2020 out of 27 registered with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and 127 with the ECP.
Dr Haq said that despite 125 political parties not filing returns in the last fiscal year, the FBR did not serve them tax notices.
There are 127 political parties registered with ECP, including the major ones such as PTI, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and more.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's debt continues to grow - It has already entered a sovereign debt "danger zone" with total liabilities and debts of USD 294 billion representing 109 per cent as a percentage of GDP as of 30 December 2020.
A debt-ridden Pakistan has requested its all-weather ally China that it needs another year to pay back a billion dollars Islamabad had borrowed from Beijing last year.
As Pakistan's financial debt continues to mount, the country's total debt and liabilities rose to Rs 45.470 trillion at the end of March 2021, an increase of Rs 2.666 trillion or 6.2 per cent a year earlier, according to data from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
Meanwhile, the debt owed by the government to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rose to Rs 1.164 trillion from Rs 1.071 trillion. (ANI)