In a highly anticipated development, the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has projected a substantial increase in the number of tax return filers, surpassing the 4.2 million mark, following the implementation of the “green channel mode” tailored for salaried individuals and pensioners.

Addressing a press conference held at the FTO Secretariat on Tuesday, FTO Advisor Legal Almas Jovindah affirmed the FTO’s commitment to ensuring that the new income tax return form receives official notification within a swift 30-day timeframe. This commitment is underscored by ongoing efforts to collaborate closely with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to streamline the process for salaried individuals and pensioners. A consensus has been successfully reached between the FTO office and the FBR to provide essential facilitation for these groups.

In response to a query, Jovindah stated unequivocally, “We are vigilant, and in the event of any non-compliance, the FTO possesses the authority to take action against the FBR.”

Furthermore, it has been disclosed that the FBR acknowledges no legal impediments to the introduction of a dedicated return form for salaried individuals and pensioners.

Accompanied by Muhammad Naseer Butt, FTO Senior Advisor (Income Tax), and Majid Qureshi, FTO Registrar, Jovindah highlighted a significant disparity in the existing return form. Specifically, when a salaried individual initiates the return process via the online “IRIS” system, an overwhelming 34 different columns and tabs are presented, with only four pertinent to salaried individuals. Consequently, 30 tabs and columns within the return are deemed irrelevant for this demographic.

Of the 4.2 million taxpayers on the Active Taxpayer List, a substantial portion falls under the fixed income group, encompassing both salaried workers and pensioners (totaling 1.4 million taxpayers).

Salaried individuals are burdened with navigating through numerous superfluous fields when completing their returns. Additionally, the purportedly simplified form, introduced through a software wizard, remains inscrutable to ordinary individuals who lack familiarity with tax jargon and computer literacy. Jovindah asserted that within this “Wizard” interface, a staggering 66 tabs/columns are available, with only 10 being applicable to salaried individuals and pensioners.

In response to these challenges, the FTO has directed the Member (Policy) and Member (Information & Technology) to craft a new, dedicated return form and establish a separate online window within “IRIS” exclusively for salaried taxpayers. This initiative aims to offer a streamlined and comprehensible return process tailored to their specific sources of income.

Muhammad Naseer Butt, FTO Senior Advisor (Income Tax), informed the media that the current return form poses extraneous queries to salaried individuals and pensioners, such as their “Resident” or non-resident status. He proposed opening a separate “IRIS” window that asks only pertinent questions to the salaried class.

Majid Qureshi, FTO Advisor/Registrar, underscored that a surge in tax return filers is expected following the launch of the new return form.

This information was conveyed to the FTO by the FBR during an independent inquiry into technical gaps and systemic errors in the FBR’s registration processes.

During the course of these investigations, it became evident that the Iris system frequently failed to respond to taxpayer inquiries.

To rectify this issue, the FTO has mandated the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to deploy a dedicated team of professionals tasked with continuous monitoring of traffic on the registration system to prevent systemic errors and bottlenecks, Majid Qureshi added.