Islamabad, June, 9, 2016: Vice President PPP Senator Sherry Rehman questioned the amendments proposed by the government in the Income Tax Ordinance, saying that in light of the revelations made in the Panama Papers regarding the wealth held by the Prime Minister’s family, the proposal is highly questionable. “Why is the government insistent on these amendments now? Is this an attempt to provide legal cover to the allegedly undeclared assets held by the Prime Minister’s family?” questioned Rehman. Earlier, other members of the opposition had also questioned the amendment proposed by the federal government, especially given the disclosures made in the Panama Papers about assets owned by the Prime Minister’s daughter through a trust registered in an offshore tax haven.
In the Finance Bill 2016-17 presented by the government, amendments have been proposed in Clause 23 of the Income Tax Ordinance that will arguably provide legal cover to undeclared wealth held through foreign trusts by Pakistani individuals. “There are legitimate concerns that under the proposed amendments, ‘foreign trusts’ will not fall under the definition of ‘trusts’, giving rise to suspicions that the amendments are being proposed to give legal cover to undeclared foreign assets held by members of the Prime Minister’s family, as disclosed in the Panama Papers,” observed the senator.
Given that corruption is becoming such a daily drain on our system, and eroding the value of our governance, it is shocking that such measures are even being considered via such a backdoor in the national budget, said Rehman.
“Not only is our tax base remain extremely thin, we are bleeding as much as Rs2.2 billion everyday in corruption. Is the government so divorced from reality or is this a deliberate strategy to protect those named in the Panama Papers? Measures such as those being proposed by the federal government in the finance bill will give a free pass to holders of undeclared foreign assets to continue evading tax on their wealth, and are more likely to incentivize tax evasion, not declaration,” concluded Rehman.