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Overseas Pakistanis to pay tax on all their mobile phones

July 17, 2019
Overseas Pakistanis to pay tax on all their mobile phones

Photo: AFP


The Federal Board of Revenue has made a change in the personal baggage rules and as a result of that, overseas Pakistanis will now have to pay tax on every mobile phone they bring to the country.

Yes, you guessed that right. This is applicable even on your first or personal mobile phone, which was supposed to be exempt from Customs duties previously. The only exception is roaming. That is you don’t have to register your phone with the PTA nor pay any duty as long as you use your international SIM card and are on roaming. However, if you put local SIM into your mobile, you will have to register within 60 days.

The new rule, which came into effect on July 1, went largely unnoticed as only a small section of the press reported this development.

This change also explains why overseas Pakistanis, who had to pay tax after registering their first and only device with the PTA, have been expressing their frustration about this on social media. This is double taxation, they say, referring to their purchases on which they already pay taxes abroad.

Related: Customs to charge people for carrying extra mobile phones to Pakistan

Under the previous policy, overseas Pakistanis were allowed to bring one phone to Pakistan without paying any duties under the Personal Baggage Rule, but this exemption was removed following reports of misuse of the scheme. There were reports of people stealing passengers’ data to register imported phones so they could avoid paying taxes. This was happening at a large scale and was also reported by subscribers of SAMAA Digital on its social media pages.

To stop the misuse of this scheme, the government removed the exemption, a move that didn’t go down well with the overseas Pakistanis, who criticised it. Instead of stopping data theft, the government has deprived expats of this facility, they say.

The FBR couldn’t be reached for a comment, but an official familiar with the matter told SAMAA Digital that several arrests have been made in this regard in Karachi and Lahore. Immigration, travel agents and airlines all have passengers data. Who leaks data is difficult to find, he said. What items should be allowed under this scheme is the prerogative of the government, he added.

Overseas Pakistanis can still bring five phones per the calendar year, but now they have to pay duties on each.

By changing the rule, the government has closed another door for importers and traders of smuggled phones. The import of smuggled mobiles is in hundreds of thousands, which cost the government a lot as no taxes are paid on these mobile phones. All this at a time when the government is running a massive budget deficit (more than Rs3,000 billion) because of a low tax base– smuggled goods are one of the reasons for low tax revenue.

Related: Overseas Pakistanis must pay duty on extra mobile phones: Fawad Chaudhry

To deal with this, the PTA and the FBR warned traders and buyers that they would block all smuggled phones that weren’t registered by January 15. The government ran an awareness campaign for months, asking consumers already in possession of such phones to register their devices before the deadline. The PTA says it didn’t block their phones nor charge any tax. However, people owning any phones that were bought or switched on after this deadline were given two months to register and pay taxes and were blocked if they failed to comply.

Mass blocking of smuggled phones by the PTA led to panic among both traders and consumers. Traders started negotiations with the FBR but could not reach any agreement. Last week, traders of mobile phones went on a shutter down strike in protest.

On this issue, SAMAA Digital asked the traders to clarify some queries.

Disputed tax rates, who to believe?

The FBR chairperson wants tax worth Rs20,000 to be imposed on a device, traders, however, say they should be charged no more than Rs400. Here is one possible explanation for that: the FBR system generates tax payment receipt electronically by using your device’s international mobile equipment identity (IMEI). In case of a smuggled phone, the IMEI number can be fake or modified. For example, you may have bought a Rs4,000 phone but the IMEI number it carries is of Samsung Note 7. The system will generate tax receipt based on the IMEI number and assume it is Note 9 thus you may end up paying Rs40,000 or even higher tax on your handset.

Talking about this issue, Muhammad Rizwan, who is the president of Karachi Electronics Dealers Association, the body representing mobile phone traders on the discussion forum, said the government can block such IMEIs, but they should consider devices with a genuine IMEI number because it is not necessary that it is tampered with in all smuggled devices. A genuine IMEI number can be verified on the Global System for Mobile Communications’ (GSMA) website.

