Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith has suggested that the National Board of Revenue reduce the SIM replacement tax it has been claiming since 2012 from four mobile phone operators by around Tk 1,000 crore from the revised claim of Tk 3,010.99 crore, finance ministry officials said.
They said Muhith had suggested that the claim should be set at Tk 2,048 crore excluding interest amount before further discussion with the operators — Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Airtel — for solving the dispute.
Officials said that Muhith made the suggestion in the form of observation and comment on a summary of the revenue board sent to him recently.
‘We can set the amount at Tk 2,468 crore for discussion with the telecom operators,’ Muhith wrote on the summery.
He said, ‘As the revenue board did not make the demand on time, we can accept the amount without bank interest derived from the claimed SIM replacement tax.’
After exclusion of interest amount, the revenue board will get Tk 2,048 crore as the SIM replacement tax, he said.
A high-powered inter-ministerial meeting to find a way to solve the dispute was supposed to be held on Monday at the finance ministry with the finance minister in the chair.
The meeting was postponed at the eleventh hour as the finance minister could not give time, officials said.
They said that the revenue board prepared a summery for the meeting seeking immediate final decision as the issue remained pending since 2012.
The large taxpayer unit (value-added tax) of the NBR will have to inform the High Court about the progress on the matter in line with the directives of the court.
The NBR summery said, ‘LTU commissioner has already taken time from the court several times to solve the dispute. So, final decision on the matter is needed immediately.’
On the other hand, the Anti-Corruption Commission has already launched an enquiry into the matter and seized the documents including NBR findings related to the dispute, it stated.
The LTU (VAT) of the NBR initially demanded Tk 3,062.20 crore in SIM replacement tax claiming that the operators had dodged the tax through selling old SIMs to new clients.
The mobile phone companies, however, denied the allegation saying that they did not sell any old SIM to new client but replaced old SIMs for the original customers.
Later, mobile operators went to the High Court against the demand of the LTU and the court asked the LTU commissioner to solve the issue.
The NBR formed a tripartite committee to settle the dispute by scrutinising the documents provided by the operators.
The NBR members in the committee in April, 2014 finalised a report reducing the demand to Tk 3,010.99 crore as the operators could not prove their demand of replacing SIMs for old customers.
Representatives from the operators and the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to the committee, however, did not sign the report.
Calculating the tax using various methods the committee found six separate amounts — Tk 3,010.99 crore, Tk 2,859.64 crore, Tk 2,600.97 crore, Tk 2,464.88 crore, Tk 1,226.72 crore and Tk 520.60 crore — in unpaid tax.
But the NBR remains stick to Tk 3,010.99 crore as other methods failed to confirm whether the owners were same before and after the replacement of the SIMs beyond doubt.
According to the NBR final report, Grameenphone was supposed to pay Tk 1,562.29 crore, Banglalink Tk 762.34 crore, Robi Tk 647.24 crore and Airtel Tk 38.79 crore to the NBR as SIM replacement tax.