Whenever, Pakistan s economy is under pressure, instead of reducing its expenses or deferring non-productive projects, the government has always adopted easy and coercive measures such as the levy of further taxes including the issue of tax on agriculture income. The question is, why our economists and policy makers are determined and bent upon to destroy the agriculture sector of Pakistan which is presently the only productive sector of Pakistan? We acknowledge their concern about reviving the economy of Pakistan but the actual policy makers being predominantly bureaucrats and others not elected by the people of Pakistan do not understand the problems of the farmers living in rural areas under extremely hard conditions facing issues of survival and sustainability.
In developed countries to which our benefactors like World Bank, IMF belong agriculture tax is not considered a reliable source of revenue generation. There are no confirmed figures about revenue generation from agriculture income though its advocates in Pakistan claim that despite the fact that contribution of agriculture sector in the national income is around 25 %yet there is very nominal contribution from this sector in the revenue resource generation of the country. I. e. they do not pay income tax. On the other hand, the people who oppose the agriculture income tax say that they are already paying agriculture tax by government control on agri prices, and through Income Tax Ordinance 1997, subsequently amended through Income Tax Ordinance 2001. The difference being that the earlier in 1997 the tax on agriculture was based on land holding therefore was a land based tax while in 2001 the tax was redefined by adding the word agriculture income with a stipulation to pay the amount of tax on income which ever was higher, thereby qualifying as the income tax on agriculture. To summarize, let s discuss regarding the question, whether agriculture income tax is implementable like income tax on other sectors. All policy makers of the world agree that collection of tax on small business, services and agriculture is very difficult while agriculture tax is even more cumbersome and difficult to collect.
According to an Indian writer researcher, agriculture tax in under developed countries is very difficult because most of the transactions of income & expenses are without receipts. On the other hand, agriculture tax has very nominal importance in developed countries rather it is almost nil in OECD countries, as is in under developed countries like Pakistan & India where its contribution in GDP of the country is 24% & 15% respectively. A figure often discussed & quoted in media and the economic policies.
It is very easy to say that like other sectors, income from agriculture should also be taxed but firstly it is already taxed and secondly its assessment and collection is very difficult and impracticable because of many reasons e. g.
It s not possible to calculate agriculture income and tax on the income as compared with other sectors. The performance of Income Tax department is already unsatisfactory in already taxed sectors where they collect around 63% of the tax collected as advance tax.
It would not be possible to calculate the agri income under the present system of tax assessment system.
Income from agriculture is already taxed and collected by provinces in two modes as under Payment of Tax on the basis of ownership of Land. (fixed) Payment of Tax on the basis of income from agriculture.
In the provinces, the agri tax is generally recovered / collected on land ownership basis. Due to economic constraints the economists also prefer to levy agri tax on land ownership basis.
Another objection which is raised on agriculture sector is that for the purpose of agri tax calculation, based on ownership / land holding this sector pays less tax as compared to salaried persons who pay a major share of their income as tax and land lords with large holdings also pay nominal tax out of the income earned from agriculture. This economic disparity is also highlighted by other sectors who emphasize upon the necessity of collecting tax from agriculture sector like other sectors. In Pakistan, tax share in our national revenue is only 9% which is less than whole world even if compared with neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh. If Pakistan wants to increase its tax revenue upto 14%, GST & income tax has to be expanded and made more practical because it will never be possible by levying agriculture tax only. Irrespective of the facts mentioned above, if provinces are serious to collect agriculture income tax, they have to update the land record which includes, Malkiyat, Girdawaree, Jama bandi and keep track of the change in ownership.
However, one important factor should also be kept in mind that for imposing income tax on agriculture income, constitutional amendment would also be needed to empower the federal government to implement and collect it as very rightly often mentioned by finance minister. However, before doing this following facts should also be kept in mind.
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