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Nationwide Shutter-down Strike Against Withholding Tax

LAHORE: The business community is observing a nationwide wheel-jam, shutter-down strike today (Saturday) against the imposition of 0.3 percent withholding tax (WHT) on banking transactions by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

This is for the first time in the history of Pakistan that traders, goods transporters, custom clearing agents and traders bodies across the country have got united to observe the strike against the imposition of the WHT by the government.

In the past, traders had observed a countrywide successful shutter-down during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government when it had introduced the General Sales Tax (GST) for the first time in the late 1990s. This time again, the PML-N-led government’s announcement has united the business community, traders and all trade bodies on a single-point agenda of withdrawal of imposition of 0.3pc WHT.

A group of Punjab-based traders had observed a strike in Ramazan when it successfully closed down wholesale markets of the province against the imposition of the WHT. Their successful strike compelled the government to revisit its decision.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, after that strike, held a meeting with traders in which the withholding tax was halved but was not revoked fully. However, the said group of traders had refused to accept the government decision and has again given a countrywide strike call for today. However, another group of traders welcomed Ishaq Dar’s decision of reducing the WHT to 0.3pc.

Due to the government decision, a parallel undocumented economy has started growing in the country. Banking transactions have registered a sharp decline, especially in commercial representatives of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) that their fears, apprehensions and misunderstandings would be addressed appropriately.

In a meeting with FPCCI President Mian Idrees and former president of FPCCI Zubair Tufail, the minister discussed the issue of WHT in detail. Dar claimed the FBR was pursuing business-friendly policies and would welcome new entrants broadening the tax net.

Also, the business community of Islamabad announced shutter-down strike on August 3, 2015 against imposition of 0.3pc WHT on banking transactions. The consensus decision was announced by Abdul Rauf Alam, chairman, Joint Traders Action Committee, during a meeting of business community at Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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