Explanation 2 to Section 37(1), with effect from 1st April 2015, which provides that “for the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that for the purposes of sub-section (1), any expenditure incurred by an assessee on the activities relating to corporate social responsibility referred to in section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013) shall not be deemed to be an expenditure incurred by the assessee for the purposes of the business or profession” , the expenses incurred in discharging corporate social responsibility are not deductible in computation of business income. Learned Departmental Representative submits that this amendment should be treated as clarificatory in nature, as it is stated to be in so many words, and we should, therefore, hold that the expenses in discharging corporate social responsibility were outside the ambit of expenses deductible under section 37(1).
Held by ITAT
The amendment in the scheme of Section 37(1), which has been introduced with effect from 1st April 2015, cannot be construed as to disadvantage to the assessee in the period prior to this amendment. This disabling provision, as set out in Explanation 2 to Section 37(1), refers only to such corporate social responsibility expenses as under Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, and, as such, it cannot have any application for the period not covered by this statutory provision which itself came into existence in 2013. Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) is, therefore, inherently incapable of retrospective application any further. In any event, as held by Hon Phillips vs. Eyre [, a retrospective legislation is contrary to the general principle that legislation by which the conduct of mankind is to be regulated when introduced for the first time to deal with future acts ought not to change the character of past transactions carried on upon the faith of the then existing law.” It may appear to be some kind of a dichotomy in the tax legislation but the well settled legal position is that when a legislation confers a benefit on the taxpayer by relaxing the rigour of pre-amendment law, and when such a benefit appears to have been the objective pursued by the legislature, it would a purposive interpretation giving it a retrospective effect but when a tax legislation imposes a liability or a burden, the effect of such a legislative provision can only be prospective. We have also noted that the amendment in the scheme of Section 37(1) is not specifically stated to be retrospective and the said Explanation is inserted only with effect from 1st April 2015. In this view of the matter also, there is no reason to hold this provision to be retrospective in application. As a matter of fact, the amendment in law, which was accompanied by the statutory requirement with regard to discharging the corporate social responsibility, is a disabling provision which puts an additional tax burden on the assessee in the sense that the expenses that the assessee is required to incur, under a statutory obligation, in the course of his business are not allowed deduction in the computation of income. This disallowance is restricted to the expenses incurred by the assessee under a statutory obligation under section 135 of Companies Act 2013, and there is thus now a line of demarcation between the expenses incurred by the assessee on discharging corporate social responsibility under such a statutory obligation and under a voluntary assumption of responsibility. As for the former, the disallowance under Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) comes into play, but, as for latter, there is no such disabling provision as long as the expenses, even in discharge of corporate social responsibility on voluntary basis, can be said to be “wholly and exclusively for the purposes of business”. There is no dispute that the expenses in question are not incurred under the aforesaid statutory obligation. For this reason also, as also for the basic reason that the Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) comes into play with effect from 1st April 2015, we hold that the disabling provision of Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) does not apply on the facts of this case.