KARACHI: Pakistan’s biggest ever fraud of sales tax is exposed by Customs Today where M/s Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd has evaded billions of rupees sales tax in terms of services provided to its local clients. After Customs Today unearthed this mega scam of sales tax, Chairman Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) Khalid Mehmood has finally decided to conduct audit of Maersk shipping company.
According to details, Customs Today first published a story on October 29, 2018 titled “Pakistan’s biggest ever Sales Tax fraud: NAB, FIA asked to probe Maersk, SRB connivance” in which it was exposed that Maersk Pakistan is issuing ‘benaami’ bills without sales tax numbers, without publishing its own name on the bills and giving its sales tax numbers. As per its modus operandi, Maersk sends emails in the name of Helen De Isidero to its clients whereas it is actually sent by Mr. Maqsud through Pakistan email ID email@example.com. Maersk Pakistan employees themselves claim that Helen works in their Manila office while the email is sent from Pakistan office.
Furthermore, in the story it was revealed that all services are provided in Pakistan through Pakistan company M/s Maersk Pakistan Pvt. Ltd. but the company tries to show that services are provided by foreign company and their employees through using dummy names. When service provided in Pakistan by Pakistan office and Pakistan employees then how can sales tax on such service remain unpaid? This obviously is a fraud to evade huge sales tax liabilities.
Talking with Customs Today, Chairman SRB Khalid Mehmood confirmed, “We have received information that some shipping companies are not paying sales taxes and are involved in tax evasion including Maersk”.
He said, “After receiving such complaints we have decided to conduct audit of these shipping companies and Maersk shipping company is also included in our list”.
Khalid Mehmood said, “Maersk Pakistan is registered with Sindh Revenue Board since 2011 but now this company is in our radar and we are receiving credible information that Maersk is not paying sales tax so we have decided to obtain data of Maersk and start audit from tax year 2011-12”.
Khalid Mehmood mentioned that the Sindh High Court had barred collection of sales tax on services but later on the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared that verdict null and void. “The SRB will take action across the board against anyone found involved in tax evasion,” he asserted.
Commissioner SRB Mohammad Amir while talking with Customs Today said, “We have our own system to take action against tax evaders. If we receive information against any company we have our own procedure to take action against it. We always facilitate those who want to pay taxes and clear outstanding dues”.
He hailed Customs Today for publication of “A Thousand Avenfields” book highlighting customs mega green channel scam.
Relevant quarters say that Commissioner II of the Sindh Revenue Board was bound by the Notification No. 3-4/20/2017 to collect sales tax on services from the shipping lines as mentioned in point 15 of the table which is also available on the official website of Sindh Revenue Board http://www.srb.gos.pk/contents/Notifications/SRB-3-4.20.2017.PDF
Business community says that Commissioner II, instead of keeping mum over the issue, should fulfil his duties and collect sales tax from the Maersk Pakistan and also recover the evaded sales tax worth billions and also lodge FIR against the Maersk officials for the huge scam so that others do not commit such criminal evasion of sales taxes. Such funds so collected will go a long way in developing our country. According to a document of Sindh Revenue Board named Working Tariff (amended up to 4th December, 2017), the shipping lines are bound to pay at least 13% sales tax on services as mentioned in table which is also available on its official website http://www.srb.gos.pk/contents/Downloads/20171204007_WORKING_TARIFF_AMENDED_2017.pdf
It is pertinent to mention here that Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to intervene and investigate connivance of Maersk and Sindh Revenue Board in the alleged mega scandal.
Meanwhile, within hours after a section of media exposed the biggest ever sales tax scam of Maersk lines, Danish Ambassador to Pakistan His Excellency Rolf Holmboe made a hotline contact and urgently met with Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi to pressurise him to in turn put pressure on local media to stop exposing Maersk Pakistan Pvt. Ltd. Maersk Line went up to such an extent that they even sent to a media house posts and photos of the Danish Ambassador having an emergency meeting with Ali Haider Zaidi so as to silence the media house instead of asking their company to abide by local laws and pay taxes according to law.