Bangladesh’s Posts and Telecommunications minister Tarana Halim urged the finance minister not to impose a 1 per cent surcharge on mobile usage and not to tax SIM cards when they are re-registered under a government drive to verify users’ information.
Halim noted that adding a 1 per cent surcharge would damage the government’s vision to build a digital Bangladesh. The New Age quoted her as saying: “We are trying to lower the cost to the end-user to speed up the country’s digitalisation. If the surcharge is imposed, then it will affect end-users.”
The country started a SIM registration and biometric identification campaign last month after a trial in October and November. The telecoms regulator set a March deadline for operators to register all users or they face a $50 penalty for each unverified SIM.
Operators have to pay BDT100 ($1.28) for each new connection sold and for each replacement SIM.
Halim insisted that newly registered SIM holders, when updating their user information, should not pay the tax again. “I have requested the financial minister to consider the issue seriously as there is no logic in imposing a double tax on a single SIM,” the Dhaka Tribune said.
In a letter to the National Board of Revenue (NBR), the country’s mobile operators said it should not treat re-registered SIMs as the sale of new connections or replacements, as the SIM tax was paid and they only have inaccurate information.
The NBR, however, has said than any change of ownership of existing SIM cards would be considered as a sale of a new connection, which is subject to the SIM tax, the New Age reported.
The NBR already has an ongoing dispute with four operators – Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Airtel – over a SIM replacement tax claim totaling BDT30.1 billion ($384 million) that dates back to 2011.