Public fights back new taxation on mobile phone services proposed earlier in June are responded with a hashtag #TelecomTaxNaManzoor. The Minister for Finance, Shaukat Tareen, announced that a 75 Paisas tax will be charged on mobile calls that are longer than five minutes, kindled another public outrage and a demand to revoke this taxation, during the Budget speech 2021-2022. The tax declaration was infuriating to millions of Pakistanis who thought that the government’s ambitious plans to heavily tax mobile users in the new budget are highly unjust.
The federal tax on mobile phone calls more than three minutes at Rs.1 per call, SMS messages at Rs.0.1 per SMS, and internet data usage at Rs.5 per GB was being proposed earlier in June in order to get reasonable revenue from this sector. The Minister for Energy, Hammad Azhar, after the severe criticism, assured that the duty will not be included in the final document of the Finance Bill that has been put before the Parliament for approval.
The netizens are raising their voices against the increased duty and have taken the social media by storm. Most of them are highlighting the fact that this burden telecom of taxes will severely effect the poorest segment like the daily wage laborers, who are solely dependent on the phone calls in order to stay connected with their families and don’t have access to alternative methods of connectivity like WhatsApp.
In Pakistan, for many years the telecom subscribers and users have been the victim of very unpleasant and rough taxation plans. A vast majority of Pakistanis use mobile phones and most of the users don not have a stable source of income or have no taxable earnings. People below taxable thresholds, sometimes eligible for cash assistance and welfare support programs, are subject to indirect taxes. Furthermore, this vast majority has no mechanism to claim back these taxes.
A strong objection and revolt against the proposed taxes might force the government to take back its decision, like it did the last time and that is what the public hopes for. By strongly opposing the taxes, the netizens are trying to bring its inevitable repercussions to the government’s attention, that as mobile connectivity becomes more expensive an unavoidable shift towards third-party phone call applications like Facebook and WhatsApp will happen. This shift will benefit those companies which are not being taxed in Pakistan thus placing financial burdens over local service providers and impeding economic growth in the country.