The government has released Rs 1,686.644 million during first nine months of the current fiscal year to execute around petroleum sector projects under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP 2020-21). According to the official data as of April 2 that showed a slight readjustment in funds allocation and releases, an amount of Rs 1686.644 million had been provided against total allocation of Rs 1,821.520 million for the timely and smooth execution of the projects. As per the initial PSDP allocation details, the government had earmarked an amount of Rs 1,662.684 million for five ongoing projects, out of which Rs 100 million were meant for expansion and up-gradation of Pakistan Petroleum Corehouse (PETCORE), Rs 6.524 million for exploration and evaluation of coal in Nosham and Bahlol areas of Balochistan, An amount of Rs 303.160 million for supply of 13.5 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) gas to Dhabeji Special Economic Zone, Rs1,153 million for the supply of 30 MMCFD gas at the doorstep (Zero Point) of Rashakai Special Economic Zone Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Rs100 million for up-gradation of HDIP’s POL testing facilities at Islamabad, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta and ISO Certification of Petroleum Testing Laboratory at Islamabad. While Rs123.476 million had been kept for three new schemes, out of which Rs48 million were allocated for the establishment of National Minerals Data Centre, Rs 20 million for geological mapping of 50 Toposheets (out of 354 unmapped Toposheets) of outcrop area of Balochistan and Rs55.476 million for strengthening, up-gradation and ISO certification of Karachi Laboratories Complex (KLC) at HDIP Operations Office, Karachi. Tax base: Chairman Businessmen Panel of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and ex-president FPCCI Mian Anjum Nisar has asked the government to enhance liaison with the business community, who are the real stakeholders, with a view to broaden tax base and enhancing tax-to-GDP ratio, as the number of active taxpayers has declined by 30% to just below 2.2 million. In a statement here on Saturday, Mian Anjum Nisar said that the FBR’s reforms initiatives were not bearing fruit, as the revenue collecting agency could increase the number of sales tax return filers by just 8 percent in first six months of the current fiscal year, mainly due to 40 percent rise in the type of those filers, who haven’t paid any tax, implying that bad governance and weak tax management of the tax department still persist. There is an urgent need of reforming and simplifying the taxation system with the consultation of real stakeholders, besides addressing the issue of double taxation through integration of provincial and federal government laws and harmonization of FBR and Punjab Revenue Authority, he added. It is unfortunate that just 30 percent of the total sales tax return filers are paying taxes while 70 percent of the filers have paid nil tax. The government’s new measures seem to be inadequate to convince people to file tax returns due to arm-twisting by the FBR, creating unnecessary controversy due to continuous raids on business premises. He urged the authorities to introduce new tax incentives and extend the period of existing ones for attracting new foreign direct investments in line with the potential of the country. With a view to wipe out corruption there needs to develop local software and Apps with simplified system in Urdu so that interaction of human resource should be reduced, suggested the BMP Chairman. Mian Anjum Nisar said that only direct taxes can improve tax collection, as the existing tax system is heavily skewed toward indirect taxation. He said the sustainable solution to Pakistan’s problems lies in the structural reforms, as we can see very large inefficiencies in tax collection, which needs to be removed. So, the tax compliance must be improved and tax base should be broadened, which cannot be achieved with a single policy change, but by a systemic approach. It is a matter of concern that people want to pay additional tax on a business or personal economic activity but are not willing to become part of the tax system. According to FBR’s own Active Taxpayers List 2021 for tax year 2020, about 0. 5 million people, who had filed returns last year, could not file the tax returns this year. He said businessmen are shying away from filing annual tax returns, as they are scared of FBR’s highhandedness. The former president FPCCI suggested that taxes should be charged one time by any provincial or federal government, as provinces levy same kind of tax which the federal government has already imposed, escalating the cost of production and discouraging the registered manufacturers. He called for harmonization of Sales Tax and Income Tax laws, getting rid of conflicting provisions, suggesting enhancing tax base by automation. He demanded the government to improve tax structure so that business and investment could flourish in the country, as the existing tax structure discourages investment.