PESHAWAR: The excise and taxation department on Thursday sealed six plazas in Karkhano area on the provincial capital’s outskirts over non-payment of the urban immovable property tax by their owners.
These plazas have around 1,600 shops mostly dealing in electric appliances, cloth, cosmetics and cutlery.
Excise and Taxation Officer-III Peshawar Mohammad Kalimullah told Dawn that owners of the sealed plazas didn’t pay the UIP tax despite the issuance of repeated notices.
He said after the closure of the plazas, other traders also closed shops in protest.
The ETO however said the plazas would be unsealed only after their owners paid the due tax.
He said the UIP tax to be paid by the Karkhano Market traders since 2003 totaled over Rs80 million.
ETO says shopping centres won’t open until dues paid
Mr. Kalim said after the closure of plazas, the officials held talks with owners and traders for around three hours but there was no headway on the tax payment.
He said the department couldn’t seal the entire Karkhano Market in a day as it could create a law and order situation as the number of the people doing business in the area runs into thousands.
When contacted, the excise department’s director general, Nasser Yousaf, said there were about 35 owners of these markets, who were using shopkeepers as shields to avoid paying their due tax.
He said the government won’t allow a bunch of handful of the people to get away with due tax.
Mr. Yousaf said the area, where the market was located, fell in the urban limits of the provincial capital and that it was not a tribal area.
He said the people insisted that former excise and taxation minister Liaquat Shabab had promised that they would not have to pay UIP tax as the government would change the tax category.
The DG said it was the provincial assembly’s prerogative to make such a move and that not a single person or department could do so on their own.
He said plaza owners used various tactics to evade tax and that the things demanded by them fell in the assembly’s domain.
Mr. Yousaf said the department collected tax from some people in the vicinity under a provision which empowered the department to collect taxes from tenants in case the owner didn’t pay due tax.
“Under that provision, we have collected the UIP tax from the branches of commercial banks operating in some Karkhano Market plazas,” he said.
The DG said the government couldn’t function if the people didn’t pay tax.
Some consider the Karkhano Market located close to the border of Jamrud tehsil in Khyber Agency the hub of smuggled goods.
It is popular with shoppers from as far as Punjab and other parts of the country.
Since the opening of the market in 1985, the plazas there have seen a mushroom growth. Around 6,000 people do business there.
Earlier, the excise and taxation department has issued newspaper advertisement asking traders to pay UIP tax to prevent strict action.
Despite Karkhano being a settled area, plaza owners, mostly from Khyber Agency, are not into paying taxes claiming they’re tribesmen.