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Telecom subscribers go to court over ‘excessive’ charges

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The National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has filed a suit at the Federal High Court (Lagos division) challenging the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) on telecommunications services, as taxable services.

The suit, which was filed last Friday, is also challenging the imposition and implementation of excise duty charges on telecommunications services.

The registered trustees of NATCOMS, led by its National President, Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, filed the matter against telecoms service providers – MTN Nigeria Communications, Airtel Networks Limited, Emerging Market Telecommunications Service, and Globacom Limited.

Others joined in the suit are the registered trustees of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), registered trustees of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the Attorney General of the Federation, the Minister of Finance, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Nigeria Customs Service Board, and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Among the declaration being sought by NATCOMS is that the “imposition and implementation of Value Added Tax on telecommunications services, as taxable services, by Section 2 of the VAT Act as amended… and the imposition and implementation of the Excise Duty Charge on telecommunication services  by Section 21(2) of the Excise Act as amended by Section 37 of the Finance Act… amount to double taxation on the plaintiff’s members, who are telecommunication services consumers or subscribers in Nigeria, and therefore unconstitutional, illegal, unfair, null and void”.

Last December. subscribers expressed dissatisfaction at the insistence of the Federal Government to impose excise duty on telecommunications services. Under the aegis of NATCOMS, they threatened to go to court to challenge the plan.

Ogunbanjo said that the matter had been put on hold until the Federal Government recently reactivated the plan to impose the tax on consumers. He said there are other areas where the Federal Government could make money, outside the telecoms sector.

“They want to kill the sector that is already overburdened with various forms of taxes, close to 40 of them. We will not allow this to stand. We are going to court in the first week of 2023”, he said.

At a forum organised by the NCC, the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed announced the proposed five per cent excise duty on telecoms services. According to her, the excise duty was in the 2020 Finance Act, but had not been implemented.

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