Tax legislation is considered more than a device to raise revenues to meet the cost of governing a community. In democratic dispensation, it is employed as an effective tool to attain economic policy objectives. Every tax statute is a mix of fiscal and economic policies. The economic policy element of fiscal statutes ensures many things e.g. accelerated growth, business competitiveness, redistribution of wealth, equality and resource mobilisation for social sector development to achieve the goal of an egalitarian society.Unfortunately in Pakistan, successive governments, both military and civilian, used taxes as a tool to extort from the masses as much as possible for their own comforts and luxuries. By resorting to repressive tax laws, they made the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. Tax reform efforts through the Tax Reforms Commission (TRC) and earlier under the World bank-funded Tax Administration Reforms Programme (TARP) lacked the perspective of using tax legislation as a tool of attaining economic policy objectives. There exists a total misconception in the minds of our policy makers that by merely reframing tax laws; the entire tax system will be reformed automatically. Previously this misconception has caused disastrous results. The government of Musharraf promulgated a new income tax law in 2001, after 16 years there is a consensus that this law has been a total failure. It is neither simple nor fair!FBR, instead of improving our capacity to detect tax evaders through an automated Tax Intelligence System,has been imposing irrational and cumbersome policiesIn all democratic countries, special committees are formed by elected parliaments for conducting tax reform exercises. Here in Pakistan we have been doing it through bureaucratic structures, which are outdated, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt. Pakistan’s tragedy is that things are always being done by people who are not competent — in many cases even not eligible for that job. Military governments make constitutional changes and tax reforms are undertaken by tax babus [bureaucratic]. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has a bad habit of first announcing plans and then doing its homework, whereas it should be the other way around. On the one hand they want full automation and on the other they have thousands of employees, majority of whom do not even know the fundamentals of Information Technology (IT). The skill gaps in terms of human resource have not yet been identified and there are talks of highly sophisticated automated systems.The overwhelming majority workforce at the FBR is disgruntled, dissatisfied, and indifferent — they also lack courtesy towards taxpayers. The mindset of tax machinery needs a total change, which is more a matter of behaviourial transformation. FBR has yet not identified skill gaps in its present workforce, not initiated anything in terms of improving human resource management and shifted its entire focus on IT development. The catchword for them is “automation” which is not the sole solution for creating a corruption-free efficient, result-oriented, yet taxpayer-friendly tax apparatus. There cannot be two opinions about major IT and human resource improvements in FBR as well as effective audit operations but first of all a transparent tax policy and development-oriented tax reform agenda should be made public. Tax reforms without a rational tax policy, are meaningless for an integrated tax administration. If the new government wants to improve FBR, the prerequisite is administrative reforms and simplification of tax codes.FBR, instead of improving our capacity to detect tax evaders through an automated Tax Intelligence System, has been imposing irrational and cumbersome policies. Everyone knows that the main fault line is bad tax administration, yet no effort has yet been made by legislators to pass a law for an autonomous national tax agency (NTA). The new finance minister and elected assembly should take it up as top priority. The experimentation in tax administration and laws without sound research, homework and pragmatic approach is going to further destroy the existing system. FBR under TARP replaced 757 income tax circles, working under 139 ranges, 32 zones and five regions, into functional divisions without proper homework and the result is before our eyes. Later, they reverted to the single-tier system as far as Commissioners are concerned. Their decision to shift from four-layered administrative control to a two-tier functional unit has miserably failed. Apparently, the shift was only nomenclature change, having only cosmetic value. This perspective of change, very popular with the new majority party, should be avoided while considering tax reforms as it has already caused considerable damage to economy under Ishaq Dar.Any meaningful transformation requires professionalism that is not available in the existing tax administration. They hardly know their job, what to talk of having professional knowledge for re-engineering of entire tax system. The new government should get an independent appraisal of FBR’s performance regarding; audit, taxpayers’ assistance/facilitation, enforcement, legal, IT and human resource management. It is high time that the Senate and National Assembly constitute a joint Special Tax Reform Committee to seek suggestions from all stakeholders and present a comprehensive legislative plan for ‘Reconfiguring of Tax System’. During the decade of democracy (2008-18), the legislators paid no attention to this vital aspect.The new assembly in its tenure (2018-2023) should take it up, in the first 100 days to supervise the entire tax reform process. The input from tax administrators in this process is highly desirable as they are the people who have to implement the laws and policies. It, however, should also be kept in mind that they are responsible for the present chaotic situation as they have become de facto legislators and policies makers. They are just administrators and should not be allowed to become legislators. This is where the fault lies. Unless these tax administrators are made accountable before the public representatives and independent judicial set up, no meaningful tax reforms can be designed or implemented towards a positive outcome.The writer, Advocate Supreme Court, is Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @drikramulhaqPublished in Daily Times, August 5th 2018.