Pakistan has a lower-than-average tax take, International Development Committee reports. Experts’ opinion, if taken into consideration, holds the poor tax take the main reason of Pakistan’s fiscal deficit. As the economic crisis is deteriorating with every passing day, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) initiation of a massive drive for the recovery of taxes from prominent and influential tax evaders is welcome. Such a step from FBR was a much-needed one.

It is clear that increasing revenue is the flip side of budgetary cuts to any austerity plan. Either cuts or just increasing tax net will not solve the financial crisis that Pakistan is in on their own. It is not to suggest that any of these measures are wrong. However, it is also true that only a combination of these two can support the dwindling treasure of the state.

However, the government will face the opposition of some industries, especially the automobile sector that was instrumental in relaxing the restrictions on the purchase of new vehicles for non-filers. The government must remain firm and reject calls of reconsideration by such sectors to give a pass to non-filers. As far as the widening of the tax net is concerned, the government should not buy the argument of such industries for the thick amounts of taxes that they pay to the state.

Nonetheless, while the drive is commendable, it is important to recall that the Pakistani government is known for adopting ad hoc solutions for the crisis it faces now and then. The drive to broaden tax net should not be to only serve Pakistan in the generation of funds in the short term. Preferably, the aim of the government through this drive should be to make the tax net sustainable, permanent, stronger and broader.

Also, the government’s drive should not be propaganda or a political stunt. If the drive catches a few prominent and wealthy evaders, then the drive will have a minimal impact. Reforms to broaden the tax net should be comprehensive and innovative that can generate revenue for the state not only in short but also in the long run.

What this editorial suggests is that Imran Khan and his economic team need to come up with a clear economic policy. Lack of economic clarity was evident in the supplementary budget that the incumbent government introduced. Two days ago, a team of International Monetary Fund (IMF) also thought of government’s steps inadequate to address the scale of the fiscal adjustments. The FBR and finance ministry should be looking to bring structural changes in the state’s tax collection regime that extends to all citizens.