23.11.2022: Telcos want Rs. 32 thousand Crore Input tax credit back

Telcos have asked the government to provide a clear definition of adjusted gross revenue based on which the industry’s levies and charges are calculated, besides seeking refund of 32,000 crore input tax credit on goods and service tax, as part of its key demands ahead of the Union Budget. 

The carriers have also asked for removal of GST on license fees, spectrum usage charges and payment of spectrum acquired in auctions while seeking reduction in custom duties on imports of key 5G network equipment needed for deployment.  

Telecom service providers were part of industry representation of infrastructure providers that met with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and senior officials of the finance ministry on Monday.  

“The definition of AGR has to be clarified… we’ve also asked for refund of GST ITC, and that no customs duties should be applied on 5G network equipment,” said SP Kochhar, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India, which represents telecom service providers Reliance Jio,  Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea that operate in India.  

The AGR definition was a bone of contention between the government and telcos for nearly two decades, which was settled in 2019 when the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the government and permitting all non-telecom revenue to be included in telecom revenue for calculations of AGR.  

While the telcos are bound to make the payments for outstanding AGR amounting to more than 1.9 lakh crore over the next several years as per the relief package, the amended definition provided relief to the carriers prospectively. 

Mint had reported earlier this year that the industry intends to propose changes to the definition of AGR to exclude revenue from payments bank, rental income and e-commerce platforms, such that carriers’ other businesses do not fall under the purview of revenue share to the government. A low AGR would mean softer payments from telcos in form of levies applied on AGR.

The association has also asked for reducing the license fee from 3% of AGR to 1% of AGR, in addition to the series of reforms that have been undertaken by the government since September 2021. Abolishment of the Universal Services Obligation Fund, which is a pool of funds coming from 5% of the AGR that is paid by telcos and utilised for providing services to the remote and unconnected areas of the country. With over 50,000 crore in the kitty for the government, the telcos have sought that the fund should be utilised first and till the time it is used, the USOF levy of 5% should not be levied on carriers.  

Telcos have also asked for rationalisation in customs duty for some components and other equipment for network rollout that fall under the bracket of 0-8% customs duty but are still being charged higher duties. Clarification regarding availability of ITC on critical telecom equipment installed on telecom towers and whether activities relating to cable repair or installation operations carried out in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were in line with CBIC orders mandating nil customs charge, have also been sought.

Source: LiveMint 

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