Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court of India: Noting the donations being made to the Trust to be ‘bogus donations’ Bench of Uday Umesh Lalit and Ajay Rastogi, JJ., cancelled the registration of the Trust under Section 12AA and 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1963.

What transpired the present matter?

Present appeal challenged the decision of Calcutta High Court setting aside the order passed by Commissioner of Income Tax (Exemption) cancelling the registration of respondent Trust under Section 12AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and another order passed by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal dismissing appeals therefrom.

Background

Trust was registered under Section 12AA of the Act and was also accorded approval under Section 80G (vi) of the Act.

It was stated that in a survey conducted on an entity named School of Human Genetics and Population Health, Kolkata under Section 133A of the Act, it was prima facie observed that the Trust was not carrying out its activities in accordance with the objects of the Trust. Hence a show-cause notice was issued by the CIT.

Hence CIT invoked the provisions of Section 12AA(3) of the Income Tax Act and cancelled the registration under Section 12AA of the Act. This resulted in cancellation of the approval granted to the Trust under Section 80G of the Act.

When the matter reached High Court, Trust submitted that it had received donations from various donors and the Trust was under no obligation to verify the source of the funds of the donor or whether those funds were acquired by performance of any unlawful activity.

Further, it was also added that the funds were applied for the purposes of trust and that there was no evidence to suggest that those funds were applied for any illegal or immoral purposes or that the Trust was a namesake.

High Court had allowed the appeal and set aside the order of cancellation of the registration of the Trust while directing for the restoration of its registration.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that as per the answers to the questionnaire put forward to the Managing Trustee, it depicted the extent of misuse of the status enjoyed by the Trust by virtue of registration under Section 12AA of the Act.

The answers also showed that the donations were received by way of cheques out of which substantial money was ploughed back or returned to the donors in cash. As per the facts, the said donations were ‘bogus’ donations and that the registration conferred upon the Trust under Section 12AA and 80G of the Act was completely being misused by the Trust.

Hence, the authorities were right in cancelling the registration under Section 12AA and 80G of the Act.

Opinion on High Court’s decision

Supreme Court held that High Court erred in entertaining the appeal and it did not even attempt to deal with the answers to the questions and whether the conclusions drawn by the CIT and the Tribunal were in any way incorrect or invalid.

Conclusion

While setting aside the decision under challenge, Court allowed the present appeal and restored the order passed by the CIT and the Tribunal. [Commissioner of Income Tax (Exemptions) v. Batanagar Education and Research Trust, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 529, decided on 2-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Pet. Advocate(s)   ANIL KATIYAR
Resp. Advocate(s)   ABHIJIT SENGUPTA[caveat]
Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In an important ruling on taxation law, the bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy*, JJ has held that the proportionate disallowance of interest is not warranted, under Section 14A of Income Tax Act for investments made in tax free bonds/ securities which yield tax free dividend and interest to Assessee Banks in those situations where, interest free own funds available with the Assessee, exceeded their investments.

Issue

Whether Section 14A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, enables the Department to make disallowance on expenditure incurred for earning tax free income in cases where assessees like the present appellant, do not maintain separate accounts for the investments and other expenditures incurred for earning the tax-free income?

What does Section 14A state?

In Section 14, the various incomes are classified under Salaries, Income from house property, Profit & Gains of business or profession, Capital Gains & Income from other sources.

The Section 14A relates to expenditure incurred in relation to income which are not includable in Total Income and which are exempted from tax. No taxes are therefore levied on such exempted income. The Section 14A had been incorporated in the Income Tax Act to ensure that expenditure incurred in generating such tax exempted income is not allowed as a deduction while calculating total income for the concerned assessee.

Legislative history

Section 14A was introduced to the Income Tax Act by the Finance Act, 2001 with retrospective effect from 01.04.1962, in aftermath of judgment in the case of Rajasthan State Warehousing Corporation Vs. CIT, (2000) 3 SCC 126. The said Section provided for disallowance of expenditure incurred by the assessee in relation to income, which does not form part of their total income.

“As such if the assessee incurs any expenditure for earning tax free income such as interest paid for funds borrowed, for investment in any business which earns tax free income, the assessee is disentitled to deduction of such interest or other expenditure.”

Although the provision was introduced retrospectively from 01.04.1962, the retrospective effect was neutralized by a proviso later introduced by the Finance Act, 2002 with effect from 11.05.2001 whereunder, re-assessment, rectification of assessment was prohibited for any assessment year, up-to the assessment year 2000-2001, when the proviso was introduced, without making any disallowance under Section 14A. The earlier assessments were therefore permitted to attain finality. As such the disallowance under Section 14A was intended to cover pending assessments and for the assessment years commencing from 2001-2002.

Facts

  • In the case at hand, the Court was concerned with disallowances made under Section 14A for assessment years commencing from 2001-2002 onwards or for pending assessments.
  • The assessees are scheduled banks and in course of their banking business, they also engage in the business of investments in bonds, securities and shares which earn the assessees, interests from such securities and bonds as also dividend income on investments in shares of companies and from units of UTI etc. which are tax free.
  • None of the assessee banks amongst the appellants, maintained separate accounts for the investments made in bonds, securities and shares wherefrom the tax-free income is earned so that disallowances could be limited to the actual expenditure incurred by the assessee.
  • In absence of separate accounts for investment which earned tax free income, the Assessing Officer made proportionate disallowance of interest attributable to the funds invested to earn tax free income by referring to the average cost of deposit for the relevant year.
  • The CIT (A) had concurred with the view taken by the Assessing Officer.
  • The ITAT in Assessee’s appeal against CIT(A) considered the absence of separate identifiable funds utilized by assessee for making investments in tax free bonds and shares but found that assessee bank is having indivisible business and considering their nature of business, the investments made in tax free bonds and in shares would therefore be in nature of stock in trade. The ITAT then noticed that assessee bank is having surplus funds and reserves from which investments can be made. Accordingly, it accepted the assessee’s case that investments were not made out of interest or cost bearing funds alone and held that disallowance under Section 14A is not warranted, in absence of clear identity of funds.
  • The decision of the ITAT was reversed by the High Court.

Analysis

The Supreme Court took note of the fact that the CIT(A) and the High Court had based their decision on the fact that the assessee had not kept their interest free funds in separate account and as such had purchased the bonds/shares from mixed account. This is how a proportionate amount of the interest paid on the borrowings/deposits, was considered to have been incurred to earn the tax-free income on bonds/shares and such proportionate amount was disallowed applying Section 14A of the Act.

It, however, explained that

“In a situation where the assessee has mixed fund (made up partly of interest free funds and partly of interest-bearing funds) and payment is made out of that mixed fund, the investment must be considered to have been made out of the interest free fund. To put it another way, in respect of payment made out of mixed fund, it is the assessee who has such right of appropriation and also the right to assert from what part of the fund a particular investment is made and it may not be permissible for the Revenue to make an estimation of a proportionate figure.”

The Court, hence, held that if investments in securities is made out of common funds and the assessee has available, non-interest-bearing funds larger than the investments made in tax- free securities then in such cases, disallowance under Section 14A cannot be made.

[South Indian Bank v. CIT,  2021 SCC OnLine SC 692, decided on 09.09.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Know Thy Judge | Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Appearances before the Court by:

For Appellants: Senior Advocates S. Ganesh, S.K. Bagaria, Jehangir Mistri and Joseph Markose,

For Respondent/Revenue: ASG Vikramjit Banerjee and Senior Advocate Arijit Prasad

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

The Central Board of Direct Taxes has passed Income Tax (25th Amendment) Rules, 2021 on August 31, 2021. The Income Tax (25th Amendment) Rules, 2021 shall come into force on April 1, 2022. The Amendment inserts Rule 9D prescribing calculation of taxable interest relating to contribution in a provident fund, exceeding specified limit. For the calculation of taxable interest relating to provident fund, following points to be taken into consideration under Rule 9D:

 

  • The Non-taxable contribution account shall be the aggregate of the following:
  • closing balance in the account as on March 31, 2021
  • any contribution made by the person in the account during the previous year 2021-2022 and subsequent previous years, which is not included in the taxable contribution account; and
  • interest accrued as reduced by withdrawal
  • The Taxable contribution account shall be the aggregate of the following:
  • contribution made by the person in a previous year in the account during the previous year 2021-2022 and subsequent previous years, which is in excess of the threshold limit; and
  • interest accrued as reduced by the withdrawal, if any, from such account; and

 

The threshold limit shall mean:

  • five lakh rupees, if the second proviso to clause (11) or clause (12) of section 10 is applicable; and
  • two lakh and fifty thousand rupees in other cases.

