Case Law Details

Case Name : Batlivala & Karani Securities (India) Pvt. Ltd. Vs. DCIT (ITAT Kolkata)
Appeal Number : I.T.A Nos.1234 & 1235/Kol/2013
Date of Judgement/Order : 08/07/2016
Related Assessment Year : 2008-09 & 2009-10
Courts : All ITAT (1731) ITAT Kolkata (111)

We find that the moot question to be decided in this appeal is as to whether the payments made by the assessee to its foreign subsidiaries would fall under the ambit of ‘fees for technical services’ as per the DTAA. We find from the Article 12 of Singapore Treaty and Article 13 of the UK Treaty defining the term ‘fees for technical services’ , the consideration paid for rendering of managerial, technical or consultancy services would be covered under the said definition only if such services make available any technical knowledge, experience, knowhow, or processes. The nature of services rendered by the subsidiaries to the assessee were in respect of simple marketing services of introducing foreign institutional investors to invest in the capital markets in India so that the assessee would improve its business and income in India. We find that no technical service is being made available to the assessee by its subsidiaries and as a result, the payments made to subsidiaries would not fall within the definition of fees for technical services as admittedly no technical knowledge was made available to the assessee by the subsidiaries.

 Article 12(4) and 13(4) of the Singapore and UK treaty respectively reproduced hereinabove is the same as Article 12(4)(b) of DTAA between India and USA. In the Memorandum of understanding to the DTAA between India and USA, a description concerning fees for included services in Article 12 and paragraph 4 (in general) have been given. Examples of services intended to be covered within the definition of  included services and those intended to be excluded have been given. The Memorandum explains how Paragraph 4(b) of Article-12 has to be understood. The Memorandum explains that Article 12(4)(b) refers to technical or consultancy services that make available to the person acquiring the services, technical knowledge, experience, skill, know-how, or processes, or consist of the development and transfer of a technical plant or technical design to such person. The Memorandum explains category of services referred to Article 12(4)(b) as narrower than the category described in paragraph 4(a) because it excludes any service that does not make technology available to the person acquiring the service. It further explains that generally speaking, technology will be considered made available when the person acquiring the service is enabled to apply the technology. The fact that the provision of the service may require technical input by the person providing the service does not per se mean that technical knowledge, skills, etc., are made available to the person purchasing the service, within the meaning of paragraph 4(b). Similarly, the use of a product which embodies technology shall not per se be considered to make the technology available.

The Memorandum of understanding is a tool to understand as to what meaning was intended to be conveyed in the DTAA between countries. Since the wording of Article 12(4) and 13(4) of the treaty with Singapore and UK respectively and Article 12(4)(b) of the DTAA between India and US are identical, the MOU to the Indo-US treaty can be looked into to see what meaning India and Singapore / UK (as the case may be) would have contemplated in the treaty. The law is settled that a DTAA with one country can be compared with the DTAA with another country in case of ambiguity and in order to understand the true scope and meaning of the concerned DTAA. The Hon’ble Karnataka High Court in the case of A.E.G. Telefunken v. CIT [1998] 231 ITR 129 compared the DTAA with German Democratic Republic with the DTAA with Finland towards this end.

The Mumbai Bench of the Tribunal in the case of Raymond Ltd. Vs. DCIT 86 ITD 791 (Mum) had to deal with a case of payment of commission by an Indian company to a non resident in connection with Public Issue of Global Depository Receipts (GDR) for services rendered outside India. The question before the Tribunal was whether the commission so paid can be said to be “Fees for included services” i.e., Fees for Technical Services under Article 13(4)(c) of the Indo-UK DTAA which is the same as that of Article 12(4)(b) of the treaty between India and Singapore. After considering Article 12(4)(b) of the Indo-US DTAA (which are similar to Article 12(4) and 13(4) of the treaty between India and Singapore / UK (as the case may be)), and after referring to the Memorandum of understanding to the Indo-US DTAA, the Tribunal held as follows:

“ Whereas section 9(1)(vii) of the Act stops with the “rendering” of technical services, the DTAA goes further and qualifies such rendering of services with words to the effect that the services should also make available technical knowledge, experience, skills etc. to the person utilizing the services. These words are “which make available”. The normal, plain and grammatical meaning of the language employed, in our understanding, is that a mere rendering of services is not roped in unless the person utilizing the services is able to make use of the technical knowledge etc. by himself in his business or for his own benefit and without recourse to the performer of the services in future. The technical knowledge, experience, skill etc. must remain with the person utilizing the services even after the rendering of the services has come to an end. A transmission of the technical knowledge, experience, skills etc. from the person rendering the services to the person utilizing the same is contemplated by the article. Some sort of durability or permanency of the result of the “rendering of services” is envisaged which will remain at the disposal of the person utilizing the services. The fruits of the services should remain available to the person utilizing the services in some concrete shape such as technical knowledge, experience, skills etc.”