You (traders) don’t seem to pay due taxes as evident from the statement of FBR chairperson. Is this true?

“This is not correct,” Rizwan said.

He explained that the traders Rs400 demand was for a device worth Rs2,000, and not for the ones that cost Rs20,000 as stated by the FBR chairperson. “We want to pay tax and come under the tax net,” he said.

Why haven’t you stopped selling smuggled phones?

This was the job of Customs to stop smuggling. If they did it, traders would automatically shift to legal imports, he claimed.

Secondly, they have been blocking mobile devices based on the January 15 deadline, but the related SRO (government directive) was issued in May, which doesn’t make sense, Rizwan said. If they issued the directive earlier, it would’ve saved all of us from the mess we are in. About half of our shops are shut already and many people have lost their jobs.

Why sell smuggled phones in the first place?

They are cheap and people can’t afford to pay Rs40,000 for a reliable smartphone, but they are happy to buy the second-hand (used) version of the same phone for Rs15,000, Rizwan explained. As per traders’ estimates, 80% users in the market like to buy a second-hand phone.

There are no two opinions about the unlimited benefits of smartphone technology. By taxing these devices, you make them expensive thus deprive the poor of using the latest technology. Besides, we are open to paying taxes and want to come under the tax net, he said.

What to do with the blocked phones?

The people whose mobile phones have been blocked can get it unblocked online at PTA’s website or by visiting either PTA or FBR offices. Both these options are available for those physically present in Pakistan.

What to do if you want to buy a used/smuggled phone?

Before making the payment, check the device’s IMEI number and send it to 8484. If its status is PTA comply, buy it. If it shows non-compliant, you have two options: don’t buy or check the amount of tax you will need to pay after purchasing it.

You can register the device at PTA’s website and the system will generate a tax slip, this will tell you how much you pay in total.

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  1. Avatar
    Usman R   July 17, 2019 9:21 pm/ Reply

    The FBR is charging a ridiculous amount of tax on phone. I have just been given a tax of ~70% on my phone . This is unheard of. They need to relook at their duty brackets and values. Someone just paid 54,000 RS for a Samsung S9+ which is an older phone. Even if they wanted to change the policy, this should have been told in advance so people could make an informed decision.

  2. Avatar
    kami   July 18, 2019 6:37 am/ Reply

    overseas Pakistani shouldn’t be paying any tax to Pakistani government because we have paid over tax when we bought the phone why pay more tax to Pakistani government this is just rubbish talk pti goverment wants tax on every little thing this just a day light robery go imran go we want nawaz sharif back in power he is hero off pakistan love nawaz

    • Avatar
      Anonymous   July 18, 2019 3:06 pm/ Reply

      PTA doesn’t charge tax on a mobile that has already been charged tax once by the Pakistan Government. Mobiles are to be registered with the PTA. If you bring the same registered mobile to Pakistan again, you are not supposed to be charged a second time. When did this double charge happen with you?

    • Avatar
      Sajjad   July 18, 2019 5:32 pm/ Reply

      Yes bring him back so that he can be able to do more corruption and looted the money from all over the Pakistan, tax being paid for your children better future and good life, because we do not want our children be slave like you of few corrupt people.

    • Avatar
      Asad   August 13, 2019 1:02 am/ Reply

      You see this small amount tax but you didn’t see those massive corruption that done by your nawaz and zardaris…

  3. Avatar
    Sufyan   July 18, 2019 6:22 pm/ Reply

    This is a very stupid new rule. I understand its to suffocate illegal market BUT charge a reasonable rate.. No country in the world does this and this will only make overseas Pakistanis angry

  4. Avatar
    Waqar Gillani   July 18, 2019 6:46 pm/ Reply

    What is the ruling for bringing back phones into Pakistan those that were carried for an outward journey from Pakistan

  5. Avatar
    Ghazala   July 18, 2019 9:03 pm/ Reply

    I think this policy will not bother to tourist as they normaly leave the country in two months. So they can use there phone without paying tax up to
    two months.

  6. Avatar
    Arif   July 19, 2019 7:29 am/ Reply

    Enforce the law and make your system right. Bad smelling people throw out the system, put competent people in the systems, Then no one can steal any data. Do not looting overseas Pakistani. In the world no where like this kind of taxes. Please make your system right.

  7. Avatar
    Anonymous   July 19, 2019 8:38 pm/ Reply

    this is totally insane why they impose duty on single phone also bring from abroad.. at least single phone relaxation should be. we are already giving taxes in abroad and also contribute in Pakistan development so the PTA should not do like this with us . they make no sense what they want to do with overseas pakistanis.we request to PTA and FBR to left this custom duty on single phone which we bring personaly becoz its brutal..

  8. Avatar
    Shezz   July 20, 2019 1:27 pm/ Reply

    They should also impose taxes on high quality phones carried from Pakistan to abroad hahaha

  9. Avatar
    Anonymous   July 20, 2019 1:51 pm/ Reply


  10. Avatar
    saif   July 20, 2019 2:23 pm/ Reply

    this is totally insane why they impose duty on single phone also bring from abroad.. at least single phone relaxation should be. we are already giving taxes in abroad and also contribute in Pakistan development so the PTA should not do like this with us . they make no sense what they want to do with overseas pakistanis.we request to PTA and FBR to left this custom duty on single phone which we bring personaly becoz its brutal..

  11. Avatar
    Rahat   July 21, 2019 12:58 pm/ Reply

    I think no one has read news properly and went on shouting for TAX implication. If overseas comes and use roaming or can use local sim up to 60 days. being overseas pakistani, I know that many of overseas working and they max can get 1 month annual leave or can go extreme upto 45 to 60 days in a year. A real overseas will never stay for more than 1 month or 2 months. An illegal trader can’t get through this because it will not be PTA compliant. I have seen many cases where a single traveler was taking 30 to 40+ mobiles with him.

  12. Avatar
    Anonymous   July 21, 2019 1:44 pm/ Reply

    Very simple…put your phone on roaming…just buy a cheap Nokia from local market to use it in Pakistan during your stay/vacation.

  13. Avatar
    Subhan   July 21, 2019 9:54 pm/ Reply

    How Much Tax i will have to pay for the phone of 55,000 rs.. and where i will found the list of mobile duties on airport

  14. Avatar
    Falak   July 23, 2019 10:21 pm/ Reply

    This is really rubbish and shocking for Overseas Pakistanis to pay two times tax on mobile specially the personal one. Oversea Pakistanis send foreign exchange to the country which is a considerable support for Pakistani govt but instead of appreciation or incentive, they have to pay tax for their personal devices as well.
    This is ridiculous ……………
    I personally support the PTI govt but with such decisions I have to reconsider my support to PTI……………

  15. Avatar
    MAQ   July 26, 2019 11:44 am/ Reply

    Tax is good no doubt at all but the amount of tax they are charging is much much more and should be reduced to a reasonable rate.

  16. Avatar
    Anonymous   July 27, 2019 2:18 am/ Reply

    Where is new Pakistan because It is a stupid new rule from PTI govt. one mobile should be free from taxation for every oversees Pakistani. In this regard, we can say Nawaz Sharif was much better than Imran Khan because he is a visionary leader of Pakistan.
    We want Nawaz Sharif policies instead of IK

  17. Avatar
    Asif Shayan   July 27, 2019 9:28 am/ Reply

    Overseas Pakistani come to Pakistan and spend their foreign Currancy , Isn’t this enough? Why they imposed the tax on mobile, at least one mobile should be justified,

  18. Avatar
    SOHAIL AHMED SYED   July 27, 2019 5:31 pm/ Reply

    I think so it’s very stupid idea from FBR, this is not convenient for tourist and that overseas Pakistani who is coming for their annual vacation yah at least one mobile justified.

  19. Avatar
    AKB   July 28, 2019 7:14 pm/ Reply

    PTI govt is unable to handle expats, instead of making them feel good they make them unsecure. Y I don’t know. if some one permanently coming back to Pakistan then should he through his cell abroad or sale to some one on cheap process? at least one phone should be free to bring. by the way how about my phone if it is already registered with PTA previously and I bring it back to Pakistan permanently then should I need to pay tax?????

  20. Avatar
    Adil   July 29, 2019 8:33 am/ Reply

    Imran’s government is miserably failed. Heavy taxes on personal phone is not exceptable.

  21. Avatar
    Private   July 29, 2019 5:50 pm/ Reply

    We are planning to visit Pakistan for 2 Weaks. We have smartphones that cost more than 600€ each. We will prefer roaming only. Should we have to pay any Tax?
    Here is Official Document of FBR I guess it is outdated (2018). but officially stated in roaming no need to pay Tax.

    I did not find any official statement from FBR website. If anyone can help us to find the Updated document from FBR?

  22. Avatar
    Anonymous   July 29, 2019 6:28 pm/ Reply

    Pakistan is going backward in every aspect. Pakistan has become a laughing stock in the eyes of other countries. No such thing exists in any other country to charge tax on used phone. You could charge tax if its brand new and sealed (if its to be sold for profit commercially) but imposing tax on used and personal phone? This is utter rubbish. There are people who brings gifts for their relatives and there shouldn’t be any tax on it either. I could bring brand new phone from overseas to Australia and the government doesn’t care as long as I bring many of them then that’s when I am charges tax because it shows them I am bring those many brand new phones for profit.

  23. Avatar
    Sohail   July 30, 2019 3:57 pm/ Reply

    Instead off finding the culprits PTI government has given a collective punishment to all the overseas Pakistanis by imposing heavy taxes on single mobile phone brought by an overseas Pakistani. If you really want to impose a tax on mobile phone make it reasonable because we already paid the tax in the country of purchase.
    Find a solution quickly. Overseas Pakistanis are sending billion of dollars and being rewarded by tax on single phone. Shame……

  24. Avatar
    Syed Rahat Ali   August 4, 2019 3:07 pm/ Reply

    The mobile only be registered at airport by present Passport, Boarding Pass and Finger Prints if an overseas Pakistani needs to registered. For the local residents they can registered their mobile phones on the same way. If I’ll resigned and return back to Pakistan then I have to pay tax & duties on all my mobile sets? I am recommending to re-work on this policy for overseas Pakistani.

  25. Avatar
    Ahmad   August 10, 2019 2:32 am/ Reply

    The picture is still blurred, as per FBR new regulations they must charge low but still, they’re charging a heavy amount as tax. I mean if documentation and registration are the reason and PTA wants to stop smuggling then they should charge less and prioritize registering devices instead of filling their pockets. Recently one of my family members came Pakistan bought Samsung J8 which price is Rs.45000. Shockingly when we put it in PTA’s online system its demanding Rs.11000 over it. Nearly 25% of the value.

  26. Avatar
    Naveed ur Rahman   August 13, 2019 10:27 am/ Reply

    Aoa can any one tell how much tax will be on Samsung A 70

  27. Avatar
    ABb   August 15, 2019 12:27 am/ Reply

    We live outside Pakistan how often they change the policies how would we know? R we obliged to read news papers or watch tv to see what is happening here? Notices should be placed on airport, the Tv on top of immigration counters can display these info instaed of showing rubbish house scheme or drama’s promo. Without any info our phone was blocked, the moment i landed and placed my sim card till now. I cant use internet (as mobile data) clueless what happened. 2ndly if we are here only for 10 to 20 days why i have to pay 40000pkr? Wht other foreigners will do? Everyone have to buy mobile here? Who created this issue? We have paid the tax on the phone in the country we bought it in, i have to pay it again? I felt so bad and out of contact from everywhere.

  28. Avatar
    Anonymous   August 15, 2019 12:33 am/ Reply

    Can anyone help my sister’s mobile got damaged she bought another one, they are asking to pay tax for that, is there any way to mention the broken and register new one instaed?
    And one more question for every mobile you have to pay tax? Even if it is your first one?
    She bought it 26000 and the tax is 7000 which is like wth.

  29. Avatar
    Adel   August 15, 2019 12:56 am/ Reply

    This is stupid move by PTI at least 1 phone should be allowed and additional might be charged

  30. Avatar
    Sarmad   August 15, 2019 10:08 pm/ Reply

    This is just a stupid move because government cannot control the data leak. They should have thought this through before even making a rule. Its all […] who are sitting on there […] in the offices and making such rules so that their life can be easy rather than going for a practical technical solution which consumes brain cells.

  31. Avatar
    Hussain   August 15, 2019 11:39 pm/ Reply

    I have generated PSID on PTA for my Iphone which i bought in the month of December 2018, but shocked to see the tax amount which is Rs. 40,500/-. I am here in Pakistan for my vacations. Anyone help me what can I do as I have already paid tax in the country from where i bought this phone. The amount is too much.

  32. Avatar
    Anonymous   August 16, 2019 8:18 pm/ Reply

    My cousin bring iphone 7 from usa for me but when i use that mobile that time pta sent me messages for pay your fbr tax 36000
    What the … PTI govt

  33. Avatar
    Anonymous   August 17, 2019 9:55 am/ Reply

    Suggest to buy a local phone in Pakistan because tax amounts are almost 40% of mobile phone’s market prices.
    This whole thing by government is to stop smuggling of mobile phones from abroad but it is adversely affecting overseas Pakistanis like us who genuinely bring one or two personal phones for usage in our country
    For example my wife is a non-resident of pakistan but due to her sickness she is staying for few months in pak , abroad mobile phone is not working anymore and we had to buy a local new phone (the local phone was assembled in pak itself which didn’t work as expected, another issue which we all face : (

  34. Avatar
    Ishtiaq   August 17, 2019 11:36 pm/ Reply

    Such type of PTA/FBR policies compelled me to spend my vacation abroad instead my homeland. So IK Govt will collect small amount through Tax on cell phones but ignore the fact that these overseas Pakj spent large amount in PK during there vocation. As act of desperate a large group of Paki origin dint come pk.

  35. Avatar
    Anonymous   August 19, 2019 2:36 am/ Reply

    The policy adversely affects expatriates. I came to Pakistan in April for 2 weeks. Back then PTA clearly said that if you are visiting country for less than 30 days then you don’t need to register the device. I am now visiting for one week and guess what my personal device is blocked by PTA. This is my personal phone that I am using while traveling and will go back with me. I don’t understand why I have to pay such high tax for using my own phone for a total period of 2-3 weeks in a year when I come to visit my family in Pakistan. They could have done substantial steps to stop the data theft of expatriates for the purpose of registering phones. They could have linked it to biometrics to make sure that no one misused it. But instead they do it in an entirely wrong way.

  36. Avatar
    Naveed Rehman   August 19, 2019 11:20 pm/ Reply

    Instead of putting a system in place to stop data theft and misuse of data for overseas Pakistanis passports government banned all mobile phones. I think we should not visit our country for how we overseas are treated like third class citizens of our own country? We send lot of money through our local banks and this is what we get in return, only worries by our Pakistani brothers ??? NOT FAIR to overseas ppl like us at al….

  37. Avatar
    Khan   August 27, 2019 10:01 am/ Reply

    Bad policies,,,…corrupt beaurocrates… dealers army officers……bikaoo media…..poor people should feed them…….shame on you all

  38. Avatar
    Adnan   August 31, 2019 12:51 pm/ Reply

    کیا موبائل کے موجودہ ریٹ کے مطابق ٹیکس ہو گا یا لنچ ہونے کے وقت کے ریٹ کے مطابق؟
    آئی فون 6s پر کتنا ٹیکس ہے اور یہ جمع کروانے کا کیا طریقہ کار ہے۔
    رہنمائی فرما دیں۔

  39. Avatar
    Anonymous   September 2, 2019 4:14 pm/ Reply

    Do they (PTA, Govt of PAK and FBR) know how much contribution in a year from Overseas Pakistani? And they cannot bring a single phone without tax? Really shame on all corrupt policies maker.