 


*Tanvi Singh, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of Hemant Gupta and A.S. Bopanna, JJ., addressed whether the 2010 amendment of Payment of Gratuity Act 1972 is retrospective.

In the instant matter, Jharkhand High Court’s decision has been challenged whereby the claim of the appellants to declare the applicability of Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Act, 2010 from 1-1-2007 was declined.

Appellants were employees of Coal India Limited. Government of India had approved the enhancement of gratuity to the executives and Non-Unionized Supervisors of Central Sector Enterprises such as the Coal India Limited where the appellants were employed and the said gratuity was raised to Rs 10 lakhs.

Later, the Payment of Gratuity Act was amended.

Grievance of the Appellants

Appellants were aggrieved that the tax was deducted at the source when the gratuity was paid to the appellants before the commencement of the Amending Act. Thus, the appellants challenged the date of commencement as 24-05-2010 but asserted that it should be made effective from 1-1-2007 and consequently the appellants would not be liable for deduction of tax on the gratuity amount.

The Judgment of D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, (1983) 1 SCC 305, came up for consideration before this Court in a Judgment of State Government Pensioners’ Assn. v. State of A.P., (1986) 3 SCC 501, wherein the payment of gratuity from a specified date of retirement was held to be not unconstitutional.

A similar view was taken in the Supreme Court decision of Union of India v. All India Service Pensioners’ Assn., (1988) 2 SCC 580, wherein it was held that the pension was payable periodically as long as the pensioner was alive whereas the gratuity was ordinarily paid only once on retirement.

Section 4(5) of the Gratuity Act protects the rights of an employee to receive better terms of gratuity under any award or contract with the employer. The gratuity paid to the appellants on strength of office memorandum would fall in the said sub-section.

 “…what is exempt from the Income Tax Act is the amount of gratuity received under the Gratuity Act to the extent it does not exceed an amount calculated in accordance with the provisions of sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 4 of the Gratuity Act.”

The Gratuity Act contemplated Rs 10 lakhs as the amount of gratuity only from 24-5-2010. Such gratuity is the amount payable only once. Thus, the cut-off date cannot be said to be illegal, it being one-time payment.

Therefore, such amendment in the Gratuity Act cannot be treated to be retrospective. Hence, the said provisions of the statute cannot be said to be retrospective.

In a recent judgment Himachal Road Transport Corporation v. Himachal Road Transport Corporation Retired Employees Union, (2021) 4 SCC 502, in the case of payment of increased quantum of death-cum-retirement gratuity, it was held that the cut-off date cannot be said to be arbitrary which was fixed keeping in view financial constraints.

Lastly, in view of the above, Bench found that the date of commencement fixed by the Executive in exercise of power delegated by the Amending Act cannot be treated to be retrospective as the benefit of higher gratuity was one-time available to the employees only after the commencement of the Amending Act.

Concluding the matter, it was held that benefit paid to the appellants under the office memorandum is not entitled to exemption in view of specific language of Section 10(10)(ii) of the Income Tax Act.

No error was found in the Jharkhand High Court’s decision. [Krishna Gopal Tiwary v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 581, decided on 13-08-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The division bench of RF Nariman* and BR Gavai, JJ has explained the object and scope of Explanation 3C of the Section 43B of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and has held that Explanation 3C is clarificatory as it explains Section 43B(d) as it originally stood and does not purport to add a new condition retrospectively.

Section 43B. Certain deductions to be only on actual payment – Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, a deduction otherwise allowable under this Act in respect of—

xxx xxx xxx

(d) any sum payable by the assessee as interest on any loan or borrowing from any public financial institution or a State financial corporation or a State industrial investment corporation, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement governing such loan or borrowing, or

xxx xxx xxx

shall be allowed (irrespective of the previous year in which the liability to pay such sum was incurred by the assessee according to the method of accounting regularly employed by him) only in computing the income referred to in section 28 of that previous year in which such sum is actually paid by him: Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply in relation to any sum which is actually paid by the assessee on or before the due date applicable in his case for furnishing the return of income under sub-section (1) of section 139 in respect of the previous year in which the liability to pay such sum was incurred as aforesaid and the evidence of such payment is furnished by the assessee along with such return.

xxx xxx xxx

Explanation 3C.—For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that a deduction of any sum, being interest payable under clause (d) of this section, shall be allowed if such interest has been actually paid and any interest referred to in that clause which has been converted into a loan or borrowing shall not be deemed to have been actually paid.

Why was Section 43B inserted?

Section 43B was originally inserted by the Finance Act, 1983 w.e.f. 1st April, 1984 after taking note of the fact that in several cases taxpayers were not discharging their statutory liability such as in respect of excise duty, employer’s contribution to provident fund, Employees State Insurance Scheme, etc., for long periods of time, extending sometimes to several years.

To curb this practice, the Finance Act inserted a new section 43B to provide that deduction for any sum payable by the assessee by way of tax or duty under any law for the time being in force or any sum payable by the assessee as an employer by way of contribution to any provident fund or superannuation fund or gratuity fund or any other fund for the welfare of employees shall irrespective of the previous year in which the liability to pay such sum was incurred, be allowed only in computing the income of that previous year in which such sum is actually paid by the assessee.

Why was Explanation 3C inserted?

The Finance Act, 2006 inserted Explanation 3C w.e.f. 1st April, 1989 after it was brought to the Board’s notice that certain assessees were claiming deduction under section 43B on account of conversion of interest payable on an existing loan into a fresh loan on the ground that such conversion was a constructive discharge of interest liability and, therefore, amounted to actual payment. Claim of deduction against conversion of interest into a fresh loan is a case of misuse of the provisions of section 43B.

A new Explanation 3C was, therefore, inserted to clarify that if any sum payable by the assessee as interest on any loan or borrowing, referred to in clause (d) of section 43B, is converted into a loan or borrowing, the interest so converted, shall not be deemed to be actual payment.

Object of Section 43B and Explanation 3C

The object of Section 43B, as originally enacted, is to allow certain deductions only on actual payment. This is made clear by the nonobstante clause contained in the beginning of the provision, coupled with the deduction being allowed irrespective of the previous years in which the liability to pay such sum was incurred by the assessee according to the method of accounting regularly employed by it.

“In short, a mercantile system of accounting cannot be looked at when a deduction is claimed under this Section, making it clear that incurring of liability cannot allow for a deduction, but only “actual payment”, as contrasted with incurring of a liability, can allow for a deduction.”

Explanation 3C, which was introduced for the “removal of doubts”, only made it clear that interest that remained unpaid and has been converted into a loan or borrowing shall not be deemed to have been actually paid.

“… at the heart of the introduction of Explanation 3C is misuse of the provisions of Section 43B by not actually paying interest, but converting such interest into a fresh loan.”

Hence,

  • Since Explanation 3C was added in 2006 with the object of plugging a loophole – i.e. misusing Section 43B by not actually paying interest but converting interest into a fresh loan, bona fide transactions of actual payments are not meant to be affected.
  • A retrospective provision in a tax act which is “for the removal of doubts” cannot be presumed to be retrospective, even where such language is used, if it alters or changes the law as it earlier stood.
  • Any ambiguity in the language of Explanation 3C shall be resolved in favour of the assessee as per Cape Brandy Syndicate v. Inland Revenue Commissioner [1921 (1) KB 64] as followed in Vodafone International Holdings BV v. Union of India, (2012) 6 SCC 613.

[MM Aqua Technologies Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income Tax, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 575, decided on 11.08.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice RF Nariman

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Manmohan and Navin Chawla, JJ., noted the mandatory condition provided under Section 144B (7) of Income Tax Act, 1961.

Present petition challenged the Assessment order, notice of demand and notice of penalty passed under Section 143(3) read with Section 144B, Section 156 and Section 274 read with Section 271AAC(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 pertaining to the Assessment Year 2018-19.

