Automation of the taxation system, though recognised as a priority agenda of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), is still in the lurch. The NBR has been working on a number of projects to digitise the income tax, value-added tax and customs wings since 2011, and was scheduled to launch an e-filing system under the income tax wing and bond management automation project under the customs wing by July and August this year respectively. With the deadline gone, it is still not known how long the projects would take to materialise. While digitisation of bond management and value added tax will facilitate businesses a good deal, that of e-filing of tax returns will surely benefit a large number of ordinary citizens. Moreover, online taxation is very likely to reduce a lot of cumbersome documentation works of the tax authorities as well as help them detect evasion and other undesirable practices believed to be rampant among some tax payers. More than anything, it will bring the much sought-after transparency in the system.
Automation of the NBR has its special appeal to the ordinary citizens. With the government revenue becoming more and more reliant on income tax and an increasing number of tax payers already brought under the tax net, the commoners will find an automated tax system that will not only facilitate online submission of tax returns but also e-payment of taxes with acknowledgement receipts very helpful. It may be recalled that about a couple of years back, the NBR was reportedly all set for online filing of tax returns. The reason for not succeeding in the job was due to glitches in the software, as reported at that time.
The new tax year has begun and the deadline for submission of tax return is only months away. It is not yet certain whether e-filing will be successfully rolled out within this time, although it got reported in the newspapers that that the NBR would launch the e-filing system in the last week of September. However, the tax authority is still worried if the available manpower will be well versed to run the e-filing system this time around.
Implementation of the aforementioned projects by the NBR is mostly technology-dependent and thus training the manpower is a major issue towards successful implementation of the project activities. But there are other issues too. It got reported that the automation projects of the NBR ran into a snag over the methodology of project implementation. Sources reportedly said that the NBR wanted to implement the automation centrally while the development partners who collaborated in the projects preferred separate implementation segments for the different NBR wings-- Customs, Income Tax and VAT. According to experts, there is a definite logic to go for an integrated, centrally designed digitisation and automation programme that will allow sharing of information among the various wings of the NBR, and more importantly, provide valuable help to the clients all over the country.