SAARC Conference, 2014, Lahore
A year ago, the Federal Board of Revenue of Pakistan and the SAARC Secretariat decided to hold a conference on “Exchange of Information (EOI) / Large Taxpayer Units”, to look into the need and scope of Regional Cooperation in Pecuniary and Tax Matters. As also to work out legal and operational means to increase cooperation and exchange of information in the Region, in the realm of Taxation.
The Conference was finally held in Lahore, at the Directorate General of Training and Research, Inland Revenue, (DOT) from 7 to 11 April 2014 in which eighteen delegates from all seven countries of SAARC, and five from the host country, participated.
The Inauguration ceremony was held in the morning on 7th April, which was a well-attended function, with the Chairman FBR as the Chief Guest. The Director General, DOT and the Chief Guest addressed the gathering. The Chairman in his Address, talked about the importance of taxation in an age of increasing cross-border movements of capital. This was followed by a round of introductions of all the delegates. After introduction of the delegates of each country, their National Anthem was played.
On the First Day, three Academic sessions on the “Framework for Exchange of Information (EOI) in International Taxation Treaties”, were held, for which the Resource Person was Mr. Ahmad Khan. The three sessions, ending at five in the evening, gave a broad brush idea to the delegates, all at varying levels of understanding, of the issues at hand.
In the evening the delegates were taken to the Village Restaurant, where the, Vice President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Iftikhar Malik, had hosted a dinner in their honor. They were served an astounding variety of the local cuisine; the live music by traditional singers enthralled the foreign delegates.
On the Second Day the session revolved around “Mechanisms for Handling EOI with special emphasis on the three categories of: Information on request, Spontaneous exchange of Information and Automatic Exchange of information.” The Resource Person for this session was Dr. Tariq Masood, CIR, Karachi who stressed, in his engaging session that in a Globalized economy, cooperation between tax administrations was critical in the fight against tax evasion and the key aspect of that cooperation was exchange of information leading to tax transparency.
The Second Session, “Taxation in South Asian Countries”, was a Key note Address by Dr. Ishrat Hussain, former Governor of Pakistan's Central Bank, giving a holistic picture of the state of taxation in South Asia.
The third Academic session was on the “Need for EOI within SAARC Countries”. The resource person was Dr. Hamid Ateeq, CIR, Large Tax Payers Unit, Lahore. The Session was meant to, and succeeded, in sensitizing the delegates, with a telling quality, about the need for more cooperation and flow of information within the SAARC countries, for mutual benefit.
In the evening the delegates were taken to the Mall of Lahore for a shopping trip, followed by a dinner, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Bukhara Restaurant of Pearl Continental Hotel.
On the third day the Delegates visited the Large Taxpayer Unit, as guests of the Chief Commissioner LTU, Mr. Mustafa Ashraf. They were briefed by Dr. Hamid Ateeq about the “Structure of FBR and Working of LTUs, with special emphasis on Monitoring & Enforcement of Inland Revenues of Multi-National Companies (MNCs) and exchange of relevant information”. The briefing was followed by a sumptuous lunch and award of shields to the delegates by the Chief Commissioner.
In the afternoon of the same day, a visit of the historical places and Walled City of Lahore had been planned, ending with a traditional food dinner at the exotic Haveli Restaurant, overlooking the grand Badshahi Mosque.
On the Third day, the first two sessions were about the “Exchange of Information (EOI) at International level and New Horizons”, for which the Resource Person was Mr. Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief International Taxes FBR. The interactive sessions deftly delineated the Shift from Bilateralism to Multilateralism and stressed that tax evasion was a Global problem needing a Global solution.
In the concluding session of the day, Country reports were presented by the delegates, on the “Existing Mechanism of EOI & Way Forward for more Avenues of Cooperation within SAARC Countries”. The session was moderated by Dr Tariq Masood and Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed. It concluded with drafting of a conference Resolution/ recommendations.
On the eve of the last day, a SAARC Cultural Night was organized at DOT. There was a traditional dinner in the lawns, which were lit up and tastefully decorated. A slide show displaying exotic pictures from the South Asian countries was run on the projector screen. The dinner was followed by music and cultural program in the Auditorium in which many of the delegates, all attired in their native, traditional dresses, sang songs and some even danced to the tune of folk songs.
The closing ceremony was held on the morning of 11th April. It was presided over by the Member Administration, FBR, Mr. Shahid Jatoi. Address by the DG, DOT, was followed by the Conference Resolution. Certificates, shields and souvenirs, were given away and there was a round of vote of thanks by the Delegates before the formal closing remarks by the Chief Guest, who applauded the efforts of the DG DOT.