  40. Avatar
    Syed Sardar Hussain Shah   September 5, 2019 5:59 pm/ Reply

    We,the overseas Pakistanis,support the country economy by sending remittances through banks.But when we visit our country to spend some time here with our loved ones ,the PTI government starts taxing us even for a single used mobile having been used for couple of years.Shame on FBR and PTI.What facilities do we get here in Pakistan in return for our taxes?Broken roads,clogged drains,heaps of garbage,and a lot of other rubbish things including power outages.

  41. Avatar
    Anonymous   September 5, 2019 8:53 pm/ Reply

    imran khan was saying he will facilitate overseas pakistani’s….. every time imran khan led down pakistani people and overseas pakistani’s…. why we pay tax for our phone that we purchased from our country of living and already paid tex there….. world k kisi country ma aisa nai hota….
    imran khan k sath jo log hain wo le dobain gy imran khan ko in problems ki waja sy
    is time inside pakistani’s and overseas pakistani’s jo imran khan k big suppoerters thay un ma sy 60% against ho chuky hain
    alarming position for imran

  42. Avatar
    MUHAMMAD ASAD   September 11, 2019 12:16 pm/ Reply

    Good morning

    i herad from one of my Frirend . on Passport i can bring 2 mobiles free Or ihave to py 35% tax only ?

    Mush appreciated.

  43. Avatar
    Adnan ch   September 22, 2019 2:40 am/ Reply

    Hey… is there any tax on laptops from foreign to pakistan…. if yes then how percent we will pay ….

  44. Avatar
    Ali   September 23, 2019 9:45 am/ Reply

    I’ll be going to Pakistan and carrying a phone and a tablet with me. Do they consider this as ‘two devices’ or ‘one device’. I’ve Galaxy S8+ and a Galaxy Tab S2.

    Could anybody help?

  45. Avatar
    Amir H   September 30, 2019 10:34 am/ Reply

    I don’t know how much greedy PTI Govenment is going to get.
    I am from USA planning to visit Pakistan, family staying for 5 months. I’ve been back and forth lot of times but its the first time I have to worry about this craziness. I have a business so I carry 2 phone all the time. Business number and Personal. Now I know I will be paying tax but how much don’t know. They keep it as surprise till we’ll get to Pakistan because DIRBS is not accessible from USA , can’t check how much tax we’ll have to pay if we take certain amount or type of phone.
    Govenment is keeping oversees Pakistan in complete dark because they know when we get to Pakistan there will be no way out but to pay whatever tax they will impose.
    PTI Government is turning to a hafta collection gang who on purpose preying on oversees Pakistanis.
    Shame on you PTI/Imran Khan. How many years you’ve collected money from sending letters to oversees Pakistanis to get aid from your Hospital and now that people thought that you’ll make their lives better, you are failing them.
    Maybe you are good at only one thing. Asking for money, for SK Hospital before becoming Prime minister, from other countries and now whatever you can get out in the name of fair tax system.
    I can write thousand more words, because the future I imagined of settling back in Pakistan looks impossible now because of heavy taxes, no improvements in country, creating difficulties for oversees Pakistanis. Maybe one all the blind supporters of IK will come out of lala land.
    God help us all.

  46. Avatar
    Rizwan   October 11, 2019 12:17 am/ Reply

    Can someone guide what is the mobile policy if I bring my personal phone from US to Pakistan, It will be having foreign Sim but no Roaming on(its expensive). Will not use any data service in Pakistan. Do I still need to pay duties ?

  47. Avatar
    Zeeshan (USA)   October 13, 2019 9:47 pm/ Reply

    This is very disappointing indeed, and affects the common people. Govt should go after the sellers who deal with smuggled goods. It seems that Pakistan is going backward, and this is yet another example of such.

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Federal Board of Revenue, smartphone duty, Customs duty, Shabbar Zaidi