Image Source: business recorder

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has said the government will now impose a tax of Rs0.75 on mobile phone calls lasting longer than five minutes. This comes as a surprise to millions of Pakistanis who thought that the government’s ambitious plans to heavily tax mobile users in the new budget was put aside after the public outburst.

As per the Finance Minister’s speech at the National Assembly today, the earlier discussion to implement taxes on calls, data usage, and SMS was taken back. But, he mentioned that the government has decided to tax consumers on calls longer than 5 mins.

This is a concerning development because subscribers are already paying 33 paisas on a minute-long call. Meaning every 5-minute call costs about Rs 1.65. Add to this the new Rs 0.75 tax and the already existing WHT and GST, the subscriber will be paying around 80% in taxes on a 5-minute long call.

“Unacceptable development. No wonder everyone uses WhatsApp to make calls now. The government needs to realize that this tax will only overburden the poor who cannot afford smartphones or internet at their homes,” says Ramsha, a resident of Karachi.

Taking to social media, a lot of consumers are citing their concern about this decision.

During the draft bill announcement, the proposal to tax data, mobile calls, and SMS had drawn the public’s ire, with users storming social media with criticism of the government. Many had even tagged the prime minister in their tweets saying that the “budget killed digital Pakistan initiative of the PM.”

This widespread criticism had also led to Energy Minister Hammad Azhar denying that additional duties had been imposed on telecom and data usage.

This time too, it seems the government has angered the public with its announcement. Will we see another U-TURN?