Petitioner’s counsel submitted that there had been a breach of principles of natural justice, inasmuch as the respondent/revenue had failed to issue the mandatory Show Cause Notice-cum-draft assessment order to the petitioner/assessee, prior to the passing of the impugned assessment order.

Counsel for the Respondent-Revenue submitted that the final Assessment order had been passed without the issuance of a formal Show Cause Notice due to program and systematic glitches and he pointed out that the petitioner had been given ample opportunities and time for furnishing the requisite details and making submissions and hence there was no violation of principles of natural justice.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court opined that Section 144B (7) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 mandatorily provides for issuance of a prior show cause notice and draft assessment order before issuing the final assessment order.

Since in the present matter no prior Show Cause Notice, as well as assessment order, had been issued before passing the impugned assessment order, there was a blatant violation of principles of natural justice as well as the mandatory procedure prescribed in “Faceless Assessment Scheme” and as stipulated in Section 144 B of the Act.

Therefore, in the aforesaid facts, impugned assessment order, notice of demand and notice of penalty were set aside and the matter was remanded back to the Assessing Officer, who shall issue a draft assessment order and thereafter pass a reasoned order.

In view of the above, petition was disposed of. [Akashganga Infraventures India Ltd. v. National Faceless Assessment Centre, Delhi; WP (C) 5413 of 2021, decided on 4-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court: 

For the Petitioner: Mr Prakash Kumar, Advocate & Ms Rashmi Singh, Advocates

For the Respondent: Mr Zoheb Hossain, Sr. Standing Counsel for the Department

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Delhi: Dealing with the validity of the order passed under section 143(3), which was passed by an officer who did not have the Jurisdiction on the case of the Assessee and whether, the second Statutory notice issued under section 143(2) by the jurisdiction Assessing Officer, is also barred by limitation. The tribunal has reiterated that the notice under section 143(2) can be issued within a period of six months from the end of the financial year in which the return was filed. Further, on the point of jurisdiction relating to the issuance of notice also makes the notice under Section 143(2) void-ab-initio

The return of income for Assessment Year 2015-16 was e-filed by the Assessee on 2/9/2015 declaring a total income of Rs. 8,76,900/-. The case was selected for complete scrutiny under CASS. The Assessing Officer after considering the submissions and the relevant documents passed the final assessment order u/s 143 (3) of the Income Tax Act on 1st May, 2017, and accepted the declared income by the Assessee.

The Principal Commissioner of Income Tax (CIT) issued a notice under Section 263(1) on 16/08/2017. The Principal CIT vide order dated 7/11/2017 set aside the original assessment order and directed the Assessing Officer to pass the assessment order afresh.

Being aggrieved by the order u/s 263 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 passed by the Principal CIT, the Assessee preferred an Appeal before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (hereinafter referred as to “Tribunal”).

Whereby, the tribunal was pleased to held that the notice under section 143(2) can be issued within a period of six months from the end of the financial year in which the return was filed. Further, on the point of jurisdiction relating to the issuance of notice also makes the notice under Section 143(2) void-ab-initio.

“The tribunal was pleased to held that the notice under Section 143(2) can be issued after an income tax return has been filed but within a period of six months from the end of the financial year in which the return was filed. Thus, the first notice under Section 143(2) was issued on 01.08.2016 which by the non-jurisdictional Assessing Officer and jurisdictional Assessing Officer issued the notice on 10.03.2017 which is beyond the limitation period as per the statutory provisions of the Act. Thus, the notice is time-barred and hence, the assessment itself becomes void-ab-initio.

the proper jurisdiction of the Assessing Officer in the present case is that of DCIT, Circle 25(2) as the assessment for A.Y. 2014-15 has proceeded before the said Assessing Officer in Assessee’s case. There was no change of jurisdiction sought by the Revenue as per Section 124 read with Section 120 of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Thus, on the point of jurisdiction relating to the issuance of notice also makes the notice under Section 143(2) void-ab-initio.”

[Nirmal Gupta v. Pr. CIT-9,  2021 SCC OnLine ITAT 345, decided on 22.06.2021]


† Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court  

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT): A two-Member Bench of Pramod Kumar, Vice President and Amarjit Singh, Judicial Member, referred a seminal question to be decided by a larger Bench of three or more Members of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (“ITAT”). The two-Member Bench dubbed it as:

“[A] macro issue that touches upon the tax liability of virtually every company which has residents of a tax treaty partner jurisdiction as shareholders, and has substantial revenue implications.”

The present appeal (filed by the Income Tax Department) and cross-objection (filed by the assessee) called into question the correctness of the order passed by the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) in the matter of assessment under Section 143(3) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, for the assessment year 2016-17.  One of the issues raised in the present matter (by way of one of the grounds taken by the assessee in cross-objection) was that:

“The Assessing Officer be directed to compute the tax payable by the assessee under Section 115-O of the Income Tax Act, 1961 at the rate prescribed in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between India and France in respect of dividend paid by the assessee to the non-resident shareholders i.e., Total Marketing Services and Total Holdings Asie, a tax resident of France.”

Material Facts and Assessee’s Contention

The assessee company has some non-resident tax holders fiscally domiciled in France. The assessee has paid dividend distribution tax under Section 115-O of the Income Tax Act. The short case of the assessee is that since the shareholders of the assessee company are entitled to the benefits of the India France Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (“Indo French Tax Treaty”), the dividend distribution tax paid by the assessee, which is nothing but a tax on dividend income of the shareholders, cannot exceed the rate at which, under the Indo French Tax Treaty, such dividends can be taxed in the hands of the non-resident shareholders in question

Preliminary Objections by Income Tax Department

The appellant−Income Tax Department raised various preliminary objections to the cross-objection filed by the respondent−assessee, which were rejected by the ITAT. The first objection was that the cross-objection filed by the assessee was time-barred. Perusing the material on record, the ITAT was satisfied that the memorandum of cross-objection was filed within the time limit.

Another objection was about the assessee’s claim of treaty protection. It was contended that the claim so far as the rate of dividend distribution tax is concerned, was never raised before any of the authorities below, and no fresh issue can be raised by way of a cross-objection filed under Section 253(4) of the Income Tax Act. Negating this, the ITAT opined that there is a legal parity in the appeal and the cross-objection inasmuch as the issues which can be raised in an appeal can also be raised in a cross-objection. There cannot be any justification in restricting the scope of issues which can be raised in a cross-objection. Whatever issues, therefore, can be raised by way of an appeal are the issues that can be raised by way of a cross-objection.

Reference to Larger Bench

On the main issue (as noted above), the assessee contended that the matter is covered by the decisions of other Coordinate Benches. The assessee submitted that following the principles of consistency, the issue does not require a reference to Special Bench. The ITAT was urged to follow the Coordinate Benches and remit the matter to the file of the Assessing Officer for reconsideration in the light of the same.

For rejecting this submission, the ITAT found force in the Supreme Court decision in Union of India v. Paras Laminates (P) Ltd., (1990) 4 SCC 453. It was observed by ITAT that the assessee’s submission that the ITAT President cannot constitute a Special Bench in the absence of conflict of opinions by the Division Benches is incorrect and untenable in law. Of course, it is for the President to take a considered call on whether or not it is a fit case for constitution of a Special Bench, but, in the event of his holding the view that it is indeed a fit case to constitute a Special Bench, he is not denuded of the powers to do so on account of lack of conflict in the views of the Division Benches.

