‘Finance Ministry not accounting AGR dues as proceeds in FY20’

Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi, Dec 2 : The Finance Ministry is not accounting any proceeds from the AGR dues of the telcos in the current fiscal as the case is in the Supreme Court via review petition and its final timeline cannot be ascertained at the moment.

Highly-placed sources said any matter which is in court cannot be limited to a specific timeline so since the AGR issue is back in SC, expecting its revenues in the current fiscal would not be appropriate.

The current deadline for paying the AGR dues is January 24.

Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices have filed separate petitions in the Supreme Court, seeking a review of penalties and interest on the dues, and questioning some components of the non-core items that the court said should be included while computing adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of telcos.

Telcos owe government Rs 1.47 lakh crore as per Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s reply to Parliament. The dues are more than the disinvestment target of this year of Rs 1.05 lakh crore.

The telcos have sought a limited review of the October 24 ruling, and haven’t challenged the entire SC order that widened the definition of AGR and left them facing Rs 1.47 lakh crore in additional licence fee, spectrum usage charge (SUC), penalties and interest. They have also not sought any extension of the three-month payment deadline.

The government, saddled with lowest GDP growth of 4.5 per cent, has worries of muted tax revenue growth. Finally, November GST collections gave some cheers as they rose 6 per cent to Rs 1.03 lakh crore, reversing two months of decline, with experts attributing the increase to festive shopping and better compliance.

But this rise in GST may be just a month show as per Abhishek Jain, a tax partner at EY. “This (increase in collections) might be a festive occurrence – whether the intensity with this will go up, only time will say,” he said.

Collections may have got a lift from better compliance measures. “With implementation of anti-evasion measures like investigation on identified discrepancies through analytics and the recently implemented restrictions on availing of unmatched credits, there was a general expectation of collections witnessing an increase,” Jain said.

A significant decline in GDP growth itself is a precursor to a fall in tax collections. Tax revenue growth has been muted in the current financial year because of slowing growth. Net tax revenue climbed 3.4 per cent in April-October from a year ago. Higher collections will provide some fiscal relief to the government. India’s economic growth slowed to a six-year low of 4.5 per cent in July-September, while nominal GDP growth in the quarter hit a decade low of 6.1 per cent, which would impact taxes.

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