European 3G operators seek tax refund

A spokeswoman for the Dutch government described efforts by KPN Mobile to seek a refund for the VAT which, it claimed, it had...

A spokeswoman for the Dutch government described efforts by KPN Mobile to seek a refund for the VAT which, it claimed, it had paid on the fee for its 3G third-generation mobile broadband licence.

"Our position is that VAT wasn't included in the purchase of the licence," the spokeswoman said. "We believe KPN doesn't have a case but they seem to think so and appear willing to go to court to prove it. Then the judge will have to decide."

KPN is still considering court action, a company spokesman said. "The fact that VAT isn't excluded means that it's included. We're asking for the value-added tax to be reimbursed. We're considering litigation."

The spokesman said the Dutch mobile operator estimated savings of more than €100m (£66m) for the duration of the licence, which had cost €711m.

In Germany, Group 3G UMTS, the mobile operator with the brand name Quam which ended commercial operations in November, and another undisclosed operator have filed requests for VAT reimbursement with the German telecom regulator RegTP.

"Quam and one other operator, which has asked not to be identified, have sent us letters asking for a value-added tax refund," a RegTP spokesman said. "We advised the operators that we are not responsible for tax issues and that they should contact the government or local financial authorities."

The German government sees no case for 3G licensees receiving a VAT reimbursement. "The 3G licences were without value-added tax," a spokesman said. "The operators' claims are without substance."

A court decision in favour of Quam or KPN would almost certainly prompt other operators in Europe to follow suit.

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