Thereafter, the ITAT set out its reasons for doubting the correctness of the decisions of the Coordinate Benches, on the dividend distribution tax rate being restricted by the treaty provision dealing with taxation of dividends in the hands of the shareholders (i.e. Article 11 of the Indo French Tax Treaty, as in the present case):

  • The payment of dividend distribution tax under Section 115-O does not discharge the tax liability of the shareholders. It is a liability of the company and discharged by the company. Whatever be the conceptual foundation of such a tax, it is not a tax paid by, or on behalf of, the shareholder. Therefore, dividend distribution tax cannot be treated as a tax on behalf of the recipient of dividends, i.e. the shareholders.
  • Under the scheme of the tax treaties, no tax credits are envisaged in the hands of the shareholders in respect of dividend distribution tax paid by the company in which shares are held. The dividend distribution tax thus cannot be equated with a tax paid by, or on behalf of, a shareholder in receipt of such a dividend. In fact, the payment of dividend distribution tax does not, in any manner, prejudice the foreign shareholder, and any reduction in the dividend distribution tax does not, in any manner, act to the benefit of the foreign shareholder resident in the treaty partner jurisdiction. This taxability is wholly tax-neutral vis-à-vis foreign resident shareholder and the treaty protection, when given in respect of dividend distribution tax, can only benefit the domestic company concerned. The treaty protection thus sought goes well beyond the purpose of the tax treaties.
  • It is to stretch things a bit too far to say that even when tax burden is shifted from a resident of the tax treaty partner jurisdiction to resident of another jurisdiction, the tax burden on another person, who is not eligible for tax treaty benefits anyway, will nevertheless be subjected to the same level of tax treaty protection. . Such a proposition does not even find mention in any tax treaty literature, and therefore the present decision, extending the tax treaty protection to the company paying dividends, in respect of dividend tax distribution tax, appears to be a solitary decision of its kind.
  • Wherever the Contracting States to a tax treaty intended to extend the treaty protection to the dividend distribution tax, it has been so specifically provided in the tax treaty itself. In the absence of such a provision, it cannot be inferred as such.
  • A tax treaty protects taxation of income in the hands of residents of the treaty partner jurisdictions in the other treaty partner jurisdiction. Therefore, in order to seek treaty protection of an income in India under the Indo French Tax Treaty, the person seeking such treaty protection has to be a resident of France. The expression ‘resident’ is defined, under Article 4(1) of the Indo French Tax Treaty, as “any person who, under the laws of that Contracting State, is liable to tax therein by reason of his domicile, residence, place of management or any other criterion of a similar nature”. Obviously, the company incorporated in India, i.e. the assessee in the present case, cannot seek treaty protection in India ─ except for the purpose of, in deserving cases, where the cases are covered by the nationality non-discrimination under Article 26(1), deductibility non-discrimination under Article 26(4), and ownership non-discrimination under Article 24(5). as, for example, Article 26(5) specifically extends the scope of tax treaty protection to the “enterprises of one of the Contracting States, the capital of which is wholly or partly owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by one or more residents of the other Contracting State”. The same is the position with respect of the other non-discrimination provisions. No such extension of the scope of treaty protection is envisaged, or demonstrated, in the present case. When the taxes are paid by the resident of India, in respect of its own liability in India, such taxation in India, cannot be protected or influenced by a tax treaty provision, unless a specific provision exists in the related tax treaty enabling extension of the treaty protection.
  • Taxation is a sovereign power of the State ─ collection and imposition of taxes are sovereign functions. Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement is in the nature of self-imposed limitations of a State’s inherent right to tax, and these DTAAs divide tax sources, taxable objects amongst themselves. Inherent in the self-imposed restrictions imposed by the DTAA is the fact that outside of the limitations imposed by the DTAA, the State is free to levy taxes as per its own policy choices. The dividend distribution tax, not being a tax paid by or on behalf of a resident of treaty partner jurisdiction, cannot thus be curtailed by a tax treaty provision.

For all these reasons independently, as also taken together, the ITAT was of the considered view that it is a fit case for the constitution of a Special Bench, consisting of three or more Members, so that all the aspects relating to this issue can be considered in a holistic and comprehensive manner. The question which may be referred for the consideration of Special Bench consisting of three or more Members, subject to the approval of, and modifications by, the ITAT President, is as follows:

“Whether the protection granted by the tax treaties, under Section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, in respect of taxation of dividend in the source jurisdiction, can be extended, even in the absence of a specific treaty provision to that effect, to the dividend distribution tax under Section 115-O in the hands of a domestic company?”

The Registry was directed to place the matter before the ITAT President for appropriate orders. [CIT v. Total Oil (India) (P) Ltd.,  2021 SCC OnLine ITAT 367, dated 23-6-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with an important question as to the constitutional validity of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman*, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has held that any order of stay shall stand vacated after the expiry of the period or periods mentioned in the Section only if the delay in disposing of the appeal is attributable to the assessee.

Section 254 (2A) of the Income Tax Act states that “In every appeal, the Appellate Tribunal, where it is possible, may hear and decide such appeal within a period of four years from the end of the financial year in which such appeal is filed under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 253”

However, the third proviso provides that “if such appeal is not so disposed of within the period allowed under the first proviso or the period or periods extended or allowed under the second proviso, which shall not, in any case, exceed three hundred and sixty-five days, the order of stay shall stand vacated after the expiry of such period or periods, even if the delay in disposing of the appeal is not attributable to the assessee.”

By a judgment dated 19.05.2015, the Delhi High Court struck down that part of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act which did not permit the extension of a stay order beyond 365 days even if the assessee was not responsible for delay in hearing the appeal. The Revenue, hence, challenged the said judgment and several other judgments from various High Courts holding the same.

The Delhi High Court, in it’s judgment, held that

“Unequals have been treated equally so far as assessees who are responsible for delaying appellate proceedings and those who are not so responsible, resulting in a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

Agreeing to the said reasoning, the Supreme Court added,

“This is a little peculiar in that the legislature itself has made the aforesaid differentiation in the second proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act, making it clear that a stay order may be extended upto a period of 365 days upon satisfaction that the delay in disposing of the appeal is not attributable to the assessee.”

It was further explained that ordinarily, the Appellate Tribunal, where possible, is to hear and decide appeals within a period of four years from the end of the financial year in which such appeal is filed. It is only when a stay of the impugned order before the Appellate Tribunal is granted, that the appeal is required to be disposed of within 365 days. So far as the disposal of an appeal by the Appellate Tribunal is concerned, this is a directory provision. However, so far as vacation of stay on expiry of the said period is concerned, this condition becomes mandatory so far as the assessee is concerned.

“The object sought to be achieved by the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act is without doubt the speedy disposal of appeals before the Appellate Tribunal in cases in which a stay has been granted in favour of the assessee. But such object cannot itself be discriminatory or arbitrary…”

The Court, hence, concluded:

  • Since the object of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act is the automatic vacation of a stay that has been granted on the completion of 365 days, whether or not the assessee is responsible for the delay caused in hearing the appeal, such object being itself discriminatory, was held liable to be struck down as violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
  • Also, the said proviso would result in the automatic vacation of a stay upon the expiry of 365 days even if the Appellate Tribunal could not take up the appeal in time for no fault of the assessee.
  • Further, vacation of stay in favour of the revenue would ensue even if the revenue is itself responsible for the delay in hearing the appeal. In this sense, the said proviso is also manifestly arbitrary being a provision which is capricious, irrational and disproportionate so far as the assessee is concerned.

Hence, partially upholding the validity of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act, the Court held that the same will now be read without the word “even” and the words “is not” after the words “delay in disposing of the appeal”. Therefore, any order of stay shall stand vacated after the expiry of the period or periods mentioned in the Section only if the delay in disposing of the appeal is attributable to the assessee.

[Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax v. Pepsi Foods Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 283, decided on  06.04.2021]


*Judgment by Justice RF Nariman

Know Thy Judge| Justice Rohinton F. Nariman

Appearances before the Court by:

For Revenue: ASG Bikarma Banerjee

For Assessees: Senior Advocate Ajay Vohra and Advocates Himanshu S. Sinha, Deepak Chopra and  Sachit Jolly

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ITAT’s power to grant stay: Is the Supreme Court decision in Pepsi Foods the last word?

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Madras High Court dismissed a writ petition without deciding the validity of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act on the ground that the matter is still sub judice before the Income Tax Authority, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah*, JJ has held

“When the vires of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act were challenged, which can be decided by the High Court alone in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court ought to have decided the issue with regard to vires of Section 40(a)(iib) on merits, irrespective of the fact whether the matter was sub judice before the Income Tax Authority. Vires of a relevant provision goes to the root of the matter.”


Background


In the present case, a show cause notice was issued for the Assessment Year 2017-stating that the VAT expense levied on the appellant is an exclusive levy by the State Government and therefore squarely covered by Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act and therefore VAT expenditure is not allowable as deduction in accordance with Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act, while computing the income of the appellant.

The appellant had argued that the amount which is deductible in computing the income chargeable in terms of the Income Tax Act is not being allowed under the garb of the aforesaid provision and that

“ (…) the said provision is discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, inasmuch as there are many Central Government undertakings which have not been subjected to any such computation of income tax and are enjoying exemption.”

