ISLAMABD: Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Abdur Rauf Chaudhry said that law empowers a tax ombudsman to investigate complaints of taxpayers against maladministration.
In an exclusive talk with Customs Today, Mr. Rauf said, “FTO Office has complete authority to launch an inquiry over any complaint, and this job can be assigned to any official at his office. For this purpose, the authorised official can access any official document necessary for conducting the investigation. And the Ombudsman can also issue warrants against anybody asking him to appear before him. FTO Secretariat can also take cognizance of cases referred to him by President, Parliament, Supreme Court or High Courts.”
He said, “Main purpose of FTO Secretariat is to undertake initiatives providing inexpensive and speedy justice to taxpayers aggrieved by tax maladministration. For this purpose two more regional offices are being operationlised at Faisalabad and Peshawar. A state-of-the-art online complaint filing system is also being put in place to reduce time and cost of complaint filing.”
He further said, “An FTO-taxpayer interaction has been established through periodic meetings with Chambers of Commerce and Industry, trade bodies, business associations, tax bars and civil society organizations in the country. Our priority goals are to induce taxpayer friendliness of tax administration, remove tax related irritants, reduce cost of doing business and promote conducive tax culture in Pakistan.”
He said, “Under Section 16 of establishment of Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Ordinance, 2000, the Ombudsman enjoys same powers as the Supreme Court to punish any person for contempt, if he abuses, interferes with, impedes, imperils, or obstructs the process of the Ordinance in any way or disobey his order.”
Answering to a question, Mr. Rauf said, “He can recommend any case against the tax functionary to the authority concerned to take appropriate remedial action to redress the issue. He can also recommend disciplinary action and order payment of compensation by the arrant tax official to the aggrieved citizen. In this regard, FBR is given 30 days time to implement the Ombudsman’s orders, if FTO is not satisfied with FBR explanation, he can refer the matter to the President to take final decision.”
Talking about his mandate, Mr Rauf said that an Ombudsman’s core function is to ensure that citizens are treated professionally, courteously and fairly, and tax officials are providing complete, accurate, clear and timely information. And we are achieving it by conducting impartial and independent investigations of taxpayers’ complaints about unfair treatment by the tax officials.
Answering to another question, he said that under Section 14(8) of FTO Ordinance, the Ombudsman can review any finding/recommendation made or any order passed.
He said, “We also identify and review systemic and maladministration related issues with FBR. The core function of FTO revolves around: disposal of complaints of tax maladministration promptly, justly, fairly and independently, and to rectify any injustice done to a taxpayer by actions of the tax employees of FBR/Revenue Division, Government of Pakistan. But the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman’s Office does not extend to cases that are subjudice.”
He said that we exercise powers independent of the executive, and all executive authorities throughout Pakistan are required to act in accordance with FTO. “We are focused on strengthening accountability. Past experience reaffirms the fact that the Ombudsman cannot work effectively without necessary institutional capacity and resources. FTO cannot exercise financial and operational independence without government’s unflinching support and strong resolve to tackle the menace of maladministration. Jurisdiction of the Ombudsman should be understood properly to avoid overlap of powers among institutions,” he concluded.