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JPC upset over I-T's tardy pace of 2G scam probe
September, 09th 2011

The pace of income-tax inquiries into the 2G telecom scam seems to be glacial, with the department only arriving at part assessment of the Tata Group's tax liability of Rs 133 crore while liabilities of other players are still unclear.

Senior central board of direct taxes (CBDT) and finance ministry officials told the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on telecom that Tata Telecom's operations have been assessed and some foreign firms that bought equity have accepted tax liabilities in India.

In its report on the status of investigations, the CBDT said it was looking at a significant mismatch between the price at which firms holding 2G licences sold equity to their own subsidiaries and share price foreign investors paid. There is a clear case of a tax dodge, officials felt.

Committee sources said the progress of investigations seems disappointing given that the scam has been under intense spotlight for more than a year. The Supreme Court-monitored probe has resulted in high-profile political and corporate arrests, but the I-T inquiry seems to be lagging.

JPC members are upset that authorities do not appear clear about how soon they will be able to provide even indicative figures of the tax dues of firms that benefitted from the spectrum allocation in 2008.

Norway's Telenor that partnered Unitech has agreed that it is liable to pay taxes. The liability of Telenor and three other firms is being examined. CBDT said it is probing payments made to foreign investors for equipment and services.

The committee also completed examination of former telecom secretary Anil Kumar with regard to the BJP-led national democratic alliance's tenure in office with Congress members posing tough questions about the objections raised to allowing operators to migrate from fixed fees to revenue sharing.

BJP's Yashwant Sinha pointed to the support of Congress MPs for the shift to revenue-sharing regime, while Kumar defended his actions as telecom secretary by pointing out that the sector grew rapidly, consumers had more choice and tariffs came down.

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