Lonestar Cell MTN Appeals US$19M Tax Court Ruling to Supreme Court

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Lonestar Cell MTN has taken an appeal to the Supreme Court against the ruling by Tax Court Judge Mozart Chesson on Wednesday, September 16, in which the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) was awarded US$19.2 million against the telecommunications giant.

The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) in a release last week cried victory in a US$19.2 million tax case against the operator following more than two years of legal battle.

Tax Court Judge Mozart Chesson ruled in the case on Wednesday, September 16, at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill following final arguments in the case three weeks ago, a release from the LRA has said.

A leader in Liberia’s telecommunications sector, Lonestar Cell MTN prides itself in being one of the highest tax payers in the country. Now the court’s ruling compels the company to pay US$19 million more into government’s coffers.

The case, the release said, was taken to the tax court after both the LRA and Lonestar rejected the decision of the Board of Tax Appeal (BOTA) which ruled that the company pays US$1.9 million.

The LRA insisted that US$19.2 million was due from the company, while Lonestar Cell/MTN further rejected the BOTA’s ruling claiming it owed no taxes. BOTA had no authority to adjust the statutory addition (penalties and interest) to a tax bill.

In its ruling Wednesday, the Tax Court declared that Lonestar was held to pay the amount, “because it failed to follow, and exhaust the appeal process, and did not take appeal when it was served the notice for payment at the then Ministry of Finance.”

“We are happy for this ruling; especially to reach this far in two-and-a-half years,” stated Cllr. Eric B. Morlu, Legal Counselor at the LRA.

Meanwhile, Lonestar declined to comment further, except to anticipate its appeal to be heard at the Supreme Court.

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