Case Law Details

Case Name : M/s GoDaddy India Web Services Pvt. Ltd. (Authority for Advance Ruling) (Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax)
Appeal Number : AAR/44/ST/15/2014
Date of Judgement/Order : 04/03/2016
Related Assessment Year :
Courts : Advance Rulings (72)
CA Urvashi Porwal

Urvashi PorwalBrief Facts

GoDaddy India Web Services Private Limited (hereinafter also referred to as applicant) proposes to enter into a ‘Services Agreement’ with GoDaddy.com, LLC (hereinafter also referred to as ‘GoDaddy US’) located in Arizona, USA and incorporated in Delaware, USA. GoDaddy US is a domain name registrar and provides other web services to customers across the world. Applicant proposes to provide a gamut of services to its client GoDaddy US. It shall provide support services in an integrated manner to assist GoDaddy US develop its brand in India, carry on its operations efficiently and serve customers in India, which are as under;

a. Marketing and promotion services: Applicant proposes to engage in promotion and marketing of GoDaddy US services in India. This would essentially include increasing the awareness of services provided by GoDaddy US and establishment of the brand GoDaddy in India. Towards this, the applicant proposes to provide the following services:

1) Direct Marketing: Applicant shall advise GoDaddy US regarding various aspects of the market situation prevailing in India from time to time. The content of advertisement would be prepared by the marketing team of GoDaddy US itself. Also, such advertisement would be directly placed on social media by GoDaddy US. The necessary advice in this regard and said information would be provided from the applicant to GoDaddy US.

2) Branding Activities: Applicant shall assist GoDaddy US in developing its brand in India by arranging for advertisement activities of GoDaddy US. An independent (third party owned) advertisement agency in India would be appointed by GoDaddy US directly. Such agency would negotiate the price for purchase of time slots or space for display of advertisement in the electronic or print media and coordinate regarding timing for display of the advertisement with Indian advertisement companies.

3) Offline Marketing: Applicant shall undertake marketing and promotional activities in India for GoDaddy US. Towards this, the applicant shall take part in seminars, talk shows or any other events as speakers to spread awareness regarding the GoDaddy brand and services offered by GoDaddy US. The applicant may also sponsor specific events or social gatherings in India to reach out to the public for creating awareness of GoDaddy US brand.

b) Supervision of quality of third party customer care center services:

c) Payment processing services: To enable customers to pay for services in INR, GoDaddy US proposes the applicant to provide payment processing facilities in India, collect money from the customers of GoDaddy US in India and remit the same to GoDaddy US. Applicant shall outsource the payment collection activity to a third party service provider in India which will provide the necessary payment collection gateway facility to the customers who may wish to effect payments in INR. All such collections from customers (in respect of services provided by GoDaddy US) will be transmitted by the applicant to GoDaddy US on actual basis i.e. without any mark-up.

In consideration for the above-mentioned support services, the applicant shall charge a fee equal to the operating costs incurred by the applicant plus a mark-up of 13% on such costs, which will be received by the applicant from GoDaddy US in US Dollars. It is contemplated that GoDaddy US would be the only customer of the applicant. GoDaddy US, through its website ‘GoDaddy.com’ is engaged in the business of providing name registration, web hosting, designing and other services. The nature of services provided by GoDaddy US is outlined below:

a. Domain name registration and transfer services: GoDaddy US registers and transfers both generic top level domains. Any user desirous of obtaining any particular domain can access a website of GoDaddy US and place a request for the same.

b. Website hosting and e-mail: GoDaddy US provides web hosting services which allow its users to develop their own websites / webpages by using the development tools and applications which are available online on GoDaddy’s website.

c. Designing services: GoDaddy US assists its users in creating various designs for website header, website content, website logo, business card, letter head etc., so that the users can build their own website. The relevant tools and applications required for the above services are available on a GoDaddy US website.

d. Sale of on-demand products: GoDaddy US also provides its domain users with email, calendar and other standard services with limited features. Additional features (like multiple email ids’, additional space, synchronization etc.) are also available to the users for a service fee, which varies based on the service level requested by the users. GoDaddy US also provides Secure Sockets Layer (‘SSL’) certification services, which ensures that the message to be sent is properly encrypted and reaches the intended recipient.

e. Trouble shooting services: All the users of GoDaddy US are also entitled to trouble shooting services in relation to any of the services which they have procured from GoDaddy US. Such trouble shooting is facilitated by call centers appointed by GoDaddy US.

