National Board of Revenue has demanded Tk 924.50 crore in value-added taxes from mobile operator Robi asking it to pay the amount immediately.
Large Taxpayers Unit (VAT) of the NBR on Tuesday issued five final demand notices to the operator saying that the company evaded the amount in various ways and avoided payment to the government exchequer from January 2013 to December 2016.
Officials of the revenue board said that the operator would get 90 days to pay the amount or file appeal against the demand.
Of the amount, Robi evaded payment of Tk 553.61 crore in VAT and Tk 158.21 crore in VAT at source for the period while the operator did not pay Tk 91 crore in VAT on Robi-Airtel merger fee and spectrum renewal charge of 2G licence of Airtel, and Tk 5.22 crore in VAT on interconnection charge.
The operator also unlawfully received VAT rebate worth Tk 116.40 crore during the period.
The LTU issued the final demand notices as the operator did not respond to show-cause notices along with primary demand notices issued on November 5 last year on the issue, they said.
VAT office will take legal steps including freezing the bank accounts to realise the amount after 90 days if the company does not pay the amount or go for legal battle within the time, they have added.
A high official of the NBR said that a team of the LTU detected the evasion through a special audit conducted to determine the liability of the company after acquisition of another operator—Airtel.
LTU commissioner Md Matiur Rahman on May 25 formed the team to conduct the audit.
The team on October 29 submitted its audit report for the period examining the information preserved in the internal software, known as SAP Software, of Robi, financial details obtained from its computer database, documents provided by the company and its VAT returns.
He said that the LTU on November 5 gave the operator 15 days to respond to the show-cause notices or seek hearings.
Later on December 3, the operator got another 15 days but did not respond this time again, he said.
According to the LTU, the audit team found that the total payable VAT of the company for the period was Tk 3,533 crore but Robi paid Tk 2,979 crore with VAT returns avoiding payment of the remaining Tk 553.61 crore.
The operator was also supposed to pay Tk 553.34 crore as withholding VAT or VAT at source, but it paid only Tk 395.12 crore.
Robi also did not pay Tk 91 crore as VAT at a rate of 15 per cent as merger fee and spectrum renewal charge of 2G licence.
The operator has paid Tk 100 crore as merger fee and Tk 507 crore as spectrum renewal charge to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission following Robi-Airtel merger.
Robi also received VAT rebate worth Tk 116.40 crore on import of battery, cable, printed board, modem, router and switch which was unlawful as per VAT law.
Officials said that the operator now would pay the amount within 90 days or it could file appeal before the VAT appellate tribunal by paying 10 per cent of claimed tax.
The operator can also file writ petition before High Court if it finds any legal grounds for writ petition.
Robi regulatory affairs head Shahed Alam said that there were no bases of the claims made by the LTU.
‘We are not paying VAT on interconnection charge and spectrum charge as the BTCL and BTRC are not providing us VAT challan,’ he said, adding that Robi would pay the VAT whenever it gets VAT challan.
The LTU should claim the amount from the BTCL and BTRC, he said.
Regarding Tk 553.61 crore, he said that the LTU made the demand by calculating payable VAT based on the trial balance violating the standard accounting system.
There is no example globally of claiming VAT on the basis of trial balance, he said.
He also said that the VAT rebate claimed by Robi was completely lawful as it claimed the rebate on output VAT. Otherwise, it would cause double taxation, he said.
He said that Robi made a complaint to the NBR about the issue and requested it to investigate the matter appointing an independent auditor.