Home Latest News Cellphone Service Providers Agree to Block SIMs of Non-Filers

Cellphone Service Providers Agree to Block SIMs of Non-Filers

FBR says companies will block SIMs of over 500,000 individuals in batches of 5,000, with additional names to be conveyed on a daily basis

by Staff Report

File photo. Josep Lago—AFP

Telecommunication operators and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) this week reached consensus on blocking the SIMs of non-filers, as part of measures to encourage revenue generation and curb tax evasion in line with requirements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a statement, the FBR announced that telecommunication companies had agreed to manual block SIMs in small batches until their systems were fully equipped to automate the process. Earlier this week, the companies had written a joint letter warning they lacked the systems for mass blocking of SIMs and sought the enactment of legislation to protect them from litigation if individuals sought court remedies over a denial of their right to have access to their cellphones.

According to the FBR, it has already conveyed the names of 5,000 non-filers to telecommunication companies as the first batch to be blocked. It said this would be followed by more batches on a daily basis to ensure compliance with the Income Tax General Order issued last month.

Cellphone companies have commenced sending messages to non-filers warning them their SIMs would be blocked shortly over their refusal to file income tax returns.

On April 30, the FBR issued the Income Tax General Order under the Section 114 B of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, listing over 500,000 individuals who have failed to file their tax returns for FY2023. Noting the legal requirement of tax filing, it said the individuals would be penalized through the blockage of SIMs registered against their names. However, cellphone service providers had objected to the decision, noting various court rulings had declared access to phones a fundamental right.

Earlier, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had also opposed the FBR’s decision, stressing such an order would not have legal bindings and was contrary to the legal framework.

In its statement, the FBR appreciated the cooperation of all stakeholders involved in discussions between the tax body and the telecommunication operators, adding it looks forward to continued collaboration to strengthen tax compliance in Pakistan.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment