Hungarian parliament passes tax on phone calls, text messages


Hungary’s parliament approved on Friday new taxes on mobile communications that will hit telecom operators that have already been burdened by so-called crisis taxes.

Starting from July 1, a two-forint (0.7 euro cents, 0.8 US cents) tax will be imposed on every call minute and every text, though the monthly maximum is to be capped at 700 forints for individuals and 2,500 forints for companies.
Emergency numbers and those for charities will be exempt from the new tax. The government hopes to bring in 44 billion forints per year to reduce its deficit with the new levy, which telecom companies have strongly criticized.
On Monday, the country’s three biggest telecom companies — Magyar Telekom, Telenor and Vodafone — protested that the government had gone back on its word with the new tax, saying it was initially meant for consumers but will now hit the companies themselves.
In 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban already introduced a series of so-called crisis taxes on retail, energy, financial and telecoms firms to rein in the deficit. But a new austerity program adopted by the government last month to bring the deficit below the European Union’s 3.0% threshold vowed to halve these taxes by 2013 and get rid of them altogether by 2014.
Before parliament approved the new tax on Friday, a spokesman for the Hungarian subsidiary of Norway’s Telenor told the Hungarian state agency MTI that the new levy would be passed onto customers.
A deputy from the opposition LMP party, Gabor Vago, claimed that the government’s move — which targets mostly foreign owned companies — was to facilitate the creation of a national mobile telephone company.