Applicant seeks rulings with regard to the following questions of law.

Question No.1: Whether, in the facts and circumstances as explained above, the various support services proposed to be provided by the Applicant to GoDaddy US are a “bundle of Services” being naturally bundled in the ordinary course of business and accordingly is a single service, being ‘business support service’, in terms of Section 66F of the Finance Act?

Submissions of the Applicant

Applicant inter-alia submits that they would provide in an integrated manner, a bundle of support services in relation to marketing, branding, offline marketing, oversight of quality of third party customer care center and payment processing on a principal to principal basis in terms of the draft Service Agreement; that these services would be provided with the sole intention of promoting the brand ‘GoDaddy’ in India. Applicant submits that the draft Service Agreement between applicant and GoDaddy US clearly shows that applicant would perform the service as a marketing and promotion support service provider in order to get GoDaddy US brand established in Indian market; that entire gamut of services proposed to be provided by the applicant are intended to be towards the common objective of supporting the business of GoDaddy US in India; that principal objective of the applicant will be to advance the business of GoDaddy US in India and establish its brand presence in the territory of India; that towards this the applicant proposes to undertake marketing and other allied services such as oversight of customer care centers operated in India by a third party or arranging for payment processing services to facilitate easy and secure payments by the customers of GoDaddy US; that oversight of call centers by the applicant would contribute towards the quality of customer support services by GoDaddy US being received by its present as well as prospective customers in India; that this will go to strengthening the customer’s trust in the brand ‘GoDaddy’. Applicant further submits that the services proposed to be provided by the applicant would collectively work towards augmenting the business of GoDaddy US in India; that the sole objective of GoDaddy US to appoint the applicant in India is to obtain support in order to establish its brand and promote its services; that the various elements of services proposed to be provided by the applicant to GoDaddy US are all aimed towards providing better customer experience which will ultimately help in establishment of a trust with the customers in India leading to advancing the business of GoDaddy US; that all such services provided in terms of the proposed Service Agreement will be provided by the applicant located in India to GoDaddy US which is located in a non-taxable territory (i.e. US) and does not have any establishment or business connection in India; that all the services to be provided by the applicant as would be evidenced from the Service Agreement would be naturally bundled and thus should be treated as provision of a single service of business support; that as regards the categorization of the business support services, these services in nature of support of business and commerce fall under the category of ‘Business Support Services’.

Applicant further submits that paragraph 9.2.4 of the Service Tax: An Education Guide dated June 20, 2012 (‘Education Guide’), lays down the manner to determine whether services can be considered as being bundled in the ordinary course of business or not.

Applicant submits that, the services proposed to be provided by the applicant would be provided as a package and the payment for the entire package would be a consolidated / lump sum payment; that the nature of various services provided collectively is incidental or ancillary to provision of marketing and support services to the business of GoDaddy US; that it is apparent that the services proposed to be provided by the applicant satisfy the illustrative tests laid down by the Education Guide and accordingly such services would be naturally bundled in the ordinary course of business.

Submissions of the Revenue

Revenue inter-alia submits that various services i.e., marketing, event management services and collection of money from customer on behalf of GoDaddy US, proposed to be provided by the applicant to GoDaddy US are not a bundle of services; that there is involvement of the applicant with GoDaddy US as well as customers in India; that the services so provided appear to be covered under “Intermediary Services”, which falls under Rule 9 of Place of Provisions of Service Tax Rules, 2012 (hereinafter referred to as POPS).

Therefore, as per Section 66 F (2) of Finance Act, 1994, more specific descriptions shall be preferred over a more general description. According to Revenue, in view of sub section (3) ibid, service will not be taxed as bundled service, if the same is to be an “intermediary service”.

In view of above, the ruling is as under;

In the facts and circumstances, the various support services proposed to be provided by the Applicant to GoDaddy US are a “bundle of Services” being naturally bundled in the ordinary course of business and accordingly is a single service, being business support service, in terms of Section 66F of the Finance Act.

Question 2: If the answer to Question 1 is positive, whether, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the place of provision of business support service by the Applicant, is outside India in terms of Rule 3 of the Place of Provision of Service Rules, 2012 (herein after referred to as “POPS”).

