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ISLAMABAD: Several members of the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet are against the 75 paisa tax on mobile calls exceed five minutes, and vow to get it reversed.

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque revealed this here on Thursday while addressing a contract-signing ceremony between the Universal Service Fund (USF) and Jazz for providing high-speed mobile broadband services in Multan and Khanewal districts of southern Punjab.

The federal minister reassured the telecom industry that he is working to get voice call tax reversed as it is affecting common man and industry as well.

“In the cabinet meeting on June 11 prior to budget, when the slide containing proposed tax on mobile calls and data was displayed, the Ministry of IT and Telecom openly objected to it and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar and Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar openly supported the ministry’s stance. The prime minister referred it to Finance Division and it was withdrawn,” he added.

He said unfortunately, on June 25th, addressing in the Senate of Pakistan, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin announced 75 paisa tax on calls exceeding five minutes.

In principle, I disagreed. I had courage to say this, and discussed the matter with the prime minister. We will discuss this matter and will try to withdraw this tax, said the minister, adding that they are on the same page with the telecom sector on this matter.

During the wind-up budget speech 2021-2022, the Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said there will be no tax on the internet and SMS, but a tax of 75 paisa will be charged on mobile calls that are longer than five minutes.

The government had initially announced that in order to reap reasonable revenue from this sector, federal excise on mobile phone calls exceeding three minutes at Re1 per call, SMS messages at Rs0.1 per SMS, and internet data usage at Rs5 per GB is being proposed.

However, after facing severe criticism, the Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Cabinet ‘did not approve’ federal excise duty on internet data.

He assured that the duty will not be included in the final draft of the Finance Bill that was put before the Parliament for approval.

The government’s decision to impose an additional 75 paisa tax after five minutes on mobile call is estimated to generate additional Rs 20 to 30 billion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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