Officials from two government institutions have provided differing figures on the income from the 10 percent tax on telecom services, as questions persist on the functionality of the Real Time Data Management System (RTDMS).
The Real Time system, according to officials, connects with the billing systems of all telecom companies and takes the 10% telecom service fees from each GSM subscriber, ensuring those fees are deposited in the correct government accounts.
According to the Finance Ministry, the income from the telecom taxes was Afs1.232 billion ($17.1 million) in the last five months. The income from the same period in 2019 was Afs1.4 billion ($18 million), based on data by the Finance Ministry.
But, according to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, which runs the Real Time system, the income was Afs1.8 billion ($18 million) in the last five months.
This shows a Afs77 million ($99,500) difference in the figures provided by the two institutions about income of the telecom tax from January to May.
“It is the same in 1399 (solar) year. It is around Afs1.3 billion (over $17 million), and, unfortunately, we have an Afs77 million decrease,” said Shamroz Khan Masjidi, spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.
“The income collected by the Real Time system from January so far is Afs1.8 billion ($18 million),” said Humayun Ghafoori, head of the Real Time department of Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
The functionality of the Real Time system and transparency in the collection of the telecom taxes have often been been criticized. Kabul residents said millions of dollars have been invested in the establishment of the Real Time system, but it has not helped in ensuring transparency in the process.
“We need transparency in tax collection. We don’t know where it goes,” said Arzo, a Kabul resident.
“This is not acceptable that people find the money with difficulty and it is taken like this,” said Mustafa, a Kabul resident.
The Real Time system was established last year with the hope to increase the telecom tax revenue many times more than in the past, but lack of accuracy in the data provided by the system has been criticized.