India: Clearing The Air: SC Confirms Disallowance Of Expenses Pertaining To Exempt Income

Last Updated: 31 August 2017
Article by Smruti R. Patnaik

One of the most widely litigated issues in India is the disallowance of expenditure incurred on earning income that is exempt from tax. In an endeavor to put the controversy to rest, the Supreme Court ("SC") in the recent case of Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Ltd. v. DCIT,1 has held that expenditure should be disallowed if it is incurred in connection with the earning of tax-exempt income.

Facts

Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited ("Taxpayer") is engaged in the business of manufacture of steel furniture, electrical equipments, etc. It is also a promoter of various other companies and invests funds into these companies to maintain control over them.

During the relevant period, the Taxpayer earned dividend income from the Godrej group of companies and certain other sources. A substantial part of the Taxpayer's investment in Godrej group companies was in form of bonus shares. No fresh investment was made during the relevant year and the value of investments had depleted.

The Assessing Officer ("AO") disallowed the interest expenditure of INR 6.92 crores holding the same to be attributable to earning dividends which are exempt from tax. The matter traversed through various appellate authorities and finally reached the doorsteps of the SC.

Issues for Consideration before the SC

  1. Whether the phrase "income which does not form part of total income under this Act" appearing in Section 14A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 ("IT Act") includes within its scope dividend income on shares in respect of which dividend distribution tax ("DDT") is payable?
  2. Whether the provisions of Section 14A of the IT Act should be applicable on the facts and circumstances of the instant case, given that the tax authorities have repeatedly and unanimously upheld the deduction of expenses claimed by the Taxpayer over a considerable period of time (which has not been challenged).

Decision

The SC observed that there was a clear and unambiguous purpose to introducing the disallowance provision in question. The legislature intended to check the claim of allowance of expenditure incurred towards earning exempted income in a situation where a taxpayer has both exempt and taxable income. It has also been held that in the case of dividends, deduction of expenses would not be permissible merely on the ground that the dividends received by the taxpayer have already suffered DDT in the hands of the dividend paying company. This is because such income is not included as a part of the total income of the recipient taxpayer. A plain reading of the provision would go to show that the income must not be includible in the total income of the taxpayer.

The SC observed that the literal meaning of the provision, far from giving rise to any absurdity, appears to be wholly consistent with the scheme of the IT Act and the object of levy of tax on income.

Holding that the disallowance of expenditure is applicable in the case of dividend income, the SC also clarified that in so far as dividend income is concerned, it is exempt from tax in the hands of the Taxpayer and not includible in the computation of its total income. The fact that provisions relating to exempt dividend income and DDT of the IT Act were brought in together, deleted and reintroduced later in a composite manner, does not assist the Taxpayer in any way whatsoever.

The SC also went on to clarify that no material difference to the applicability of the disallowance provision would arise even if it is assumed that additional income tax in the form of DDT is a tax on the dividend and not on the distributed profits of the company paying dividends. It was further clarified that this provision does not contemplate a situation where the income is taxable in the hands of the dividend paying company and not the recipient taxpayer, yet the expenditure incurred to earn that income must be allowed to the recipient taxpayer. Any such allowance of expenditure to the recipient taxpayer would be wholly incongruous in view of the IT Act since dividend income is exempt from tax in the hands of the recipient. Thus, it should not be allowed to claim any expenditure on the same.

However, taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case, wherein the Taxpayer was allowed to claim deduction in respect of expenses incurred by it for a considerable period of time, the SC held that even though the principle of res judicata is not applicable to tax proceedings, it is equally important, if not more, to ensure consistency and certainty. The fact that the position adopted by the Taxpayer has been accepted by the tax authorities all these years and has not been challenged or litigated, means that there is no reason to disturb the already established position. Accordingly, the SC held that the Taxpayer should not be liable to pay tax for the past period.

Conclusion

It is a significant decision by the SC which will settle the position on the disallowance of expenditure incurred in earning a tax exempt income. Dividend income is exempt in the hands of the recipient. Hence, such income shall not be considered as a taxable income just because DDT is paid on the same by the dividend distributing company. It has also been clarified that merely because such dividend income is subject to DDT in the hands of the distributing company, the recipient of such dividends cannot be allowed to claim any expenditure incurred in respect of earning such dividend income.

However, it must be noted that the SC has also held in the particular facts of the instant case that for the sake of consistency and certainty, if there are unanimous findings of the lower authorities over a considerable period of time (which have not been challenged or litigated in the past) the same should not be departed from unless there are strong and compelling reasons to do so.

Footnote

[1] TS-176-SC-2017

* The author was assisted by Mehreen Zafar, Associate

Originally published June 7, 2017

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions