Millennium Post

Full evaluation of telcos self-assessment of AGR dues may take 6 months: DoT source

New Delhi: A full evaluation of the self-assessment done by telcos' for AGR dues could take at least six months, given the multiple years and numerous documents that have to be checked, according to a telecom department source.

The government, last week, had asked Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telecom companies to pay remaining AGR dues as per the Supreme Court order without further delay. It had written to all telcos asking them to pay balance dues "without delay" and submit detailed bifurcation of payments (explanation of self-assessed amounts), which it said are necessary for proper reconciliation of legitimate AGR dues.

A senior telecom department official said that a complete evaluation of the self-assessment done by telecom companies for their AGR dues could take six months as it will require checking scores of documents spread over multiple years.

"Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has done a detailed audit for the years 2006-07 to 2014-15...Overall, DoT's complete evaluation of the self assessment by telecom companies will take six months," the official said.

In all, 16 entities had owed the government Rs 1.47 lakh crore in AGR liabilities -- Rs 92,642 crore in licence fee and another Rs 55,054 crore in outstanding spectrum usage charges. Of the estimated dues that include interest and penalty for late payments, Airtel and Vodafone Idea accounted for about 60 per cent.

These dues arose after the Supreme Court, in October last year, upheld the government's position on including revenue from non-core businesses in calculating the annual Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer.

The Supreme Court last month rejected a plea by mobile carriers such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for extension in the payment schedule and asked companies to deposit their past dues for spectrum and licences.

Since the February 14 tongue lashing that the Supreme Court gave telecom companies for missing its previous deadline of January 23 to pay past dues as well as the DoT for failing to enforce it, firms and the telecom ministry had been doing separate maths on the actual dues.

Beleaguered Vodafone Idea Ltd, on March 6, pegged its total dues to the government at Rs 21,533 crore -- less than half of what the telecom department has estimated, even as the Vodafone CEO indicated keenness to make a "new, good beginning" in India. The company has so far paid Rs 3,500 crore out of the "self-assessed" liability of Rs 21,533 crore, while the Department of Telecommunications estimated its dues to be over Rs 53,000 crore.

On a similar self-assessment pattern, Bharti Airtel paid Rs 13,004 crore to the government in two installments. It had also deposited an additional Rs 5,000 crore as an ad-hoc payment to cover any reconciliation differences. Still, its payment is far less than over Rs 35,000 crore that the government estimates the company owes it.

Similarly, Tata Teleservices has paid Rs 2,197 crore in AGR dues, and more recently additional Rs 2,000 crore to cover reconciliation differences, while the DoT estimates the liabilities to be about

Rs 14,000 crore.

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