Pakistan: Illicit Cigarette Market Up Significantly

    Photo: Taco Tuinstra

    Pakistan’s revenue losses from the illicit cigarette trade increased by 53 percent in two years, reports The Nation, citing a report by Oxford Economics. In fiscal year 2020-2021, the state missed PKR77.8 billion ($380.7 million) in tax collections due to illicit cigarette sales, compared with PKR50.9 billion in 2018-2019.

    Oxford Economics said that illegal cigarettes account for 38 percent of total consumption in Pakistan, compared with 32 percent in 2018-2019. The vast majority of illegal cigarettes (90 percent) are locally produced.

    The value of tax evaded by illegal cigarettes in Pakistan in 2021 amounts to 58 percent of the total tax revenues collected from legitimate sales in the previous financial year. To place this in context, it is equivalent to more than double the government’s education expenditure in 2020-21.

    According to Oxford Economics, the rise in the illicit cigarette market share in recent years coincided with a sharp rise in the excise rates. Excise rates on most legal cigarettes nearly doubled following the September 2018 supplementary budget and the June 2019 Federal Budget. Tier 2 excise rates—which represent 92 percent of the total industry volume—rose from PKR854 per 1,000 pieces to PKR1,650 per 1,000 pieces.

    Due to the instability of revenues and growing illicit share, Pakistan kept cigarette excise taxes unchanged in 2020-2021.