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Technolog & Business News from Pakistan

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Pakistan’s FBR Blocks 210,000 SIM Cards to Enforce Tax Compliance

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in Pakistan has blocked 210,000 SIM cards of users who have not filed tax returns as part of an initiative to expand the country’s tax base. With only 5.2 million out of over 240 million people filing income tax returns in 2022, the FBR is taking steps to enforce compliance. Orders were sent to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) in April, and while 62,000 SIM cards were later restored after taxes were paid, the FBR continues to push for broader tax adherence.

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The move has sparked a debate about its implications on access to essential services. A public relations official from the FBR, Bakhtiar Muhammad, stated that the measure is necessary to compel tax payment, as voluntary compliance is low. However, telecommunications companies and digital rights activists argue that blocking SIM cards disrupts critical services and may not be practical or fair, particularly for those not earning enough to pay taxes.

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Critics, including digital rights activist Fareiha Aziz and telecommunications companies, warn that the policy may deter foreign investment and infringe on basic rights. Meanwhile, the government seeks to increase its revenue base amid economic challenges and conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial support. The controversy highlights the tension between enforcing tax laws and maintaining access to essential services in Pakistan.

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