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Bangladesh: BTRC again declines to pay income tax

Dhaka, July 18, 2014 (New Age): Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has again declined to pay income tax to the National Board of Revenue claiming that it has no taxable income, officials said. Claiming itself as a non-taxable entity, the telecom regulator on Thursday demanded that the NBR should exempt it from paying taxes and withdraw the provision incorporated in the Income Tax Ordinance-1984 imposing the taxes on the income of the commission in the budget for the current fiscal year. In a letter sent to the NBR chairman, Ghulam Hussain, the BTRC said the commission had no income rather it just collected non-tax revenue on behalf of the government. Officials of the revenue board, however, told New Age that there was no scope of withdrawal of the provision and the BTRC must have to pay tax on its income as the provision was passed by parliament. The revenue board has already assigned the large taxpayer unit of the NBR to look after the tax issues of the BTRC, they said. The revenue board and the telecom regulator have been in dispute for more than three years over the latter’s refusal to pay taxes at the rate of 37.5 per cent on its income and other advance taxes. In the FY 2012-2013, the NBR claimed around Tk 2,400 crore from the BTRC for the previous fiscal year. The revenue board has been asking the BTRC for paying taxes terming the commission as taxable entity while the BTRC has been rejecting the idea that it has any taxable income. Finally in the budget for the FY 2014-2015, the government reduced the tax rate and set it at 25 per cent for the BTRC along with some other autonomous bodies. The government also incorporated a article (52V) under which mobile operators would also deduct advance income tax at the rate of 10 at the time of any payment on account of revenue sharing, licence fee, application fee, renewal fee or any other fees or charges, called by whatever name, to the BTRC under any licensing agreements and licensing guidelines between the BTRC and operators. In this context, the BTRC made the request to the NBR for withdrawal of the provision to exempt it from paying taxes. The letter stated that the commission had no income as it did not earn. Rather, the telecom regulator only collects revenue on behalf of the government and submits it to the government exchequer, so nothing taxable remains, the letter said. BTRC officials said that they submitted the collected revenue to Bangladesh Bank every six months. Prior to being submitted to the BB the collected revenue is kept in the commercial banks and the BTRC submits the money to the central bank with interest, they said. The Bangladesh Telecommunications Act 2001 also exempted the BTRC from payment of taxes, they said. ‘Parliament imposed the taxes on BTRC. So it will have to pay the taxes and there is no scope to avoid it,’ an NBR official told New Age. Only the parliament can withdraw the taxes, he said. Mobile operators has already started to deduct AIT on payment to the BTRC while income tax at the rate of 25 per cent will be calculated when the body will submit income tax returns, he said. The NBR does not see any reason for non-payment of tax by the BTRC even though the body collects the money on behalf of the government, NBR officials said. Paying tax will ensure the accountability and transparency in financial issues of the telecom watchdog, they said.

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