KARACHI: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) urged the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Wednesday to clear those outstanding refunds of exporters against which release payment orders (RPOs) have been issued.

Addressing a press conference along with the heads of various exporters’ associations, FPCCI President Zubair Tufail said the apex chamber of commerce and industry has given the FBR the deadline of April 20 to clear all such refunds.

If the FBR fails to fulfil this demand, the FPCCI in consultation with the exporters’ bodies will chalk out its future plan, he added.

He said the member bodies of the FPCCI have complained that exporters are facing a lot of hardship because of a liquidity crunch.

He said many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Karachi, Faisalabad, Kasur, Multan and Gujranwala have already closed down their operations as they could not sustain in the presence of huge outstanding rebates and refunds in sales tax, income tax and customs duty.

The situation has deteriorated to the extent that industries that took bank loans to meet their export commitments are now being turned away by banks, he added.

In the last budget speech, the finance minister promised to clear all outstanding dues of exporters. But only Rs26 billion were paid in August 2016 while Rs27bn were paid in the middle of November. Refunds of round Rs250bn are still stuck with the FBR, he said.

He said the board continues to claim that only Rs150bn is outstanding, insisting that its figure does not include the deferred amount. “This is wrong. It is only damaging the country’s exports that have come down from $25bn to $20bn,” he noted.

Pakistan Apparel Forum (PAF) Chairman Jawed Bilwani said the FBR is resorting to delaying tactics to postpone the payment of rebates and refunds by opening cases for audit. “Exporters cannot claim refunds until their audit is over,” he said.