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The Institute of Cost And Management Accountants of Pakistan (ICMAP) is an organisation that not only maintains a sustained production of quality business managers and accountants, but also acts as a bridge between the regulatory authorities and all important sectors of economy. The seminars organised by this basically educational institution go a long way in disseminating vital information through face-to-face dialogue situations.

ICMAP masterminds the assemblage of bureaucratic authorities, public figures, members of the intelligentsia and experts to address an educated audience comprising business and investor groups, industrialists, corporate representatives and media people. The human interface serves to resolve the ambiguities and anomalies that may arise with the introduction of certain new rules or incorporation of changes in the existing systems and procedures.

This year, ICMAP has organised a series of post-budget seminars. The recent seminar ICMAP arranged under the aegis of its Karachi Branch Council (KBC) on July 06, 2010 at Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi was aimed at developing an understanding of the Finance Act 2010 through speeches and comments of the renowned panelists besides presenting to the audience the viewpoint of relevant fiscal authorities.

The chief guest for the occasion was Yasmeen Saud, Chief Commissioner, Large Tax-Payers' Unit, Karachi. The other fiscal authority to add government input to the seminar was Khawaja Tanveer Ahmed, Commissioner Income Tax, Audit IV, RTO, Karachi. The panelists included Shabbar Zaidi, partner, AF Ferguson and Co, MH Asif FCMA and former President ICMAP, Abdul Qadir Memon, President Pakistan Tax Bar Association. The ICMAP organisers included Hammad Raza Zaidi, Chairman KBC, Abdul Wasey Khan, Secretary KBC and Kashif Baksh Qadri, media facilitator.

MH Asif critically discussed the key objectives of the Budget 2010-11 around which the speech of the finance minister had revolved. Given Pakistan's economic history and the political culture we have been raised through, the achievement of these ambitious, though sincere, objectives can hardly be taken for granted. And this is what Asif emphasized in very lucid terms. He was of the view that unless the culture of corruption, inefficiency, and political rent-seeking is changed, there is little hope that the "holy" budget objectives will be achieved. On government drawing-room energy policies, he observed that the 30 million energy saver program looked like another scandal in the offing.

Abdul Qadir Memon provided the audience an insight into the Finance-Act as he touched almost every aspect of the Act and shared his views on such subjects as capital gains tax, tax rates for AoPs, tax credit for BMR, wealth tax, best judgment assessment, withholding tax, payments for goods and services, income from properties, offences and penalties and tax audit. Technically, his presentation amply covered the seminar topic and provided the audience with the material for the question-answer session. Shabbar Zaidi joined the session a bit late as he had to fly to Washington the same night as member of a government discussion-group formed to sort out the VAT-issues with the IMF. He carried forward the work of Abdul Qadir Memon by giving threadbare interpretation of certain sections of the Act and by contributing his input towards settling of certain anomalous tax issues.

He cleared ambiguities about the infamous 0.3 percent charge on banking transactions stating that it will be applicable to the purchase of only such funds-transfer instruments (bank drafts, pay orders etc) for which cash is brought from outside one's bank account. He further said that the purpose was to trail the cash coming from outside rather than to raise revenue. He emphasised that the issue of capital gains tax needs to be handled delicately and discretely.

Khawaja Tanveer Ahmed shared with the audience status of the ongoing Revenue Board efforts to improve upon the Inland Revenue Services. He said that the ongoing TARP (Tax Administration Reforms Process) was basically developed under the guidelines of the world lending organisations. What we did, he said, was that while agreeing to the basic objectives of the program, we developed our own roadmaps in accordance with the economic realities of our country. He informed that the objectives of the program were to increase revenues, provide one-window facility to the taxpayers, and simplify of tax laws.

Under the ongoing program, 734 tax offices throughout the country have been converted to just 15 regional offices in all major cities of the country which are operating under one-window concept to afford as much ease to the tax payers as possible.

The chief guest, Yasmeen Saud, in her concluding remarks, appreciated the efforts of organisers for providing a forum to all stakeholders to speak their minds through face-to-face discussions that are so vital for educating of people and clearing of conflicts. Such programs, she observed, provide insight into the issues and give fiscal authorities clarity to effectively implement tax policies.

The question and answer session gave the audience an opportunity to improve their understanding of the Act for practical purposes. Certain questions directed at Khawaja Tanveer were effectively handled and answered to the satisfaction of the questioners. As expected during such sessions, some of the audiences gave tough time to the panelists, particularly to Shabbar, who is presently doing an advisory stint on the fiscal side and is therefore -as perceived by the audience - not prepared to advocate tax on agriculture. He evaded the question by saying that tax on agriculture already existed. We all know that whatever tax from agriculture is collected is not commensurate with the 22 percent contribution of this sector to the economy. When one talks of agriculture tax, one essentially talks of land reforms to cut the powers of high-profile feudal lords and bring their income to the tax books.

Despite the delayed start, the organisers were able to wrap up the program according to the schedule, without unnecessarily cutting on the duration of any segment. After the customary photo-session and plaque distribution, the audience was invited to the dining lawn.
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Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 18, 2010

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