The High Court dismissed the said writ petition without deciding the validity of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act by observing that the issue of raising a challenge to the vires of the provision at this stage need not be entertained as the matter is still sub judice before the Income Tax Authority, even though it is open to the aggrieved party to question the same at the appropriate moment.


What the Supreme Court Said


Once the show cause notice was issued by the assessing officer calling upon the appellant – assessee to show cause why the VAT expenditure is not allowable as deduction in accordance with Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act, while computing the income of the appellant, it can be said that the cause of action has arisen for the appellant to challenge the vires of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act and the appellant may not have to wait till the assessment proceedings before the Income Tax Authority are finalised.

“The stage at which the appellant approached the High Court and challenged the vires of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act can be said to be an appropriate moment.”

Therefore, it was held that the High Court ought to have decided the issue with respect to the challenge to the vires of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act on merit and has failed to exercise the powers vested in it under Article 226 of the Constitution of India by not doing so.

The Court, hence, without expressing any opinion on merits with respect to legality and validity of Section 40(a)(iib) of the Income Tax Act, remanded matter to the High Court.

[Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 953, decided on 25.11.2020]


*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment 

For appellant: Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi

For Union of India: Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natraj

Op EdsOP. ED.

In 2017, the Supreme Court originated the new fundamental right – right to privacy – by interpreting Article 21 of the Constitution of India.[1] The Supreme Court in its detailed order explains the various facets of privacy, one of which is informational privacy. On the same occasion, the Court laid out a test that can be used to check if any activity of the State violates the right to privacy. In this article, we would delve into one such act of the State.

The Central Government issued a Notification[2] on 31-8-2020 and specified “Scheduled Commercial Banks” as a ‘body’ under Section 138(1)(a)(ii) of the Income Tax Act, 1961[3] that has been empowered to seek any information with regards to an assessee from the data repository of the tax authorities.

It is pertinent to mention that prior to the aforesaid notification, only statutory and governmental authorities like SEBI, MCA and the likes were notified and, in consequence, legally permitted to obtain relevant information in connection with an assessee from taxation authorities. Also, the Government had specified in the notifications the types of information and procedures for request of information and its furnishing by the tax authorities (under certain circumstances). The notifications dictated the broad contours of limitations and mechanism for the exchange of taxation data by the tax authorities.

The term “Scheduled Commercial Banks” is defined under Section 2(e) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934[4] which includes all types of the bank i.e. public, private and international banks. The current number of banks listed under the said Schedule is 225.

Prior to the Notification dated 31st August, the Scheduled Commercial Banks had to take recourse to Section 138(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act which essentially provides for making an application to the income tax authorities for obtaining the particular piece of information from any income tax authorities. Such application was given due consideration on a case-to-case basis.

Now the big question arises as to “Whether the furnishing of tax information of any individual to banks without the consent of individuals concerned, or assessees (in the parlance of the Income Tax Act), violates the right to privacy under Article 21?”

Before analysing the above question, we need to first examine whether the information obtained by the tax authorities is personal enough and ought to receive the protection of the right to privacy that has been recognised as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in  K.S. Puttaswamy  v. Union of India [5](Privacy judgment).

There are various examples in both regulations and judicial pronouncements conferring tax information as an intrinsic part of one’s privacy. For the purposes of our inquiry, regulations and judicial pronouncements ought to be looked at and there is sufficient jurisprudence to conclude that tax information forms a part and parcel of one’s privacy.  For example, the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011[6] which includes ‘financial information’ as part of “sensitive personal data or information” in Rule  3.

As for the judicial pronouncement, R.F Nariman, J. in the Privacy judgment[7] penned “Taxation laws which require the furnishing of information certainly impinge upon the privacy of every individual which ought to receive protection.”

In Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commr.[8], the Supreme Court held:

13. The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act

The abovementioned regulation and judgment beg the point that information furnished to tax authorities falls inside the ambit of private information. However, it must be stressed sufficiently that, there is no explicit mention of “tax information” as part of sensitive personal data in any of the legislation. Also, the Data Protection Bill, 2019[9]  introduced in Parliament in the monsoon session does not include tax information as part of financial data or ‘sensitive personal data’. This is a clear omission by the legislators and speaks volumes of the legislative intent. Now prima facie any prudent person can deduce that this is a clear invasion of privacy of the taxpayer.

In the Privacy judgment[10], the Supreme Court of India introduced the three-fold requirement for any law/regulation to invade the right of life and privacy. The three-fold requirement is:

  1. Legality, which postulates the existence of law – it is clear that no specific legislation has been passed by Parliament on sharing the data with the scheduled commercial banks rather a gazette notification has been published to this effect. The gazette notification is a method of publication and giving effect to the particular Act/ Rule/Order and it cannot, in itself held to be the existence of law. The Supreme Court in T.C. Bhadrachalam Paperboards v. Mandal Revenue Officer[11] held:

The object of publication in the Gazette is not merely to give information to the public. Official Gazette, as the very name indicates, is an official document. It is published under the authority of the Government. Publication of an order or rule in the Gazette is the official confirmation of the making of such an order or rule. The version as printed in the Gazette is final.”

The two takeaways from the above judgment are that gazette notification is to provide information to the public about the Act/Rule and secondly, it acts as an official document, nothing more nothing less.

Thus, the requirement of the existence of law is not met.

  1. Need, defined in terms of the legitimate State aim or larger public interest. Section 138(1)(a) provides the sharing of information to enable officers, authorities, and bodies to perform his/her duties under that law. The officers, authorities, and bodies are notified by the Central Government which in its opinion is necessary for “public interest”.

The notification in question does not specify any “public interest” that it aims to achieve, nor does it point out how to achieve that public interest.

As for any duties to be performed under law, the commercial banks are governed by the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, and the Banking Regulation Act, 1949[12]. Both these statutes do not cast any correspondent duty or requirement on the bank to collect or gather data from the tax authorities.

Generally, the objects and aim of any Act are mentioned before the starting of any Act/statute. The object and aims show the intention of the legislature in passing that Act. Since no specific legislation has been passed in this case, it cannot be found out what the actual aim is.

We can draw a logical analogy provided by Union of India in Aadhar case[13] where the Attorney General contended that the Aadhar Act aims to provide subsidies to the real beneficiary directly into their bank accounts – the public interest – which is  provided under Section 7 of the Act.

Thus, it is quite clear that both Section 138 and the Notification dated 31st August do not provide any legitimate State aim to provide the information to scheduled commercial banks. The section and notification are vague and ambiguous as to what to achieve.

  • Proportionality, which ensures a rational nexus between the objects and the means adopted to achieve them – since in the present case the ‘object’ (legitimate State aim) is absent, it will be pretty tedious to observe any rational nexus between the object and means adopted to achieve them.

In my opinion, the first two requirements are not met, therefore the question as to proportionality does not arise in this case.

From the above discussion, the Notification dated 31st August does not meet the three-fold requirement that is laid down in Privacy judgment[14].

The Supreme Court in Aadhar judgment[15] had specifically struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 which provides any ‘body corporate’ to use Aadhaar for establishing identity. The Court held:

(c) Apart from authorising the State, even ‘anybody corporate or person’ is authorised to avail authentication services which can be based on the purported agreement between an individual and such body corporate or person. Even if we presume that the legislature did not intend so, the impact of the aforesaid features would be to enable commercial exploitation of an individual biometric and demographic information by the private entities.”

Similarly, the notification in question will provide tax information to banks which then can be used for commercial exploitation and data mining. The information revealed in one’s tax return is at the heart of informational privacy; the sharing of such information will amount in all certainty to the violation of the right to privacy. The other important thing that betrays fairness is that all the data sharing is done behind the curtains. Therefore, from all the reasons stated above, Section 138 of the IT Act and the notification allowing sharing of information with commercial banks is in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.


*Author is an advocate practising in Punjab and Haryana High Court and is an alumnus of Jindal Global Law School.

[1] K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1

[2] F. No. 22S/136/2020-IT A.II Notification No. 71 /2020 dated 31.08.2020

[3] Income Tax Act, 1961

[4] Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934

[5] (2017) 10 SCC 1

[6] Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011.

