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NBR claims Tk 9.24b in unpaid taxes from Robi

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Economic Reporter :
The National Board of Revenue, or NBR, has claimed Tk 9.24 billion in unpaid taxes from mobile telephone operator Robi Axiata Limited.
The NBR has sent five letters to the mobile operator regarding the matter, with the fifth being sent last Tuesday.
"This is a massive tax claim," Commissioner Matiur Rahman of the NBR's Large Taxpayers Unit told bdnews24.com. "None of the other telecoms companies have so much in unpaid taxes."
The NBR would take all possible measures to claim the unpaid taxes, the official said.
Robi Head of Regulatory Affairs Shahed Alam says the NBR is making 'unjust' claims based on an 'unnecessary audit'.
Robi Axiata, the second largest telecom operator in Bangladesh, was formed after the merger of Robi and Airtel in 2016.
According to statistics from last December, its subscribers' base stands at 42.9 million, nearly 29 percent of which are mobile phone users.
The NBR audited the financial statements of the telecoms company following the 2016 merger of Robi and Airtel.
Highlights of the NBR letter to Robi
Between January 2013 and December 2016, the telecom operator has not paid nearly Tk 5.54 billion in VAT over SP software and Tk 1.58 billion in tax at source;
During the same period, it has stated a VAT rebate of over Tk 1.16 billion in its statements 'bypassing the rules and regulations';
 In 2012, Robi has not paid Tk 16.51 million in VAT for interconnection services and from 2013 to 2016, another Tk 35.7 million;
After the 2016 merger with Airtel, it has not paid VAT on the Tk 1 billion merger fee and the Tk 5.07 billion in renewal fees for the 2G frequency allocated for Airtel. The NBR says, Robi owes Tk 910.5 million in VAT;
Speaking to bdnews24.com, Robi official Shahed said they had been served with a 'show cause' notice by the NBR, but 'it was not clear from it' why the tax claims were made.
The telecom operator then requested the NBR to share the audit reported with them, which was sent three weeks later, according to him.
"After receiving the audit report, we sought some time for assessing it, but our request was declined and the NBR sent a demand notice. We have told them a demand notice cannot be served without our explanation. We consider this audit baseless as it does not contain our statement," said Shahed, who heads Robi's regulatory affairs wing.
On the unpaid VAT over interconnection services, he said the NBR should seek an explanation from state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd or BTCL.
"The service was provided by BTCL and we are supposed to receive memo from them against any VAT paid. How do I pay it, if the BTCL does not give a memo for it?
"If the BTCL has no VAT registration, then the services provided by them are exempted from VAT, this not a new thing"
Over the VAT claims on frequency-related fees, he said the matter was pending with the court since 2012.
In 2014, the High Court ruled in favour for Robi and instructed the BTRC to get a VAT registration. The BTRC has moved the Appellate Division against the order, added Shahed.
"How can they claim VAT over a sub judice matter?"
His explanation on the Tk 5.54 billion unpaid in VAT over SP software is: "The NBR's claim is based on partial data they had obtained from Robi's Electronic Account System."
On the Tk 1.16 billion of VAT rebate, Shahed said, "According to the laws, VAT will be imposed on products and services only once. We are entitled to rebates over the inputs for the product and services. VAT has to be paid only once following the rebates.
"Procurement of routers or servers, these are outsource VAT, we cannot operate without these. I have to claim the VAT I paid. I need to adjust. We are legally entitled to claim those VAT (rebate)."
Describing the NBR's claim as 'not justified', the Robi official said they have filed a complaint with the NBR chief.
"We have asked to form a committee or even appoint an auditor, if necessary. We are one of the largest tax payers. If we had dodged VAT, then we will comply with any measures by the NBR."
Shahed said Robi was waiting for the NBR chairman's response before mulling legal procedures.

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