MANSEHRA: The local firewood industry has suffered another setback as Excise and Taxation Department imposed Rs 9000 levy per annum on each firewood godown in the district.
"Our business is not in a position to afford Rs 9000 annual tax and if government doesn't withdraw it, we will shut our business permanently and take to the streets," Ghulam Qasim, owner of a firewood godown, told reporters here on Wednesday. The firewood godowns, mostly located at Karakoram Highway, are dependent on earning from the localities that are still without the natural gas facility. Afghan refugees, who were lodged in five camps in the city and its suburbs, used to contribute a handsome share in firewood industry but after their repatriation to their native country, the economic activities at these firewood godowns have plummeted. "We used to sell over 1,000kg firewood daily when Afghans were here, but now our daily sale has reduced to almost 200kg or less. We cannot even manage our domestic financial affairs in current sales," said Qasim. He said the Excise and Taxation Department has issued notices to firewood dealers about Rs 9000 annual tax for the first time.
Another dealer, Khan Mohammad, who has been running his godown on micro-financing, said that the tehsil municipal administration has also increased annual permit fee from Rs 200 to Rs 1000 since the current fiscal year 2016-17.
"We are also paying Rs 1000 per annum as scale (weight) fee and we are not in a position to pay all these direct taxes," he added.
He said that they were selling different kinds of firewood, whose prices range from Rs 350 to Rs 500 per 40kg but hardly earn Rs 30 to Rs 40 profit on per 40kg.
Mohammad Nabi, another dealer, said that their businesses had declined by almost 60 percent with the departure of Afghans from the area.
He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government should immediately withdraw excise tax on their business so that they could earn a respectable livelihood for their families otherwise they would be left with no option but to challenge that tax in a court of law.