In the year 2000, the then Government established a new institution in Pakistan to redress the grievances of taxpayers in the shape of Federal Tax Ombudsman constituted under the Establishment of the Office of Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000.
The institution of Federal Tax Ombudsman is created to tackle the issues of maladministration on the part of the officials of the tax departments. This institution has disposed of number of complaints since its establishment, and has enabled improved working of the tax administration.
The FTO has brought considerable relief to businesses during the past years. Businessmen have now found a level of comfort, non-existent in the past, which allows them to confidently and fearlessly make investment decisions in the knowledge that an environment exists where they can expect equity, fair play and justice without recourse to the arduous procedures of Courts and Tribunals.
Jurisdiction of Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), (Wafaqi Mohtasib)
Under the Law, the following can make complaints and / or initiate cases and send the same to FTO:
- Aggrieved Person
- Reference by President of Pakistan
- Reference by Senate and National Assembly
- Motion by High Court and Supreme Court
- Federal Tax Ombudsman can also initiate adjudication proceeding on its own, if any maladministration comes to his knowledge by any means.
The Federal Tax Ombudsman shall not have any jurisdiction to investigate or inquire into matters which;
- Are pending before a Court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal or board or authority on the date of the receipt of a complaint, reference or motion by it.
- Relate to assessment of income or wealth, determination of liability of tax or duty, classification or valuation of goods, interpretation of law, rules and regulations relating to such assessment, determination, classification or valuation in respect of which legal remedies of appeal, review or revision are available under the Relevant Legislation.
- Relate to external affairs, defence matters and service matters.
Under the Establishment of the Office of Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000, maladministration includes a decision, process, recommendation, act of omission or commission which;
- Is contrary to law, rules or regulations or is a departure from established practice or procedure, unless it is bona fide and for valid reasons
- Is perverse, arbitrary or unreasonable, unjust, biased, oppressive, or discriminatory
- Is based on irrelevant grounds
- Involves the exercise of powers, or the failure or refusal to do so, for corrupt or improper motives, such as bribery, jobbery, favoritism, nepotism and administrative excesses
- Neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, inefficiency and ineptitude, in the administration or discharge of duties and responsibilities
Repeated notices, unnecessary attendance or prolonged hearings while deciding cases involving:
- assessment of income or wealth
- determination of liability of tax or duty
- classification or valuation of goods
- settlement of claims of refund, rebate or duty drawback
- determination of fiscal and tax concessions or exemptions
- Willful errors in the determination of refunds, rebates or duty drawbacks
- Deliberate withholding or non-payment or refunds, rebates or duty drawbacks already determined by the competent authority
- Coercive methods of tax recovery in cases where default in payment of tax or duty is not apparent from record
- Avoidance of disciplinary action against an officer or official whose order of assessment or valuation is held by a competent appellate authority to be vindictive, capricious, biased or patently illegal
Procedure for Filing Complaints Federal Tax Ombudsman (Wafaqi Mohtasib)
A complaint shall be made in writing or the prescribed form and shall be addressed to the Federal Tax Ombudsman by the person aggrieved or, in the case of his death, by his legal representative. The complaint may be filed in person at the office or handed over to the Federal Tax Ombudsman in person or sent by any other means of communication to the Office. The Federal Tax Ombudsman shall not entertain the complaints without any name(s) or bearing fake / false identities of complainants.
Following documents should accompany the complaint:
- Three copies of detailed Complaint
- National Identity Card
- Affidavit on Rs.100 stamp paper (duly attested by the Oath Commissioner). An online complaint system is also available at the federal tax ombudsman website which may be accessed at www.fto.gov.pk
Time Limit for Lodging Complaints
A complaint shall be made not later than six months from the day on which the person aggrieved first had the notice of the matter alleged in the complaint, however the Federal Tax Ombudsman may conduct any investigation pursuant to a complaint which is not within time if he considers that there are special circumstances which he deems proper in the interest of justice to entertain the complaint.
Investigation and Evidence
- For investigation in the matter the Federal Tax Ombudsman shall issue notice to Secretary of Revenue Division and to the person who is alleged in the complaint to reply the allegations made by the complainant.
- Every investigation shall be conducted in private, but the Federal Tax Ombudsman may adopt such procedure as he considers appropriate for such investigation and he may obtain information from such persons and in such manner and make such inquiries as he thinks fit.
- A person shall be entitled to appear in person or be represented before, the Federal Tax Ombudsman.
- For the purposes of an investigation under this Ordinance, the Federal Tax Ombudsman may require any Tax Employee to furnish any information or to produce any document which in the opinion of the Federal Tax Ombudsman is relevant and helpful in the conduct of the investigation and there shall be no obligation to maintain secrecy in respect of disclosure of any information or document for the purposes of such investigation.
- In any case where the Federal Tax Ombudsman decides not to conduct an investigation, he shall send to the complainant as tatement of his reasons for not conducting the investigation.
Recommendations for Implementation
- If the Federal Tax Ombudsman is of opinion that the matter considered amounts to maladministration, he shall communicate his finding with a recommendation to the Revenue Division within a period of sixty days from the date of receipt of the complaint, reference or motion, as the case may be.
- The Revenue Division shall, within such time as may be specified by the Federal Tax Ombudsman, inform him about the action taken on his recommendations or the reasons for, not complying with the same.
- If, after conducting an investigation, it appears to the Federal Tax Ombudsman that an injustice has been caused to the person aggrieved in consequence of the maladministration and that the injustice has not been or will not be remedied, he may, if he thinks fit, lay a special report on the case before the President.
- If the Revenue Division or Tax Employee does not comply with the recommendations of the Federal Tax Ombudsman or does not give reasons to the satisfaction of the Federal Tax Ombudsman for non-compliance, it shall be treated as “Defiance of Recommendations” and shall be referred to the President who may, in his discretion, direct the Revenue Division to implement the recommendation and inform the Federal Tax Ombudsman accordingly.
Consequences for Defiance of Recommendations
It shall be the duty of the Revenue Division and the Tax Employee to implement the finding of Federal Tax Ombudsman within thirty days of such decision being communicated to the concerned Tax Employee. In each instance of “Defiance of Recommendations”, a report by the Federal Tax Ombudsman shall become a part of the personal file or character roll of the Tax Employee primarily responsible for the defiance and such Tax Employee shall be liable for contempt. The Federal Tax Ombudsman has the same powers as the Supreme Court, has to punish any person for its contempt, by virtue of the Establishment of the Office of the Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000.