Budget 2018: Telecom Sector unhappy over No Tax Rebates

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The telecom sector is unhappy with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget. Feeling left out they said the Budget 2018-19 did not have much for the telecom sector, and the government also did not make much target revenue as it expected from spectrum auctions in the last year’s Budget.

It has pegged 58 per cent increase in revenue at ₹48,661.42 crore from the stressed telecom sector in 2018-19 against the revised revenue estimate of ₹30,736.47 crore for the current fiscal.

The government had made a provision of ₹44,342.2 crore revenue from telecom services in 2017-18, through licence fee and spectrum usage charges, from telecom operators.

It was quite higher in the previous year because the government expected much from spectrum auctions, and according to analysts and industry experts, the spectrum auctions that give higher revenues to the government, reported Business Line.

There were no auctions last year and the auctions in 2018-19 will depend on Telecom Regulatory of Authority recommendations. The Department of Telecom has sought for views from TRAI on spectrum pricing and timing for the auction.

According to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had no mention about the telecom sector, which is the backbone digital highway.

“While, the FM has emphasised the importance of moving to a digital economy, the actual digital highway, which is telecom has found no mention in terms of substantive support, unlike road, railway, highways, electricity, which have received substantial mention. We are saddened to see that telecom which is the bedrock for moving the Digital economy forward, continues to remain an Orphan,” Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI, said.

He said the sector had sought a reduction in levies and taxes, and an urgent intervention is critical for resuscitating the sector, which is currently experiencing its worst financial health and hyper competition.

“We reiterate our four key asks, reduction extremely high and unsustainable levies and taxes, reduction in BCD on 4G LTE Equipment, clarity on right of way related taxation at the state level, and clarification on lowering the tax rate to one per cent on discounts extended to small dealers,” he added.

But, according to Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Telecom, the DoT is already working on National Telecom Policy 2018 and hence it was not much necessary for a mention in the Budget.

“This was Budget…we are having a separate Telecom policy to see some of the other issues. The Budget was on expected lines (for us),” she said.

The Telecom Secretary was hinting on the proposals that the FM has announced for the BharatNet project, for which there is a sanction of another ₹10,000 crore in 2018-19. in the last year’s Budget also, Jaitley had sanctioned ₹10,000 crore out of which ₹7,000 has been utilised till now, Sundararajan said to Business Line.

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