Business unusual.

'CAMOUFLAGE' is defined as the disguising of a military's personnel, equipment and installations by painting or covering them to make them blend in with their surroundings. In Pakistan, the involvement of the security establishment in politics and commercial activities can be termed as a variant of this term - in a perceptual rather than a physical sense.

For instance, its presence is evident in the real estate business, eg, the DHAs. FWO, Fauji Foundation and similar entities are used for commercial activities, ranging from construction to food.

A recent judgement of the Islamabad High Court in the Margalla Hills case stated: 'The Pakistan Army has no power nor jurisdiction to, directly or indirectly, engage in business ventures of any nature outside its composition, nor to claim the ownership of state land.' It is often felt though that association with the establishment in some way is the only viable option to carry out large business activity.

However, the purpose of this article is not to explore those ventures as there are already books on the subject. The purpose here is to encourage wealth generation by truly providing ease of business to non-privileged enterprises as well. While mega businesses that have the patronage of powerful quarters get tax breaks, ordinary entrepreneurs are grilled and harassed by the FBR endlessly. It is a general perception among small- to medium-sized enterprises - especially family-managed businesses - that by filing a genuine tax return one is very likely to have signed away one's peace of mind. Perhaps, this valid perception of taxpayers has resulted in the drastic fall in the number of tax returns filed this year.

Tax officials are oblivious to the ground realities.

If there is a small- to medium sized business operating without filing tax returns, then FBR officials will have to work very hard - which they despise - to create a tax liability against it. But for a business that files tax returns, all they have to do is issue a show-cause notice asking for details like account statements, ledgers, CNIC of contractual labourers, even if they worked for the business long ago, details of expenses made years ago and receipts of even petty expenses. Obviously, no small- to medium-sized enterprise has such data unless they focus solely on maintaining these details rather than their core business. This leaves them at the mercy of tax officials, who can pass an order terming any amount as tax liability, thus...

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