National Assembly passes Finance Bill
The adoption of the 152-page Finance Bill with several amendments after a nine-day debate marked the formal passage of the two-trillion-rupee budget for the fiscal year 2008-09, which was unveiled on June 11.
The federal minister for finance, Naveed Qamar said 51 of the 76 non-mandatory proposals formulated by the upper house in its own debate in the past week had been accepted in the final document as the house took up the Finance Bill. The remaining 15 proposals will be considered during the course of the year.
Although the vote on other clauses of the Finance Bill and amendments proceeded quickly as a mere formality, the clause for increasing the number of Supreme Court judges to up to 29 from 16 was marked by a brief row, with the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML) abstaining in protest against the use of a money bill to amend an act of parliament and one member from a ruling coalition party calling the move a “mockery” of the Constitution.
Opposition to the bill`s controversial clause was also voiced during the Senate debate on the budget, with the critics including PPP`s Raza Rabbani, who represents Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as leader of the house there.
Major Amendments made in the Finance Bill
Definition of cottage industry has been amended to provide that those manufactures shall fall within the purview of cottage industry whose annual utility bill is below seven lakh rupees and annual turnover is below five million rupees. Also, supplies of cottage industry are exempt from payment of sales tax.
Exemption from payment of sales tax has also been granted by amending Sixth Schedule of Sales Tax Act, 1990, to hospitals owned by federal or provincial government, hospitals of statutory teaching universities having two hundred or more beds and charitable hospitals having fifty or more beds.
The services of property developers and promoters have been subjected to federal excise duty by amendment in First Schedule. The development of plots shall be subject to federal excise duty (FED) at 100 rupees per-square-yard and construction of residential and commercial units shall be subject to FED at 50 rupees per-square-foot of covered area.
A proposal was also included whereby the limit of donation to charitable institutions, educational intuitions and hospitals was reduced from 30 per cent and 10 per cent of the taxable income in respect of individuals and companies.
One time collection of Withholding Tax (WHT) on purchase of new cars has been reduced substantially. Further, WHT on import of cotton lint, cotton yarn and fabrics will be subjected to one per cent WHT. The anomaly has been removed by bringing it at par with five zero-rated sectors in Sales Tax.
Several other changes of editorial nature have also been made on the basis of parliamentary discussions on the Bill.