Pakistan's new tax chief promises to name and shame

Ali Arshad Hakeem has declared war on some of Pakistan's worst offenders. And they are not the Islamist militants blamed for so many of the country's woes.

Pakistan's new tax chief is determined to force a jet-setting elite to pay their fair share, challenging an unspoken consensus among politicians and businessman that writing cheques to the government is strictly optional.

Less than 1 percent of Pakistan's 180 million citizens pay income tax and no one is believed to have been prosecuted for tax evasion in 25 years, to the dismay of Western allies who have contributed billions of dollars in aid.

We will name and shame, said Hakeem, in his office which overlooks mansions with security guards that belong to members of the privileged class he has vowed to target.

FREEZING ASSETS

Hakeem, 49, believes he can inculcate a greater sense of responsibility in the top layer of society through a carrot and stick approach.

To instill a frisson of fear in the biggest dodgers, he is threatening to freeze assets and ban them from travel.

But he is also about to offer a 10-week amnesty that forgives past offenses and only places a small tax burden in the first two years of those who choose to accept.

The scheme is the best Hakeem can come up with given the government's failure to muster the political will to implement key economic reforms, including widening the tax base.

Pakistan's Western allies say boosting revenues to forge a more meaningful social contract between the government and its people is just as critical for stability as military campaigns against insurgents.

To tempt them into the programme, tax cheats will only need to pay a flat fee of around 40,000 rupees ($400) for any amount of income they bring in over the next year. The following year, they will have to pay $40 more in taxes.

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