The country’s mobile operators on Tuesday urged the National Board of Revenue to resolve long-pending disputes related to SIM replacement tax and value-added tax on different charges in the shortest possible time to regain investors’ confidence and attract more foreign direct investment.
At a pre-budget discussion with the revenue board, Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh also demanded withdrawal of SIM (subscriber identity module) tax, reduction of corporate tax and removal of VAT on internet to boost mobile phone penetration and internet use.
The AMTOB, a platform of the country’s six mobile companies—Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi, Airtel, Teletalk and Citycell—claimed that the disputes were creating a barrier to more investment and business expansion as well as serious nervousness among the investors.
The situation is also driving away investment to other neighbouring countires, they said.
Officials of the revenue board said that several thousand crore Taka worth revenue remained arrear due to disputes between the tax authorities and mobile operators over SIM replacement tax and VAT on spectrum and license fees.
AMTOB secretary general and chief executive officer TIM Nurul Kabir said the NBR should consider withdrawal of SIM tax and VAT on internet to connect more people.
‘We want no more surcharge or other taxes on mobile services,’ he said.
Robi executive vice-president Shahed Alam made a presentation on its budget proposal and overall scenario of the telecom industry in the country.
He said that the telecom sector was contributing 6.2 per cent to the country’s GDP that could be increased to 8 per cent by 2020 with proper policy for the sector.
Only 54 per cent of the country’s population are mobile subscribers while the remaining 46 per cent people are yet to use it.
On the other hand, only 18 per cent people use internet while smart phone penetration is only 27 per cent in the country.
‘Country’s telecom companies invested $3.8 billion and achieved 65 per cent coverage but only 18 per cent people are currently connected to the 3G,’ he said.
The association also demanded lowering the corporate tax to make the FDI attractive for the sector which is now paying the tax at higher rate like cigarette companies.
AMTOB urged the NBR to talk to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission for distributing unsold spectrum to mobile operators so that mobile operators can offer better services.
It will also increase the government’s revenue, it said.
Regarding the demand for withdrawal of SIM tax, the AMTOB said there was evidence that that reduction of SIM tax supports the market growth.
SIM tax is supposed to be paid by the subscribers but mobile operators pay the tax themselves to sell SIM cards at lower price to attract subscribers.
NBR member Jahangir Hossain, GP chief executive officer Petter-B Furberg and Robi CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed also addressed the meeting.
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