Thursday 21 January 2021
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If AGR dues too high, what’s your assessment, govt asks telcos

Telecom companies Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Tata Teleservices have been asked to furnish documents substantiating their AGR claims

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Economy Business If AGR dues too high, what's your assessment, govt asks telcos

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has asked telecom companies, incurring heavy losses, to submit documents confirming their self-assessment of AGR dues. Notably, the government is but not satisfied extracting this tax from telecom companies alone. It has asked the oil-and-gas sector PSU GAIL India to pay the arrears of Rs 7,608 crore for 2017-18, but the telecom department is currently not pressuring it to pay the old liability in the AGR case.

According to sources, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Tata Teleservices have been asked to submit documents in lieu of confirmation of their AGR’s self-assessment claims. These companies say that the assessment made by the telecom department in the case of AGR is not correct. According to their estimates, the liability of AGR on them is low.

GAIL has now been asked to repay the arrears including penalty for late payment.

According to the department, AGR cases incur a liability of Rs 1.47 lakh crore in the form of an outstanding license fee and spectrum usage fee on companies like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea.

Once the companies file corroborative documents, the DoT will initiate random test checks on the AGR calculation in a time-bound manner, a source said. They will ‘test check’ telcos’ data of a given year to examine the deviation between telecom companies’ assessment and the government calculation of AGR liabilities.

But what prompted the DoT to seek supporting documents to verify companies’ AGR calculations through self-assessment? The source equated the exercise to the filing of income tax returns where the calculations and claims made are examined.

Moreover, the DoT wants to ensure that the companies are adhering to the court-ordered criteria in computing their AGR dues, the source added.

As for GAIL India, the Department of Telecom has said that an annual fee of Rs 1,83,076 crore arises as an IP-2 license. But in this case, GAIL and other non-telecom companies believe that the Supreme Court’s decision of October 2019 does not apply to them. These companies appealed to the Supreme Court to clear the situation. The Supreme Court on 14 February dismissed the petition for waiver of the telecom companies.

The apex court had asked non-telecom companies to approach the appropriate forum in this regard.

The Ministry of Petroleum is now in talks with the Ministry of IT and the Ministry of Law in this matter.

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