The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has issued the final warning to four mobile operators to pay Tk 900 crore in dues within three months; otherwise, the tax authorities will freeze their bank accounts.
Four mobile operators-Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Airtel dodged Tk 900 crore in SIM replacement VAT between 2012 and 2015, according to the demand notices sent to the companies.
NBR’s Large-Taxpayers Unit for Value-added Tax (LTU-VAT) issued the final demand notices to the mobile operators on Monday. Of the total amount, Grameenphone owes the tax administrator Tk 378.95 crore, Banglalink Tk 168 crore, Robi Tk 285.20 crore Airtel Tk 50.26 crore.
The demand notice warned the mobile operators of legal action if they fail to pay the dues within the stipulated period. “NBR can block the accounts as a part of legal steps,” the demand notice said.
LTU VAT Assistant Commissioner of Tax (ACT) Md Badruzzaman Munshi told the daily sun they issued the final demand notices as per the section 55 (a) of Value Added Tax Act, 1991.
But the mobile operators claimed that they did not evade any VAT, but a dispute has arisen regarding this issue.
NBR officials said the operators can appeal against NBR’s demand after paying 10 percent of total dues. Provided that the primary demand note was issued for the dues in June 2017, the mobile operators will have to pay additional two percent as penalty fees on top of the actual dues, said the NBR officials.
NBR formed a committee on December 15, 2015, headed by the LTU commissioner to probe irregularities with regards to SIM replacement VAT.
Representatives from the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) were also included in the committee. But the NBR didn’t get any cooperation from the operators, the tax officials said.
Expressing discontent to NBR’s move, AMTOB Secretary General TIM Nurul Kabir said, “The tax regulator’s claim is fictitious which will send negative signals to the investors. Certainly, the investors will lose confidence on the regulator after this incident and new investments will also fall into uncertainty at a time when the government and operators are planning for the launching of 4G.”