Mobile operators have already started upgrading their systems after receiving SRO from the NBR
The cost of mobile phone uses has gone up from early Friday, following an increase of taxes on total turnover placed during the proposed national budget for 2019-20 fiscal year in the parliament, on Thursday.
The mobile operators in the country have already received statuary regulatory order (SRO) from the National Board of Revenue (NRB) in this regard on Thursday, and started upgrading their systems from then on.
Meanwhile, the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) in a budget reaction termed the incremental supplementary duty on mobile phone use as a "suicidal" decision.
Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer told Dhaka Tribune: "NBR issued SRO regarding the implementation of supplementary duty on Thursday. It is available in the NBR website."
He added: "According to the law, when SRO is issued, we are bound to implement it immediately."
Corporate Communications Senior Manager of Banglalink, Ankit Sureka, told Dhaka Tribune that users have already been charged for partial services, with additional charges. All other services will come under the system shortly.
Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer of the company, said: “We are facing a critical situation now that the tax has been increased. We have to pay the full bill to NBR, whether we implement it for users or not.
"We are faced with no choice but to increase the charges, if the decision is not revised," he said.
He claimed if they cannot increase the charges, it will put mobile operators at greater losses. AMTOB gave a similar statement.
At AMTOB's statement, Secretary General of AMTOB, Brig Gen SM Farhad (Retd) said the mobile operators are already burdened with higher tax rates than anywhere in the world.
The increased tax will force the three major operators out of the total four to face losses for years, he warned.
The imposition of a minimum tax of 0.75% on turnover, so far, meant the investors of these three operators had been forced to pay 0.75% of their revenue, in the middle of suffering losses, the statement added.
SM Farhad said: "We are dismayed that there has been such a tax increase – from 0.75% to 2% on turnover – has been proposed. Instead of lending a hand to the struggling but vital industry, the government has decided to add to the back-backing tax structure."
He said: “We feel disheartened and completely heartbroken at this suicidal decision.”
The AMTOB secretary general further warned that it might hamper the industry's initiative to bring the underprivileged segment of the society under the scheme of a Digital Bangladesh, which is necessary to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
On the other hand, the proposal to raise supplementary duty from 5% to 10% will only add to the burden for all the citizens of a Digital Bangladesh, he said.
Farhad said the 4th industrial revolution – powered by 5G, IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and others – will require massive investment. To deliver this dream to the masses, the telecom industry's needs must be met.
His statement expressed hopes that "sanity would prevail", and the government would reverse its proposal in favour of the industry.