Pakistan will tax GPUs based on VRAM capacity, seriously

WTF?! Graphics card prices are finally coming down after roughly two years of insane market conditions. However, the Pakistani government plans to bring them back up somewhat with what could prove to be a very uneven tax system.

Pakistan’s Collectorate of Customs announced new plans for its taxes on imported PC graphics cards last week. The decision is supposed to counter importers who devalue GPUs to sidestep customs and taxes. Instead of valuing cards individually, Pakistan will value every GPU based solely on its VRAM capacity.

The Collectorate published a chart of the values (in USD) against which it will levy its 36 percent tax in Pakistani Rupees, ranked for VRAM amounts ranging from 4GB to 24GB. For example, the new system assumes a $196 value for an 8GB GPU. Current exchange rates bring that to Rs. 42,561, and the 36 percent tax adds Rs. 15,321.96.

Admittedly, it can be difficult to tell the difference between GPUs unless you keep up with benchmark rankings. The names manufacturers give cards are often confusing. For a customs officer looking at GPU boxes, VRAM might be the easiest number to point out that indicates how they differ, but it definitely doesn’t denote how they rank. The new plan might tax some GPUs more than other, more powerful products.

The Pakistani system might tax an aging flagship GPU like the 24GB Titan RTX much higher than the more powerful 3070. Of particular note is the 12GB mid-range RTX 3060, which would trigger the same duty as the far beefier RTX 3080 Ti, which also has 12GB of VRAM. The 3070 — usually a rank above the 3060 — has only 8GB.

That goes without mentioning the static valuations that might fit some cards but starkly devalue top-end GPUs, which is what the Pakistani authorities are trying to avoid. The collectorate values a 12GB chip at $328 — a match for the 3060’s $330 MSRP. However, the maximum valuation is $540 for a 24GB GPU — barely over a quarter of the 24GB 3090 Ti’s $2,000 MSRP.

Trying to establish some order with import duties is understandable. Unfortunately, comparing the value of GPUs is more complicated than it should be. What is the likelihood that customs officials would base their decisions on real-world performance rankings?

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