In June, Pakistan imposed a tax on travelers who bring even a single mobile phone into the country. However, that could be about to change. The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication recommended suspension of that order. The committee also wants to allow two duty-free mobile phones to be imported per year as part of the nation’s baggage rules.
Pakistani officials debate tax on imports
According to the Business Recorder, Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) ordered the tax to be imposed on even a single mobile phone being imported into the country. However, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) told the FBR that the tax on mobile phone imports has negatively affected growth in the IT sector. The agency also said the tax has had a negative impact on the government’s digital agenda.
The secretary of the MoITT called for the chairman of the FBR to meet with the committee about the issue. The FBR gave a briefing on why the customs duty exemption on one imported phone per year under the personal baggage rules was withdrawn. A Pakistan Air Force official also explained why imposing duties on all mobile phone imports was causing problems. Defense officials with phones used for government purposes have been told to register, but they cannot, which has caused problems.
Imports of two duty-free mobile phones may be allowed
An FBR official said they removed the exemption on one mobile phone because they felt it was being misused. Passengers who were arriving from overseas were having their data stolen, and their passport numbers and flight information were being entered into the Mobile Device Registration Software to illegally claim exemption under the rules. The government also wanted to impose a tax on mobile phones both imported and purchased in Pakistan.
MoITT officials called for a review of the policy for mobile phone imports as debate over the issue goes back and forth. The Senate committee is in favor of allowing travelers to import two duty-free mobile phones per year. That’s a decline from the five mobile phones that were once allowed to be imported without tax, but it would be an improvement from the current situation. At this point, the issue remains under debate, but it does look like progress is being made.