• Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dispute lingers over SIM taxes

Star Business Report

Taxmen and four mobile phone operators fail to see eye to eye on settling tax disputes over SIM card replacements.
A tripartite committee, formed by the National Board of Revenue in July last year to end the deadlock, submitted its final report to the tax administrator last month, reducing the total tax claims by Tk 51 crore to Tk 3,010 crore.
However, representatives from the four operators, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, and Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh did not sign the report.
The committee, headed by a first secretary of NBR, pointed to 'non-cooperation' and 'absence' of representatives from the operators during preparation of the final report in December.
But AMTOB, the representative body of telecom operators, said the committee finalised the report according to the “wishes of the taxmen”.
"We were not given the scope to participate in finalising the report," TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of AMTOB and a member of the committee, said yesterday. The report was prepared by a section of the committee, he said.
After an inquiry, the large taxpayers' unit (LTU) of the tax administrator demanded money from four mobile phone operators -- Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Airtel, claiming that the operators dodged taxes as they resold SIMs to new users instead of the existing ones.


The operators, however, refuted the claim saying the SIMs had been issued as replacements for the lost or damaged ones. Later, the operators went to court and the court sent the matter to NBR for a solution.
Kabir said the telecoms cooperated but their opinions were not included in the final report. "We prepared the previous interim reports jointly. But the final draft was prepared without us.”
In a letter to LTU Commissioner Md Abdul Kafi, Committee Convenor Md Al Amin Pramanik, now a commissioner, said the opinions of the operators, the BTRC and AMTOB were sought in December last year, after preparations were made on the draft final report.
Later, representatives of the AMTOB, BTRC and mobile operators were absent in the meetings of the committee to finalise the report. They also did not submit any written opinions, said the letter. "It reflects that representatives in the committee did not have differences of opinions on the draft final report. And the final report is prepared taking the matter into consideration."
NBR officials said the committee advised telecom operators to sign the report giving their note of decent. But the operators insisted that their opinions be included in the final report.
In the final report, the tax claims to Grameenphone falls to Tk 1,562 crore from Tk 1,580 crore previously.
For Orascom, the owning company of Banglalink, the tax claim dropped to Tk 762 crore from Tk 774 crore. Tax claims to Axiata of Robi stood at Tk 647 crore from Tk 654 crore.
Tax demands on Airtel declined to Tk 39 crore from Tk 52 crore, according to the final report of the committee.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Last modified: 11:42 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

TAGS: Taxmen mobile phone operators National Board of Revenue committee AMTOB SIMs .

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