FE Today Logo

BTRC asks Robi to stop tariff approval, issuing NOC

Row over Tk 189m arrear VAT payment

Doulot Akter Mala | April 23, 2018 00:00:00

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has asked mobile phone operator Robi Axiata to stop providing tariff approval and issuance of No Objection Certificate (NOC) unless it pays the arrear VAT worth Tk 189 million by April 25.

The telecom regulator, in a letter to the chief executive officer of Robi, instructed the company to comply with the government's order to avoid legal actions.

Robi owes the VAT to National Board of Revenue (NBR) on account of 4G/LTE licence acquisition fee and technology neutrality.

According to an order of NBR, the telecom regulator should not activate the issued or renewed licence in favour of the mobile phone company unless it deducts and deposits the due VAT, on account of 4G licence or technology neutrality fee, spectrum fee, royalty or licence renewal fee, to the public exchequer.

The officials concerned said the BTRC move came after NBR's LTU-VAT commissioner Md Matiur Rahman, in a recent letter, urged the regulator to deposit the due VAT.

Large Taxpayers Unit (LTU) under NBR's VAT Wing placed a final demand notice to BTRC for paying the VAT.

A senior official of LTU-VAT said the unit may also take legal action or freeze the bank accounts of Robi unless it clears the due VAT. LTU failed to realise the VAT from the mobile phone company despite several efforts during the last two months, the official said.

"There is no legal scope to enjoy the facility of 4G/LTE licence and provide services and also getting facility of 900 and 1800 MHz spectrum technology neutrality keeping the VAT arrear," according to the BTRC letter.

Of the VAT claim, Tk 5.0 million is due on account of 4G/LTE acquisition fee and Tk 184 million as tech-neutrality.

"Its' a clear violation of NBR's or the government's order and breach of 4G/LTE licence and guideline conditions, which is not legally acceptable," it mentioned.

BTRC senior assistant director Md Hasibul Kabir, in the letter to Robi, conveyed the decision of its 212th commission meeting regarding realising the VAT.

In the meeting, BTRC decided to give an ultimatum to Robi for payment of the outstanding VAT within seven days of serving notice.

The meeting also decided to stop issuance of NOC and give approval of tariff to the company, if it fails to pay the dues within the stipulated timeframe.

On February 27, a team of LTU-VAT visited BTRC and collected information regarding revenue collection from 4G LTE service of the mobile phone companies.

According to a report of the team, Robi has paid Tk 3.78 billion to BTRC as licence and tech-neutrality service fees, but has kept unpaid VAT worth Tk 189 million on the service charge.

However, telecom industry insiders claimed that Robi has written to NBR last week to know whether it is liable to pay the amount, as BTRC demanded it verbally. The company is yet to get any reply from NBR.

They also opined that BTRC cannot demand VAT, as it is not the VAT registering entity. Besides, VAT is payable from the date when the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) in this regard came into force, not with retrospective effect. Robi's transaction took place well before the date of the order.

[email protected]

Share if you like