LAHORE: Punjab’s agriculture income tax (AIT) collection fell short by 33 per cent, or Rs750 million, in the outgoing fiscal year, apparently because of increasing number of court stay orders against the levy.

The Punjab Board of Revenue (BoR) collected Rs1.55 billion against the target of Rs2.3bn during 2015-16. The target for 2016-17 has again been set at Rs2.3bn.

However, the collection was 51pc higher than Rs1.028bn collected in 2014-15.

The agriculture income tax, which went effective in its new form on July 1, 2015, was challenged by a number of land holders in the last fiscal year on the ground that they were already paying different taxes, such as income tax, abyana, malia and other indirect taxes. They also said that the government had not consulted them before imposing AIT.

The tax is payable by farmers having 25 acres of irrigated land (equivalent to 50 acres of un-irrigated land) and they are required to submit their tax returns under the amendments introduced in AIT Act 1997 in 2001.

A farmer belonging to the Sahiwal district, who declined to be named, told Dawn that he received AIT challan of Rs7,500 for 2014-15 a few months ago but did not pay it after hearing that the tax was in litigation. “The tax is unjustifiable as income from agriculture has already dropped. We are facing the wrath of high input costs,” he groaned.

He said different agriculture associations have already taken up the matter of double taxation with the relevant government departments.

Even many land owners who fell in the ambit of AIT have yet to declare their agriculture income in their returns submitted to the Federal Board of Revenue.

BoR Member Tax Asad Islam Mahni rejected that the tax in question was leading to dual taxation. “The department has been collecting AIT from around a million farmers throughout the province since 1997.”

He said that more than a thousand farmers might have got stay orders from courts, but the BoR has already got relief from the superior court in AIT’s favour.

However, he acknowledged that some leakages in the tax administration were also hampering better tax collection, adding that setting up of a Management Information System was under consideration to enlist all land owners with the help of the World Bank.

The official said BoR was already using the data of Land Record Management Information System to collect AIT from deserving land owners.