[7]  K.S. Puttaswamy v.  Union of India,  (2017) 10 SCC 1

[8]Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commr., (2013) 1 SCC 212 on p. 217

[9] Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. The Bill has been referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both the Houses.

[10] K.S. Puttaswamy v.  Union of India,  (2017) 10 SCC 1

[11] I.T.C. Bhadrachalam Paperboards v. Mandal Revenue Officer, (1996) 6 SCC 634 on p. 645

[12] Banking Regulation Act, 1949

[13] K.S. Puttaswamy  v.  Union of India,  (2019) 1 SCC 1

[14] K.S. Puttaswamy v.  Union of India,  (2017) 10 SCC 1

[15]Ibid.

Legislation UpdatesStatutes/Bills/Ordinances

President gave assent to the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Act, 2020 on 29-09-2020.

The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Act, 2020

The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020 (Ord. 2 of 2020) was promulgated on the 31-03-2020 which, inter alia, relaxed certain provisions of the specified Acts relating to direct taxes, indirect taxes and prohibition of Benami property transactions. Further, certain notifications were also issued under the said Ordinance.

The said Act will provide for the extension of various time limits for completion or compliance of actions under the specified Acts and reduction in interest, waiver of penalty and prosecution for the delay in payment of certain taxes or levies during the specified period.

Amendments to Income-tax Act, 1961 will also be made:

  • Providing of tax incentive for Category-III Alternative Investment Funds located in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) to encourage relocation of foreign funds to the IFSC.
  • deferment of a new procedure of registration and approval of certain entities introduced through the Finance Act, 2020.
  • providing for the deduction for donation made to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES FUND) and exemption to its income,
  • Incorporation of Faceless Assessment Scheme, 2019 therein, empowering the Central Government to notify schemes for faceless processes under certain provisions by eliminating physical interface to the extent technologically feasible and to provide deduction or collection at source in respect of certain transactions at a three-fourths rate for the period from 14th May, 2020 to 31st March, 2021.
  • Amendment to the Direct Tax Vivad se Viswas Act, 2020 to extend the date for payment without additional amount to 31-12-2020 and to empower the Central Government to notify certain dates relating to filing of declaration and making of the payment.
  • Finance Act, 2020 is also proposed to be amended to clarify regarding capping of the surcharge at 15% on dividend income of the Foreign Portfolio Investor.
  • Central Government empowered to remove any difficulty up to a period of 2 years and provide for repeal and savings of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020.

Read the detailed Act, here: Taxation & Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Act, 2020


Ministry of Law and Justice

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that Bangalore Club is not liable to pay wealth tax under the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, the3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ has said,

“Bangalore Club is an association of persons and not the creation, by a person who is otherwise assessable, of one among a large number of associations of persons without defining the shares of the members so as to escape tax liability. For all these reasons, it is clear that Section 21AA of the Wealth Tax Act does not get attracted to the facts of the present case.”

The Court noticed that only three types of persons can be assessed to wealth tax under Section 3 i.e. individuals, Hindu undivided families and companies. Hence, if Section 3(1) alone were to be looked at, the Bangalore Club neither being an individual, nor a HUF, nor a company cannot possibly be brought into the wealth tax net under this provision.

Association of Persons vis-à-vis Body of individuals

The Court held that it cannot be held that being taxed as an association of persons under the Income Tax Act, 1961 the Bangalore Club must be regarded to be an ‘association of persons’ for the purpose of a tax evasion provision in the Wealth Tax Act as opposed to a charging provision in the Income Tax Act.

It explained that the definition of “person” in Section 2(31) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 would take in both an association of persons and a body of individuals. For the purposes of income tax, the Bangalore Club could perhaps be treated to be a ‘body of individuals’ which is a wider expression than ‘association of persons’ in which such body of individuals may have no common object at all but would include a combination of individuals who had nothing more than a unity of interest.

Interpretation of Section 21AA of the Wealth Tax Act

Section 21AA was enacted w.e.f. 1 st April, 1981 and for the first time from 1st April, 1981, an association of persons other than a company or cooperative society has been brought into the tax net so far as wealth tax is concerned with the rider that the individual shares of the members of such association in the income or assets or both on the date of its formation or at any time thereafter must be indeterminate or unknown. It is only then that the section gets attracted.

The Court noticed that Section 21AA was introduced in order to prevent tax evasion and that it does not enlarge the field of tax payers but only plugs evasion as the association of persons must be formed with members who have indeterminate shares in its income or assets.

“The reason why it was enacted was not to rope in association of persons per se as “one more taxable person” to whom the Act would apply. The object was to rope in certain assessees who have resorted to the creation of a large number of association of persons without specifically defining the shares of the members of such associations of persons so as to evade tax.”

The Court explained:

  • sub-section (2) begins with the words “any business or profession carried on” by an association of persons. No business or profession is carried on by a social members club.
  • the association of persons mentioned in sub-section (1) must be persons who have banded together for a business objective – to earn profits – and if this itself is not the case, then sub-section (2) cannot possibly apply.
  • Insofar as Rule 35 is concerned, again what is clear is that on liquidation, any surplus assets remaining after all debts and liabilities of the club has been discharged, shall be divided equally amongst all categories of members of the club. This would show that “at any time thereafter” within the meaning of Section 21AA (1), the members’ shares are determinate in that on liquidation each member of whatsoever category gets an equal share.

Noticing the aforementioned aspects of Section 21AA of the Wealth Tax Act, the Court said,

“when Parliament used the expression “association of persons” in Section 21AA of the Wealth Tax Act, it must be presumed to know that this expression had been the subject matter of comment in a cognate allied legislation, namely, the Income Tax Act, as referring to persons banding together for a common purpose, being a business purpose in the context of a taxation statute in order to earn income or profits.”

It said that in order to be an association of persons attracting Section 21AA of the Wealth Tax Act, it is necessary that persons band together with some business or commercial object in view in order to make income or profits.

“The thrust of the provision therefore, is to rope in associations of persons whose common object is a business or professional object, namely, to earn income or profits.”

Object of Bangalore Club founded in 1868 by a group of British officers

  • To provide for its Members, social, cultural, sporting, recreational and other facilities;
  • To promote camaraderie and fellowship among its members.
  • To run the Club for the benefit of its Members from out of the subscriptions and contributions of its member.
  • To receive donations and gifts without conditions for the betterment of the Club. The General Committee may use its discretion to accept sponsorships for sporting Areas
  • To undertake measures for social service consequent on natural calamities or disasters, national or local.
  • To enter into affiliation and reciprocal arrangements with other Clubs of similar standing both in India and abroad.
  • To do all other acts and things as are conducive or incidental to the attainment of the above objects.

Conclusion

Noticing the objects of the Club and applying the aforementioned principles, the Court, hence, concluded that Bangalore Club is a social and the persons who are banded together do not band together for any business purpose or commercial purpose in order to make income or profits and hence, do not attract Section 21 AA of the Wealth Tax Act.

[Bangalore Club v. Commissioner of Wealth Tax, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 721, decided on 08.09.2020]

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

Central Board of Direct Taxes in exercise of powers conferred under Section 138(1)(a) of Income Tax Act, 1961, has issued Order inF.No. 225/136/2020/ITA.II dated 31.08.2020, for furnishing information about IT Return Filing Status to Scheduled Commercial Banks, notified vide notification No. 71/2020 dated 31.08.2020 under sub-clause (ii) of clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 138 of the Act.

The data on cash withdrawal indicated that huge amount of cash is being withdrawn by the persons who have never filed income-tax returns. To ensure filing of return by these persons and to keep track of cash withdrawals by the non-filers, and to curb black money, the Finance Act, 2020 w.e.f. 1st July, 2020 further amended the Income-tax Act, 1961 to lower the threshold of cash withdrawal to Rs. 20 lakh for the applicability of TDS for the non-filers and also mandated TDS at the higher rate of 5% on cash withdrawal exceeding Rs. 1 crore by the non-filers.

Income Tax Department has already provided a functionality “Verification of applicability under Section 194N” on www.incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in for Banks and Post offices since 1st July, 2020.  Through this functionality, Bank/Post Office can get the applicable rate of TDS under Section 194N of the Income-tax Act, 1961 by entering the PAN of the person who is withdrawing cash.

