TV celebrities under-declare assets, file no tax returns
By: Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD: The television industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years but few of the entertainment stars are willing to share their good luck with the state by paying up the due tax.
This is evident from investigations carried out by the Federal Board of Revenue into the earnings made and taxes paid by some major actors, singers and producers who lead the entertainment industry. For instance, actor and producer Humayun Saeed earned Rs2.098 million in 2011. And at least 25 of his colleagues earned more than him.
The 26 stars were investigated by the revenue department because they either did not file tax returns or used some loopholes in the tax laws to under-declare their income and assets. Tax officials admit that some other people in the industry may have larger incomes but have escaped the sharp eyes of investigators because they are not in the tax loop at all. Like many other businesses, television and media celebrities always under-declare their assets but escape punishment because of FBR’s weaknesses.
The bureau prepared a report on some high-profile celebrities ostensibly to launch a crackdown. But after issuing the first notice to one of them, the FBR was ordered to stop the exercise. It says most tax evaders are guilty of not completing the paperwork; tax is usually deducted when they are paid but it is still mandatory for taxpayers to file their returns and wealth statements.
People earning more than Rs500,000 a year may be punished for not filing the returns. The penalty starts from Rs5,000 and can go as high as 25 per cent of the tax payable in a year. Tax officials can also force the guilty person to pay up the due tax.
These two steps are skipped by most people, including the celebrities. Most of them show higher expenditures than they actually incur which allows them to under-report their earnings and hence pay less because the tax is imposed on net income after deduction of expenditures.
Among the prominent media personalities who did not file tax returns in 2010 and 2011 are: Faisal Qureshi, Humayun Saeed, Nauman Ejaz, Savera Nadeem, singer Hadiqa Mehmood Kiyani and writer Umera Ahmed.
Ms Kiyani released more than four albums which were said to be quite successful. The first album was released in 1995 and the fifth in 2009. But no earnings from these albums were declared. An amount of Rs368,000 was deducted at source from her income in 2011 (about Rs36,000 per month) and Rs447,000 in 2010.
Actress Atiqa Odho paid Rs536,000 as tax in 2011 and Rs480,000 in 2010, which the FBR claims did not match the earnings she made from acting, advertisements and other sources.
The FBR report reveals that Nauman Ejaz, Faisal Qureshi, Aijaz Aslam, Angeline Malik and Nadia Husain each paid less than Rs60,000 as tax in 2010. Humayun Saeed paid almost the amount in 2011. Aijaz Aslam paid only Rs300 in 2011.
Humayun Saeed performed in at least 49 dramas and produced 13 while Nauman Ejaz acted in 26 dramas and three films in 2010. The FBR report says the two earned far more than the amount on which they paid tax.
Total tax deductions from the earnings of Savera Nadeem, Faisal Qureshi, Umera Ahmad and Nadia Husain were slightly more than Rs100,000 in 2011. Besides acting, Ms Nadeem does modelling, hosts TV shows and produces and directs dramas. In addition to acting and producing dramas, Faisal Qureshi jointly owns a clothing line — Aijaz and Faisal. Aijaz also owns a boutique, Ms Malik production house “Angelic Films” and Ms Husain signature lawn, a profitable business these days.
Tax return filers
Only seven celebrities filed “proper tax returns”, according to the FBR assessment for 2010 and 2011. They are: Adnan Siddiqui, singer Ali Zafar, Mehroz Karim Rind, Sohail Ahmad, Tayyaba Ali, Faiza Iftikhar and actor and producer Asif Raza Mir. But none of them filed their mandatory wealth statements.
Ali Zafar paid Rs2.601 million tax in 2011, about five per cent more than he had paid in 2010. But it should be noted that Ali found success in Bollywood in 2011. He starred in a hit film which was released in the summer of 2010. The following year, he starred in his second Bollywood film.
Tax officials have no record of the income of Asif Raza Mir, except for what he earned from his company A&B Drama Production House. With a 50 per cent share in the company, Mr Mir paid Rs6.987 million tax in 2011, a phenomenal increase over Rs776,000 he had paid in 2010.
Adnan Siddiqui’s tax profile showed a decline in earnings — Rs82,926 in 2011 and Rs106,669 in 2010. Famous novelist Faiza Iftikhar paid Rs366,000 tax in 2011 and only Rs99,000 in 2010.
Mehroz Karim Rind has 38 productions to his credit. He also owns MF Film and has worked for international media houses such as Sony Entertainment, India, and Prime TV, London. But the FBR record shows that he paid only Rs2.415 million in 2011 and Rs2.494 million in 2010.
Sohail Ahmad, a popular artists and comedian, is the star of Hasb-i-Hall, a popular current affairs programme. He paid Rs1.56 million tax in 2011 and Rs1.24 million in 2010.
Tayyaba Ali’s tax returns say she is in the business of washing and dry cleaning under the name of Media Gurus. She appears to be doing well because she paid Rs6.36 million tax in 2011 and Rs3.687 million in 2010. But the FBR record shows that Media Gurus is actually a marketing and advertising concern and that hers is “a clear case of concealment of actual income and under-declaration of income”.