 Applying the definition of FTS in the Treaty to the facts of the present case in the light of the various decisions referred to above, it cannot be said that the rendering of services by the Singapore and UK Subsidiaries to the assessee made available to the assessee , such services , for its future use or utilization on a reasonably permanent basis. Hence the consideration paid thereon by the assessee would not fall under the ambit of fees for technical services as per the treaty.

 Now the provisions of section 90(2) of the Act would have to be seen which states that the provisions of DTAA would prevail over the Act to the extent it is beneficial to the assessee. In view of the aforesaid finding that the payment made is not fees for technical services as per the Treaty, it would be academic to look into the fact whether the said payment would be fees for technical services as per the provisions of the Income Tax Act. The applicability of TDS provisions thereon due to retrospective amendment in Explanation 2 to Section 9(1)(vii) of the Act by the Finance Act 2010 with effect from 1.6.1976 need not be gone into. We also feel that the aspect of applicability of TDS provisions on the reimbursement component also becomes irrelevant in the facts of the case in view of the aforesaid findings. Similarly the applicability of the provisions of section 40(a)(i) of the Act for short deduction of tax at source also becomes academic in nature and no decision is hereby rendered thereon. The question as to whether the payment by the assessee to its subsidiary in UK and Singapore comprised partly of reimbursement of expenses or not also does not require any consideration, in view of the conclusion that the payment in question does not, even otherwise, attract the provisions of Sec.40(a)(i) of the Act.

Since the payment made by the assessee to its subsidiaries is not fees for technical services, then the same would be construed as only business income in the hands of the subsidiaries which would get taxed in India only in the event of existence of permanent establishment (PE) in India. We find that the Learned AO had categorically stated in more than one place in his order that the Singapore and UK subsidiaries do not have any PE in India. The retrospective amendment in this regard in Explanation 2 to section 195(1) of the Act with effect from 1.4.1962 was inserted by the Finance Act 2012. The obligation to deduct tax at source has to be complied only as per the law that it prevails on the date of payment. Admittedly the payment in question was made by the assessee to its Subsidiaries prior to the Finance Act 2012. It is not possible to fasten an obligation to deduct tax at source on the basis of a retrospective amendment to the law as has been laid down by the Co-ordinate Bench decision of this Tribunal in the case of DCIT vs Subhotosh Majumder reported in (2016) 65 taxmann.com 42 (Kolkata –Trib.) dated 27.11.2015 .

We find that as per Article 7 of UK and Singapore Treaty, in the absence of PE in India, the business income also would not get taxed in India. Hence we hold that the payment made by the assessee to its subsidiaries is not chargeable to tax in India in the hands of the subsidiaries in India. The provisions of section 195(1) of the Act mandates a requirement that the income should be chargeable to tax in India to assume jurisdiction in India. In the instant case, it is proved beyond doubt that the subsidiaries do not have any income chargeable to tax in India and hence the decision rendered by the Hon ’ble  Apex Court in the case of GE India Technology Centre P Ltd vs CIT reported in 327 ITR  456 (SC) supports the case of the assessee. This decision has been rendered after duly considering the case law vehemently relied upon by the Learned AO on the decision of the Hon ’ble Apex Court in the case of Transmission Corporation of A.P. Ltd vs CIT reported in 239 ITR 587 (SC) vide para 10 of the judgement at pages 465 & 466. We are also in complete agreement with the arguments advanced by the Learned AR that the various case laws relied upon by the Learned CITA in his order vide paras 7 to 12 were rendered prior to rendering of Hon’ble Supreme Court decision in GE India Technology case on 9.9.2010. Hence we don’t deem it fit and appropriate to discuss those case laws for the purpose of adjudication of this issue.

In view of the aforesaid findings , we have no hesitation in directing the Learned AO to delete the disallowance made u/s 40(a)(i) of the Act in respect of payments made to foreign subsidiaries. In view of the above conclusion, the other propositions advanced by the Learned AR before us are not taken up for consideration. Accordingly, the Ground Nos. 1 & 2 raised by the assessee for the Asst Year 2008-09 are allowed.

We find that the facts for the Asst Year 2009-10 in respect of the impugned issue are exactly similar except variance in the mark up of 10% instead of 29% in respect of payments made to Singapore Subsidiary. Hence the decision rendered in Asst Year 2008-09 would apply with equal force for the Asst Year 2009-10 also in respect of this Accordingly, the Ground Nos 1 & 2 raised by the assessee for the Asst Year 2009-10 are allowed.

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