If lawmakers themselves will found defying the state authorities who else will obey the rules. There is a major revelation that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has suspended the membership of 150 legislators for not filing their income and liability details to the ECP. The lot of violators comprises members not only from opposition benches but also include cabinet members. It is a pity that ministers themselves are indulging in such violations and then lament that the country has one the lowest rates for individuals filing their income tax returns and other financial details.
However, the problem is far more pervasive than just the reluctance of legislators to file tax returns. Far less than viewing the payment of tax as an obligation and a duty towards the state, people in Pakistan see it as state sanctioned racketeering from which they must protect their wealth. The problem is further compounded by the popular perception of corrupt government officials filling their own coffers with the people’s tax money. While it is true that corruption is a serious problem, which has ubiquitous presence in all tiers of society, nevertheless, the solution is not to evade taxes. Pakistan’s abysmal tax collection system only makes inequality worse as then the government has to increase indirect taxes, which disproportionally burden the poor. Moreover, the loss of revenue resulting from the government’s failure to collect taxes from the wealthy then makes it necessary to turn to international lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In addition to locking the economy into a perpetual state of debt, how the prescriptive measures of these organisations, which are a part and parcel of the funds, have failed to achieve the desired results is fairly self-evident. All of this is a reinforcing nexus, at the heart of which is the failure of the government to put in place an effective taxation system.