DRC in tax showdown with telcos
The DRC is reported to have banned executives from several telecommunications companies from leaving the country after they are alleged to have failed to comply with newly implemented industry tax.
A report published by Bloomberg cited sources “familiar with the matter” that said business leaders from Orange SA, Airtel Africa, Vodacom and Africell have been barred from travel and had their passports confiscated.
It is the latest development in a developing story from the central African country, related to mobile tariff increases.
In early June, ITWeb Africa correspondents reported that as news broke of the possible implementation of new taxation parameters for the mobile telecommunications industry, authorities refuted the claims and announced that mobile operators could not adjust tariffs without regulatory approval.
The Authorite de Regulation Postes et Telecom (ARPTC) was reacting to claims made by the Federation of Companies of Congo (FEC) that the “country’s operators are preparing to increase tariffs due to the introduction of new taxes by authorities on telecom operators.”
The FEC said operators would increase tariffs for the services on which the taxes are to be levied and that operators would withdraw certain services to customers.
The organisation added that the government must reconsider the taxes because “they unnecessarily increase households’ expenses” in already difficult socio-economic conditions.
According to another Bloomberg report, Airtel, Vodacom, Orange and Africell all received bills for the new taxation from the government via an appointed consultant agency.
The new levy, which is reportedly calculated at a percentage of revenue from all services, is understood to be targeted at several telecommunications services including data, voice and SMS.
DRC-based legal expert Junior Luyindula foresees an increase in taxes.
In a message posted in early June on Twitter, Luyindula said, “Federation of Businesses of the Congo (FEC)’s telecom commission (says) that a hike in telecoms tariffs was on the way. Operators said last week they had no other choice than to raise the tariffs of the various services.”