ISLAMABAD - Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) yesterday asked all banks in the country to collect details of Benami accounts of their account holders.

FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi, through a letter written to heads of all banks of the country, has recalled the earlier meeting held with chief financial officers of all banks wherein it was agreed that all banks will internally make an exercise seeking information from their account holders about ‘mandated’ or ‘benami accounts’ within their system. The FBR chairman hoped that requisite steps would have been taken by the banks to gather such information.

He asked banks to collect details of Benami accounts from their account holders under Benamai Act 2017.

“The FBR does not want to establish direct contact with account holders to maintain people’s confidence in FBR,” he added. He assured that FBR would keep information received under Benami accounts as confidential. Under the Benami Act 2017, the FBR is responsible for identifying the Benami accounts. However, the FBR and banks should work together to achieve better results, he explained.

Zaidi requested all bank heads to provide information to the FBR relating to Benami accounts within a fortnight. “Cooperation of banks is essential for identifying Benami accounts,” he added. In his letter, the FBR chairman stated that the best approach in this regard was mutual cooperation, voluntary compliance and close coordination between banks and the FBR.

The incumbent government in March this year had notified rules to apply Benami law, which was legislated in the year 2017. As per the act, Benami property has been defined as: moveable or immovable, tangible or intangible, corporeal or incorporeal, and right or interest. The term Benami refers to practice of holding property/assets in the name of one person for the benefit of another. However, Benami is often aimed at concealing ownership of assets acquired through illegal means, defrauding creditors, and/or evading payments of government fees, charges or taxes. The benamidar would be liable to 1-7 years imprisonment, besides confiscation of Benami property.

Later, the government had announced in May 2019 a tax amnesty scheme called as ‘Assets Deceleration Scheme 2019’ to give an opportunity to people to legalise their hidden assets by paying nominal tax. The scheme helped around 135,000 people to disclose their assets. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had generate Rs70 billion with the current scheme.  “The FBR had given an opportunity to the people to disclose their hidden assets under Assets Deceleration Scheme 2019. Now, the FBR will start taking action against those who have not declared their Benmai accounts,” said an official of the FBR.