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Banks want sensitive data protected
ATTOCK: The banking sector has called on the income tax authorities to protect its sensitive data submitted through electronic means.

The Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) has made it mandatory for the banks to file income tax returns and statements in respect of withholding tax through electronic means with effect from July 1 this year. The e-filing of income tax returns is due in September.

Sources said the banks called that policy of the FBR contrary to the stated objective of facilitating the taxpayers. The FBR, the banks were of the view, ignored the fact that there was still a large number of branches of the banks which had not been computerised, especially those operating in remote areas of the country.

The banks said in Pakistan the electronic data protection laws concerning cyber crimes were still pending at the implementation stage. They said the FBR had not realised that the submission of clients and account holders’ data through electronic means, without proper protection, could be mis-utilised and might give rise to breach of contract between the parties.

The banks have even challenged the legal authority of the FBR to issue rules for e-filing of returns, saying Rule 73-2A was in conflict with Section 114-2 and 2A of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 which allowed the taxpayers to e-file returns as an additional facility and for their ease and convenience. However, the FBR has made mandatory the e-filing of returns. The FBR, in fact, transgressed its powers as no rule could be made which was repugnant to law, they said.

The banks argued that the FBR had not so far officially communicated the system of verification of digital signatures and registration of every withholding agent (branch of the bank) through login-password at its official website.

They further said before enforcing the e-filing of returns, the FBR must ensure:

The system of obtaining electronic signatures under the relevant law properly works.

The data transferred electronically cannot be altered by any authority.

The security mechanism for use and storage of electronic data is made public.

The data provided is protected from any possibility of unlawful and unauthorised dissemination or leakage.

A secured user login facility at its website is provided to all the companies. The company may be allowed to send withholding statements in the form of data using secured Internet connection by e-mail or uploading through file transfer protocol mode.

24-08-2007 08:17 Azhar Mahmood
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Last update on 28-12-2008 12:17
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