A representational image showing a man holding multiple cellphones. — AFP/File

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Thursday reaffirmed its resolve to protect consumers’ interests in light of Federal Bureau of Revenue’s (FBR) decision to block 500,000 SIMs of non-filers.

The PTA, in a statement, said that it was deliberating on the tax collection body’s decision and that its focus is on ensuring compliance within the regulatory framework and relevant legal provisions in this regard.

“We are engaged with cellular mobile operators and concerned stakeholders on this matter,” the regulatory authority said.

PTA’s statement follows FBR’s announcement regarding the blocking of SIMs of those who fail to appear on the active taxpayer list but are liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023 under the provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

A day earlier, the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) had also said that it was “diligently examining this order within the applicable legal and regulatory framework”.

Terming the move as a “strategic step”, the FBR had said that the non-filers could get their mobile phone SIMs restored by filing their tax return for the year 2023.

With the compliance report set to be furnished to the FBR on May 15, the tax collection body has asked the PTA and all telecom operators to ensure compliance with the Income Tax General Order (ITGO) with immediate effect.

It is pertinent to mention here that the tax collection body, last year, secured additional powers in a bid to increase the tax net and was authorised, under Section 114B in the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, to disconnect utility connections and block mobile SIMs if a return is not filed in response to notices issued to them.

In November 2023, as many as 145 district tax offices across the country were established as part of restructuring measures to bring 1.5 to 2 million new taxpayers into the tax net till June 2024.

Furthermore, the FBR has also held consultations with the PTA to identify SIMs of under-filers who failed to file their returns despite possessing taxable and duly being notified by the body who was in possession of their transaction records.

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