Every year, when the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) warns taxpayers that they have to file their tax returns by such a date, it reminds people of the famous childhood tale of ‘Cry Wolf’. Just like the story’s main character shepherd’s false cries, it seems that FBR deadlines and warnings also fall flat on deaf ears given the track record of the department, which is full of extensions and concessions. September 30 is the usual date which is set by the department every year to file the tax return. Decade after decade, people have learned to live with the fact that FBR’s initial deadlines are always to be extended. History repeated itself this year too. The FBR has recently announced that a 15-day concession will be given to people so that they can file their tax returns. The extension was announced on the last day when taxes could be filed even though multiple requests of extension from the Karachi Tax Bar Association (KTBA) were denied on the pretext that this is the day when taxes are filed every year and this year too, the people will file their returns on this date. This year, there were a significant number of people who filed tax returns and a total of 150,000 people did it in one day which is the highest number that has ever been filed in a day. The FBR continuously stated that no extension will be given so everyone must file their taxes by Sept 30.
Great amounts of finances were spent on the advertisement campaigns which time and again reminded people of the deadline and the need to file taxes. However, as was being predicted, on the last day, a 15-day extension was given. The Karachi Tax Bar had already asked for this extension as it was said that a 90-day period is given to file tax returns but in August, the online portal did not work for 15 days and so an extension is necessary. The FBR kept on denying these requests and spent heavily on advertisement campaigns which suggested that by Sept 30 taxes must be filed. Although the extension may be welcomed by many who had not gotten the chance to file their taxes, it does suggest the lack of planning and volatile decision-making habits of certain government bodies. It is imperative for organisations to plan ahead and make foolproof systems that do not fail to work in the middle of a process so that they are not forced to take such measures at the last moment. The failure of the system in August is what led to the extension, had it worked properly in the first place this extension would not have been necessary. Therefore, all the state machinery should spend less on advertising and more on making portals better for easy public access.