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HomeBusinessEconomyTelecom firms seek intervention over FBR's SIM deactivation directive

Telecom firms seek intervention over FBR’s SIM deactivation directive

Telecom companies have urged the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to step in and protect both the telecom sector and its users in response to the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) directive to deactivate mobile SIMs of individuals who are not tax filers.

In a communication addressed to the IT ministry and PTA, telecom firms have asserted that the directive issued by the FBR is unlawful and beyond the authority granted by the Constitution of Pakistan and the Telecom Act.

Telcos emphasized that the swift enforcement of the Income Tax General Order (ITGO) would have a detrimental effect on customers. It could severely hinder their access to essential services, which have been recognized as a fundamental right to life by various superior court judgments. Furthermore, the letter highlighted that the order undermines the rights of telecom operators and their operational capabilities, particularly those who are fully compliant with tax obligations. The letter advocated for a direct approach to penalizing delinquent individuals rather than involving and adversely impacting the entire telecom industry. CMOs reiterated their commitment to providing uninterrupted services to customers, citing the absence of any legal mandate in the Telecom Act, PTA regulations, or license conditions requiring telecom operators to disconnect or block services due to a customer’s failure to file tax returns within the FBR’s specified timeframe.

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The letter highlighted the potential legal repercussions for telecom operators if they adhere to the order, as affected individuals listed in the ITGO may pursue litigation against them. Additionally, telecom operators have urged for inclusive consultations involving all stakeholders to devise a solution that balances the government’s revenue interests with the commercial concerns of the telecom industry.

Regarding the FBR’s order, last week, the Federal Board of Revenue issued an Income Tax General Order (ITGO) aimed at deactivating the mobile phone SIMs of over 0.5 million individuals who are not currently on the active taxpayer list but are required to file Income Tax Returns for the Tax Year 2023.

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