Financier-in-possession of a motor/transport vehicle liable to pay tax under U.P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1997: SC

Supreme Court: While dealing with the scope of Section 12 of the U.P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1997, bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that a financier of a motor vehicle/transport vehicle in respect of which a hire-purchase, lease or hypothecation agreement has been entered, is liable to tax from the date of taking possession of the said vehicle under the said agreements.

The Court further explained that only in a case, which falls under sub-section (2) of Section 12 and subject to surrender of the necessary documents as mentioned in sub-section (2) of Section 12, the liability to pay the tax shall not arise, otherwise the liability to pay the tax by such owner/operator shall continue.

What Section 12 of the U.P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1997 state?

Section 12 provides for non-use of vehicle and refund of tax.

As per Section12(1) when any person who has paid the tax in respect of a transport vehicle, proves to the satisfaction of the Taxation Officer in the prescribed manner that the motor vehicle in respect whereof such tax has been paid, has not been used for a continuous period of one / month or more since the tax was last paid, he shall be entitled to a refund of an amount equal to one-third of the rate of quarterly tax or one twelfth of the yearly tax, as the case may be payable in respect of such vehicle for each thirty days of such period for which such tax has been paid.

However, Section 12(2) provides that where the operator or, as the case may be, the owner of a motor vehicle, does not intend to use his vehicle for a period of one month or more he shall, before the date the tax or additional tax, as the case may be is due, surrender the certificate of registration, the token, if any, issued in respect of the motor vehicle and the permit, if any, to the Taxation Officer of the region where the tax or additional tax was last paid and on such surrender, no tax or additional tax under Act, 1997 shall be payable in respect of such vehicle for each complete calendar month of the period during which the vehicle remains withdrawn from use and the aforesaid documents remain surrendered with the Taxation Officer.

As per proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 12 in case such vehicle is found plying during the period when its documents as mentioned in sub-section (2) of Section 12 remain surrendered with the Taxation Officer, such owner or operator, as the case may be, shall be liable to tax and additional tax as if the documents were not surrendered and shall also be liable to penalty equivalent to five times of the tax and additional tax.

Analysis

Going by the scheme of the U.P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1997, the Court observed that in respect of a transport vehicle, the tax is to be paid in advance as monthly tax or yearly tax, as the case may be, and only thereafter such vehicle shall be put to use.

The owner or operator has to first pay the tax in advance and thereafter if the transport vehicle is not used for a continuous period of one month or more since the tax was last paid, he may have to apply for the refund, which may be granted subject to compliance of the necessary requirements as per first proviso to Section 12 and subject to satisfaction of the Taxation Officer that the transport vehicle has not been used for a continuous period of one month or more since the tax was last paid.

The Court made it clear that there is only one eventuality where no tax or advance tax under the Act, 1997 shall be payable namely under sub-section (2) of Section 12, where the operator or, as the case may be, the owner of a motor vehicle, does not intend to use his vehicle for a period of one month or more, he shall, before the date the tax or additional tax, as the case may be, is due, surrender the certificate of registration, the token, if any, issued in respect of the motor vehicle and the permit, if any, to the Taxation Officer of the region where the tax or additional tax was last paid and only on such surrender, no tax or additional tax under Act, 1997 shall be payable in respect of such vehicle for each completed calendar month of the period during which the vehicle remains withdrawn from use and the aforesaid documents remain surrendered with the Taxation Officer.

If, after the payment of tax, the vehicle is not used for a month or more, then such an owner may apply for refund under Section 12 of the Act, 1997 and has to comply with all the requirements for seeking the refund as mentioned in Section 12, and on fulfilling and/or complying with all the conditions mentioned in Section 12(1), he may get the refund to the extent provided in sub-section (1) of Section 12, as even under Section 12(1), the owner / operator shall not be entitled to the full refund but shall be entitled to the refund of an amount equal to one-third of the rate of quarterly tax or one twelfth of the yearly tax, as the case may be, payable in respect of such vehicle for each thirty days of such period for which such tax has been paid. However, only in a case, which falls under sub-section (2) of Section 12 and subject to surrender of the necessary documents as mentioned in sub-section (2) of Section 12, the liability to pay the tax shall not arise, otherwise the liability to pay the tax by such owner/operator shall continue.

The Court, hence, upheld the Allahabad High Court judgment wherein it was held that a financier-in-possession of the transport vehicle is liable to pay tax under the U.P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1997.

[Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services v. State of UP, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 219, decided on 22.02.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah


Counsels

For appellant: Advocate Prashant Kumar

For State: Senior Advocate Garima Prasad

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