TV anchors, others accused of concealing income, assets
By: SOHAIL SARFRAZ
ISLAMABAD: Some top anchors/media persons of prominent television channels, showbiz personalities, cricketers and Parliamentarians have been accused of concealing their assets/income. They are allegedly involved in non-reporting or under-reporting of income in their returns to avoid declaration of sources.
Sources told Business Recorder here on Friday that Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation Inland Revenue (IR) Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) conducted a tax analysis of prominent Pakistanis, who included leading television anchors. The investigation reports of 27 anchors/showbiz personalities, 22 cricketers and few Parliamentarians have been dispatched to the field formation for necessary action. The data of a large number of Parliamentarians, sportsmen, media persons, showbiz personalities and other categories of taxpayers is under investigation and discrepancies are gradually being communicated to the field formations. A databank of the prominent Pakistanis is in place to have a realistic picture of their tax payments.
The directorate of intelligence, IR, has discovered that some top anchors have multiple sources of income. They have been engaged in writing articles in print media and also hosting shows at prime times at various prominent television channels. Some of famous intelligentsia figures also work for foreign television channels, news agencies and media groups and write books and articles. Certain anchors are owners of media firms or public relations agencies. They have been earning a lot of money through multiple sources of income.
While few anchors remain engaged in political and economic discussions on a regular basis on private television channels, but hesitate to file their income tax returns. In cases where income tax returns are filed, these anchors conceal their income to evade the tax authorities.
In a few cases, these personalities have been found to have purchased apartments and other luxurious/costly properties aboard, but never disclosed income/assets in their income tax returns. It is really mind-boggling that in all cases, foreign income has not been declared in income tax returns and earnings through foreign sources have also been concealed by them.
The directorate of intelligence IR has found that TV anchors and showbiz personalities are not behind in this race that they have artistically declared only those sources of income where a meagre tax has been deducted. On the other hand, sources of income have not been declared where tax has not been deducted. A similar kind of discrepancy has been detected in the income tax returns filed by anchor and showbiz personalities. In 2009, the services sector has been brought from final tax regime to normal tax regime. However, all of them are still filing returns under the FTR to avoid payment of taxes.
When Business Recorder sought the identity of TV anchors involved in massive concealment of taxes, sources referred to section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 which strictly bars the tax officials from sharing of information about individual taxpayers. This is personal information about individuals which cannot be shared due to restriction under section 216 of the Ordinance 2001. It would be a crime to make public details of the individuals’ tax information under relevant provisions of the law. However, sources said that one very famous television anchor has two apartments in New York and he has not disclosed these apartments in his income tax return. Similarly, another very famous woman television anchor who hosts a programme at 8pm on a private channel is also involved in concealment of taxes.
The directorate of intelligence IR has not picked any specific journalist or anchor during the tax analysis exercise to bring them into the documented regime. A very famous anchor-cum-columnist is running a public relations firm and therefore earning a huge income. He has also understated his income to evade taxes. Another anchor of international repute, who regularly conducts programmes in international affairs, is also running a public relations firm. The programme has been run on 11pm at a television channel. The anchor has concealed his income and assets that he eared aboard, the agency’s analysis revealed.
Sources said the directorate of intelligence IR has collected the evidence from different sources and communicated the information to the Regional Tax Offices to confront these personalities with ample evidence of non-reporting or under-reporting of taxes.
Within the category of showbiz, a leading singer-cum-hero who has also been actively engaged in films of India and has also been engaged in conducting concerts and participates in commercials on television. The singer, who is now emerging as a national hero in films, has also been engaged in modelling. He is considered to be the youngest hero and singer, but not a compliant taxpayer. Despite carrying out such a large number of activities earning huge income, the singer has concealed income and avoided declarations of income abroad.
The analysis of the tax returns filed by some leading drama artists also revealed that they have claimed huge expenses to evade taxes. Among the showbiz personalities, discrepancies have been detected in the income tax returns of models, leading television drama artistes, singers and actors. In other cases, showbiz personalities have failed to file their income tax returns.