The Department has now released a new functionality “ITR Filing Compliance Check” which will be available to Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) to check the IT Return filing status of PANs in bulk mode. The Principal Director General of Income-tax (Systems) has notified the procedure and format for providing notified information to the Scheduled Commercial Banks. The salient features of the using functionality are as under:

  1. Accessing “ITR Filing Compliance Check”: The Principal Officer & Designated Director of SCBs, which are registered with the Reporting Portal of Income-tax Department (https://report.insight.gov.in) shall be able to use the functionality after logging into the Reporting Portal using their credentials. After successfully logging in, link to the functionality “ITR Filing Compliance Check” will appear on the home page of the Reporting Portal.
  2. Preparing request (input) file containing PANs: The CSV Template to enter PAN details can be downloaded by clicking on the “Download CSV template” button on the “ITR Filing Compliance Check” page. PANs, for which IT Return filing status is required, are required to be entered in the downloaded CSV template. The current limit of PANs in one file is 10,000.
  3. Uploading the input CSV file: Input CSV file may be uploaded by clicking on Upload CSV button. While uploading, “Reference Financial Year” is required to be selected. Reference Financial Year is the year for which results are required. If the selected Reference Financial Year is 2020-21 then results will be available for Assessment years 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. Uploaded file will start reflecting with Uploaded status.
  4. Downloading the output CSV file: After processing, CSV file containing IT Return Filing Status of the entered PANs will be available for download and “Status” will change to Available.  Output CSV file will have PAN, Name of the PAN holder (masked), IT Return Filing Status for last three Assessment Years. After downloading of the file, the status will change to Downloaded and after 24 hours of availability of the file, download link will expire and status will change to Expired.

Scheduled Commercial Banks can also use API based exchange to automate and integrate the process with the Bank’s core banking solution. Scheduled Commercial Banks are required to document and implement appropriate information security policies and procedures with clearly defined roles and responsibilities to ensure security of information.


Ministry of Finance

Press Release dt. 02-09-2020 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Alok Aradhe and H.T. Narendra Prasad, JJ. set aside the decision of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in favour of the assessee.

The present appeal was filed under Section 260-A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) wherein an order passed by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) was challenged.

The substantial question under deliberation was:

If the ITAT was correct coming to the decision that deductions which fall under Section 10-B of IT Act the can be computed without setting off of brought forward business losses and unabsorbed depreciation?

The Court relied on the decision in CIT v. Yokogawa (India) Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1491 and held that the decision of the Tribunal in the said matter was incorrect. Therefore, the above-mentioned question was answered in favour of the assessee.[Commissioner of Income Tax v.  Mind Tree Consulting Ltd., I.T.A No. 50 of 2013, decided on 17-08-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, New Delhi: The 3-Member Bench of Justice Bansi Lal Bhat (Acting Chairperson), V.P. Singh, Member (Technical) and Shreesha Merla, Member (Technical), rejected the appeal filed by the Operational Creditor against the order of NCLT, after finding a need for ‘further investigation’ in the case.

The Appellant (Operational Creditor) and the Respondent (Corporate Debtor) entered into a Business Transfer Agreement (BTA) dated 7 April 2018 for the transfer of undertaking on a Slump Sale basis under Section 2(42-C) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 at a lump sum amount of Rs 123 Crores. The appellant contended that the Corporate Debtor had only transferred a sum of Rs 65 Crores and the remaining debt of Rs 58 Crores was unpaid.

The Appellant contended that after the satisfaction of ‘condition precedent’ relating to transfer, a compliance notice was submitted to the Corporate Debtor on 4 June 2018, which was acknowledged by the Corporate Debtor. It was further submitted, the sale was consummated and the possession of Undertaking was handed over by the Operational Creditor to the Corporate Debtor. Demand for payment was regularly communicated to the debtor but no payment was made. He also contended that the NCLT erred in deciding the judgement by not appreciating the facts and correct perspective of law.

The Respondent contended that the impugned appeal was premised on the suppression of facts and information, misrepresentation and gross misconstruction of the provision of the business transfer agreement. They further argued that it had replied to the demand notices and the payment of outstanding debt was made into 3 Tranche Payments as more particularly specified in the BTA. They also argued that post slump sale transaction was under the scope of IBC proceedings and in reply to the demand notice the corporate Debtor raised the issue of pre-existing dispute.

The Tribunal relied on the principle of ‘pre-existence’ of dispute as interpreted in the case of Mobilox Innovations (P) Ltd. v. Kirusa Software (P) Ltd., (2018) 1 SCC 353. The Court said that “all that the Adjudicating Authority is to see at this stage is whether there is a plausible contention which requires further investigation and that the “dispute” is not a patently feeble legal argument or an assertion of fact unsupported by evidence. It is important to separate the grain from the chaff and to reject a spurious defence which is mere bluster”. After examining the documents supplied by both the parties, the Tribunal found that issues had been raised by the corporate debtor before the receipt of demand notices which proved ‘pre-existence’ of dispute and there was a plausible contention in the defence raised by the corporate debtor which required further investigation. Therefore, the appeal was rejected and no substance was found in the appeal. [Allied Silica Limited v. Tata Chemicals Ltd.,  2020 SCC OnLine NCLAT 613, decided on 11-08-2020].

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with the question as to whether disallowance under Section 40(a)(ia) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 is confined/limited to the amount “payable” and not to the amount “already paid”, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ held that the expression “payable” is descriptive of the payments which attract the liability for deducting tax at source and it has not been used in the provision in question to specify any particular class of default on the basis as to whether payment has been made or not. Stating that the term “payable” has been used in Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act only to indicate the type or nature of the payments by the assessees to the payees referred therein, the Court said that the argument that the expression “payable” be read in contradistinction to the expression “paid”, sans merit and could only be rejected.

Section 40(a)(ia) provides for the consequences of default in the case where tax is deductible at source on any interest, commission, brokerage or fees but had not been so deducted, or had not been paid after deduction (during the previous year or in the subsequent year before expiry of the prescribed time) in the manner that the amount of such interest, commission, brokerage or fees shall not be deducted in computing the income chargeable under “profits and gains of business or profession”.

The Court, further, said that

“Section 40(a)(ia) is not a stand-alone provision but provides one of those additional consequences as indicated in Section 201 of the Act for default by a person in compliance of the requirements of the provisions contained in Part B of Chapter XVII of the Act.”

Explaining the scheme of the Act, the Court said that Section 194C is placed in Chapter XVII of the Act on the subject “Collection and Recovery of Tax”; and specific provisions are made in the Act to ensure that the requirements of Section 194C are met and complied with, while also providing for the consequences of default. Section 200 specifically provides for the duties of the person deducting tax to deposit and submit the statement to that effect. The consequences of failure to deduct or pay the tax are then provided in Section 201 of the Act which puts such defaulting person in the category of “the assessee in default in respect of the tax” apart from other consequences which he or it may incur. Section 40 of the Act, and particularly the provision contained in sub-clause (ia) of clause (a) thereof, indeed provides for one of such consequences.

Hence, holding that when the obligation of Section 194C of the Act is the foundation of the consequence provided by Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act, reference to the former is inevitable in interpretation of the latter, the Court said that the scheme of these provisions makes it clear that the default in compliance of the requirements of the provisions contained in Part B of Chapter XVII of the Act (that carries Sections 194C, 200 and 201) leads, inter alia, to the consequence of Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act. Hence, the contours of Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act could be aptly defined only with reference to the requirements of the provisions contained in Part B of Chapter XVII of the Act, including Sections 194C, 200 and 201.

On the question whether sub-clause (ia) of Section 40(a) of the Act, as inserted by the Finance (No. 2) Act, 2004 with effect from 01.04.2005, is applicable only from the financial year 2005-2006 and not retrospectively, the Court said that

“It needs hardly any detailed discussion that in income tax matters, the law to be applied is that in force in the assessment year in question, unless stated otherwise by express intendment or by necessary implication.”