The tax profiles of stage actors belong to another category showed that they are in no way less than the business barons. The directorate has also identified some famous actors, who are running production houses and earning huge income. The income earned through the production houses has not been declared in their income tax returns. The sad part of the story is that the general public considers these leading actors as role models but they have been involved in massive concealment of taxes. Among famous actors, some of the leading drama artists are persistent non-filers of returns and other have never filed a single income tax return.
The data of the Parliamentarians revealed that some of them have declared income generating assets in their income tax returns. However, the income generated from these assets has not been disclosed in the returns. The agency has started tax analysis from the members of the National Assembly and few cases have been finalised and subsequently dispatched to the field formations. The income collected from the declared assets has not been specified in the income tax returns. The second major discrepancy in the tax returns of the Parliamentarians is that the increase in the assets annually does not correspondently match with their declared income. A number of cases of the members of the National Assembly are being examined by the FBR under the ongoing exercise and finalised cases for further action by the field formations.
In another case the most famous television actress, who joined as spokesperson of a political party in the past, has also concealed income. The directorate of intelligence IR has detected 22 cases of leading cricketers where discrepancies have been detected in their tax matters. The discrepancies in the tax data of cricketers are entirely different from those of the Parliamentarians. Almost all top cricketers have sources of income inside Pakistan and abroad. Particularly, leading cricketers have been engaged in commercial activities by playing county cricket, clubs, special events, coaching, training and other commercial activities aboard. However, the income generated from such activities aboard has not been reflected in the income tax returns filed by cricketers. As the clubs, etc, give very hefty amount to the top cricketers aboard, the income earned outside Pakistan has not been declared in their income tax returns. It is unique feature of Pakistani cricketers that all of them are evading taxes by not declaring their income earned aboard. A number of cricketers have purchased assets in different countries but never declared such assets in their income tax returns. The FBR has dispatched the information about 22 top cricketers to the relevant Chief Commissioners of the RTOs.
Through the Finance Act 2009, provisions of section 153 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 were amended and tax collected from payments made on account of services rendered made minimum tax liability. Previously, such deductions constituted full and final discharge of tax liability and receipts under the head ‘services’ fell under the presumptive tax regime. Thus, w.e.f. tax year 2010, receipts under the services are to be taxed outside the presumptive tax regime and the tax deducted thereon constitutes minimum tax liability. The taxpayer (cricketer), however, continues to declare services receipts under the presumptive tax regime.
It is worth mentioning that the directorate has conducted tax analysis of prominent Pakistanis including public office holders, Parliamentarians, generals, famous players, feudal lords/Waderas/Sardars, religious leaders, senior bureaucrats, judges, real estate tycoons and brokers, etc, to check their tax status, tax payments and verify their actual sources of income and expenditures under the national drive of documentation of economy.
For the first time, the directorate of intelligence IR has carried out a “Prominent Pakistanis-Tax Analysis” and dispatched information about certain Parliamentarians and top cricket players to the field formations to verify their concealment of taxes and actual source of income. These are prominent Pakistanis of our society and known as heroes of Pakistan. However, their contribution of taxes would be checked through the ongoing exercise of the “Prominent Pakistanis-Tax Analysis”.
The directorate of intelligence IR is conducting tax analysis of various categories of prominent Pakistanis including public office holders and politicians – bureaucrats, generals, parliamentarians, judges, media persons, artists, models, singers, anchorpersons, fashion designers, production houses, TV channels, media tycoons, advertisement agencies, owners of media groups, players (cricket, hockey, squash, golf, tennis, etc), professionals, architects, doctors, chartered accountants, consultants, bankers, stock exchange and other brokers etc, academicians, literary figures and private school owners, prominent social figures, philanthropists and NPO/NGO organisers, religious scholars, Ulemas, Pirs and leaders etc, real estate tycoons and property dealers, hoteliers, caterers, hall/lawn owners, etc, and feudal lords, Waderas, Sardars etc.