As per Section 4 of the Act of 1961, the charge of income tax is with reference to any assessment year, at such rate or rates as provided in any central enactment for the purpose, in respect of the total income of the previous year of any person. The expression “previous year” is defined in Section 3 of the Act to mean ‘the financial year immediately preceding the assessment year’; and the expression “assessment year” is defined in clause (9) of Section 2 of the Act to mean ‘the period of twelve months commencing on the 1st day of April every year’. The legislature consciously made the said sub-clause (ia) of Section 40(a) of the Act effective from 01.04.2005, meaning thereby that the same was to be applicable from and for the assessment year 2005-2006; and neither there had been express intendment nor any implication that it would apply only from the financial year 2005-2006.

The Court, hence, said

“We need not multiply on the case law on the subject as the principles aforesaid remain settled and unquestionable.”

 

[Shree Choudhary Transport Company v. Income Tax Officer, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 610 , decided on 29.07.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, Ministry of Home Affairs sets up an Inter-Ministerial panel set up to probe violations by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.

“MHA sets up inter-ministerial committee to coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of PMLA, Income tax Act, FCRA etc by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust & Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust . Special Director of ED will head the committee.”

         — MHA


Media Reports

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT): A Division Bench of R.K. Panda (Accountant Member) and Kuldip Singh (Judicial Member), while addressing a matter held,

“Bar Council of Delhi being engaged in safeguarding the rights, privileges and interest of the advocates, its dominating purpose is the advancement of general public utility within the meaning of Section 2(15) of the Act, as such, genuineness of its activities and object of charitable purpose is proved, thus entitled for registration under 12AA and consequent exemption under Section 80G.”

Bar Council of Delhi — Appellant sought to set aside the impugned order passed by the Commissioner of Income tax (Exemption) passed on 27th September, 2019.

Application in Form No. 10A and 10G moved by the appellant seeking registration under Section 12 AA of the Income tax Act, 1961 were rejected by CIT (E) on the grounds inter alia that since the appellant failed to furnish balance sheet and income & expenditure account for the FY 2018-19 despite called for, the conditions laid down under Section 12 AA are not satisfied and that the name of the Bar Council of Delhi does not appear in approved association/institution notified by the Government thus not a charitable institution within meaning of Section 2(15) of the Act.

Appellant approached the tribunal by filing the present appeal.

Tribunal noted that, appellant has been established with object to control, supervise, regulate or encouragement of the profession of law for which there is a separate provision in the Act as contained under Section 10(23A) of the Act for exempting its income which shall not be included in its total income.

CIT (E) proceeded to reject the application under Section 12AA and consequent exemption under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Question for determination in this case is:

Whether activities of the appellant – Bar Council/ professional body which is to control, supervise and regulate profession is not a charitable within the meaning of definition contained under Section 2(15) of the Act as has been held by the CIT(E)?

Supreme Court in case of CIT v. Bar Council of Maharashtra, 130 ITR 28, affirming the judgment of Bombay High Court in case of Bar Council of Maharashtra v. CIT , 126 ITR 27, held that primary and dominant purpose of an institution like the appellant is the advancement of the object of general public utility within the meaning of Section 2(15) of the Act and as such, the income from securities held by the appellant would be exempt from any tax liability under Section 11 of the Act.

Whether the CIT (E) is empowered to reject the registration and consequent exemption under Sections 12AA and 80G of the Act due to non-furnishing of financials of FY 2018-19?

When the object of the institution is proved to be charitable within the meaning of Section 2(15) of the Act, further scrutiny of the financials of the appellant are not required because it is otherwise within the purview of AO to examine at the time of assessment if the appellant is entitled to exemption under Section 11 of the Act.

In the present matter, the tribunal is thus of the opinion that the CIT (E) has erred in declining the registration under Section 12 AA of the Act on the ground that financials of FY 2018-19 have not been furnished by the appellant.

Tribunal further observed that, merely on the basis of the fact that income of the appellant exempted under Section 10(23A) is not a bar to claim deduction in assessment under Section 11 of the Act, as such income is to be excluded under Section 11 of the Act.

Hence, appeal filed by the appellant is allowed directing CIT(E) to provide registration under Section 12 AA and consequent exemption under Section 80 G of the Act. [Bar Council of Delhi v. CIT (Exemption), 2020 SCC OnLine ITAT 340 , decided on 02-07-2020]

COVID 19Legislation UpdatesNotifications

In view of the challenges faced by taxpayers in meeting the statutory and regulatory compliance requirements across sectors due to the outbreak of Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19), the Government brought the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020 [the Ordinance] on 31st March, 2020 which, inter alia, extended various time limits. 

In order to provide further relief to the taxpayers for making various compliances, the Government has issued a Notification on 24th June, 2020, the salient features of which are as under:

I. The time for filing of original as well as revised income-tax returns for the FY 2018-19 (AY 2019-20) has been extended to 31st July, 2020.

II. Due date for income tax return for the FY 2019-20 (AY 2020-21) has been extended to 30th November, 2020. Hence, the returns of income which are required to be filed by 31st July, 2020 and 31st October, 2020 can be filed upto 30th November, 2020. Consequently, the date for furnishing tax audit report has also been extended to 31st October, 2020.

III. In order to provide relief to small and middle class taxpayers, the date for payment of self-assessment tax in the case of a taxpayer whose self-assessment tax liability is upto Rs. 1 lakh has also been extended to 30th November, 2020. However, it is clarified that there will be no extension of date for the payment of self-assessment tax for the taxpayers having self-assessment tax liability exceeding Rs. 1 lakh. In this case, the whole of the self-assessment tax shall be payable by the due dates specified in the Income-tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) and delayed payment would attract interest under section 234A of the IT Act.

IV. The date for making various investment/ payment for claiming deduction under Chapter-VIA-B of the IT Act which includes section 80C (LIC, PPF, NSC etc.), 80D (Mediclaim), 80G (Donations) etc. has also been further extended to 31st July, 2020. Hence the investment/ payment can be made upto 31st July, 2020 for claiming the deduction under these sections for FY 2019-20.

V. The date for making investment/ construction/ purchase for claiming roll over benefit/ deduction in respect of capital gains under Sections 54 to 54GB of the IT Act has also been further extended to 30th September, 2020. Therefore, the investment/ construction/ purchase made up to 30th September, 2020 shall be eligible for claiming deduction from capital gains.

VI. The date for commencement of operation for the SEZ units for claiming deduction under section 10AA of the IT Act has also been further extended to 30th September, 2020 for the units which received necessary approval by 31st March, 2020.

VII. The furnishing of the TDS/ TCS statements and issuance of TDS/ TCS certificates being the prerequisite for enabling the taxpayers to prepare their return of income for FY 2019-20, the date for furnishing of TDS/ TCS statements and issuance of TDS/ TCS certificates pertaining to the FY 2019-20 has been extended to 31st July, 2020 and 15th August, 2020 respectively.

VIII. The date for passing of order or issuance of notice by the authorities and various compliances under various Direct Taxes & Benami Law which are required to be passed/ issued/ made by 31st December, 2020 has been extended to 31st March, 2021. Consequently, the date for linking of Aadhaar with PAN would also be extended to 31st March, 2021.

IX. The reduced rate of interest of 9% for delayed payments of taxes, levies etc. specified in the Ordinance shall not be applicable for the payments made after 30th June, 2020.

The Finance Minister has already announced extension of date for making payment without additional amount under the “Vivad Se Vishwas” Scheme to 31st December 2020, necessary legislative amendments for which shall be moved in due course of time. The said Notification has extended the date for the completion or compliance of the actions which are required to be completed under the Scheme by 30th December, 2020 to 31st December, 2020. Therefore, the date of furnishing of declaration, passing of order etc under the Scheme stand extended to 31st December, 2020.

Deferment of the implementation of new procedure for approval/ registration/ notification of certain entities u/s 10(23C), 12AA, 35 and 80G of the IT Act has already been announced vide Press Release dated 8th May, 2020 from 1st June, 2020 to 1st October, 2020. It is clarified that the old procedure i.e. pre-amended procedure shall continue to apply during the period from 1st June, 2020 to 30th September, 2020. Necessary legislative amendments in this regard shall be moved in due course of time.

The Finance Minister has already announced reduced rate of TDS for specified non-salaried payments to residents and specified TCS rates by 25% for the period from 14th May, 2020 to 31st March, 2021. The announcement was also followed by the Press Release dated 13th May, 2020. The necessary legislative amendments in this regard shall be moved in due course of time.


Ministry of Finance

[Press Release dt. 25-06-2020]