It has been ruled that in the present case, proposed service to be provided by the applicant to GoDaddy US is business support service and not intermediary service in terms of Rule 2 (f) of POPS. It is observed that said proposed service does not fall under any of the Rules of POPS but for Rule 3. Rule 3 of POPS inter-alia envisages that the place of provision of a service shall be the location of the recipient of service. In this connection, Revenue has relied upon the judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in All India Federation of Tax Practioners vs. U.O.I 2007 (7) STR 625 (SC) and Association of Leasing & Financial Service Companies vs. U.O.I & Others 2010-TIOL-87-SC-ST-LB as also the judgment of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Microsoft Corporation (India) Pvt. Ltd vs. Commissioner of Service Tax 2009 (16) STR 545 (Del) wherein it has been inter-alia held that Service Tax is VAT which in turn is both a general tax as well as destination based consumption tax leviable on services provided within the country. According to the Revenue, service provided by the applicant in the instant case are consumed by the Indian customers of GoDaddy US in India, therefore, that is no export of service to US. It is reiterated that GoDaddy US is providing to the Indian Customers services, viz.; domain name registration and transfer services; web hosting and e-mail services; designing services, sale of on-demand products services and troubleshooting services. However, applicant is providing to GoDaddy US services viz.; direct marketing and promotion services, supervision of quality of third party customer care center services and payment processing services, as per draft Service Agreement between the applicant and GoDaddy US. There is no contract between the applicant and the customers of GoDaddy US based in India. GoDaddy US have used said services provided by the applicant as per the draft Service Agreement. Further, applicant would charge a fee equal to the operating costs incurred by the applicant plus a mark-up of 13% on such costs, which would be received by the applicant from GoDaddy US in US Dollars. The benefit of services provided by applicant accrues to GoDaddy US outside India. In view of above, judgments relied upon are of no avail to the Revenue, as services provided by the applicant are to be consumed in US and not in India. Further, the judgment in case of Microsoft Corporation (India) Pvt. Ltd relied upon by the Revenue is an interim order regarding pre-deposit of the amount ordered by the Tribunal. Further, Hon’ble High Court observed that both sides have arguable case. In the case before us, Rule 3 ibid is applicable as the recipient of service is GoDaddy US i.e., outside India.

In view of above, the ruling is as under;

In the facts and circumstances of the case, the place of provision of business support service provided by the applicant, is outside India in terms of Rule 3 of the Place of Provision of Service Rules, 2012.

Question No. 3: Whether in the facts and circumstances and in the light of the answers to questions 1 and 2 above, the services to be provided by the Applicant to GoDaddy US that fall to be classified under Rule 3 of the POPS qualify as export of taxable services in terms of Rule 6A of the STR (inserted vide Notification No. 36/2012-S.T. dated 20.06.2012 and therefore remain non-taxable for purpose of payment of service tax under the Finance Act?

Applicant submits that in terms of Rule 6A of Service Tax Rules, 1994, service provided by the applicant to GoDaddy US will qualify as export of taxable services.

It is observed that in this case, provider of service i.e. the applicant, is located in India, which is the taxable territory; recipient i.e. GoDaddy US is located in USA; the service to be provided by the applicant i.e. business support services is not specified under Section 66 D i.e. Negative List Services; applicant would receive payment for said services in convertible foreign exchange and applicant and GoDaddy US are not merely establishments of a distinct person in accordance with item(b) of Explanation 3 of clause (44) of Section 65B of the Finance Act, 1994. As all the ingredients enlisted under Rule 6 A ibid are satisfied, said service will qualify as export of taxable service. In the facts and circumstances, the services to be provided by the applicant to GoDaddy US would fall to be classified under Rule 3 of the Place of Provision of Services Rules, 2012 qualify as export of taxable services in terms of Rule 6A of the Service Tax Rules, 1994 (inserted vide Notification No. 36/2012-S.T. dated 20.6.2012) and therefore remain non-taxable for purpose of payment of service tax under the Finance Act.

Question No.4: Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, by providing the support services being business support to GoDaddy US, the Applicant is providing any service to the customers of GoDaddy US in India?

Applicant inter-alia submits that he would be hired by GoDaddy US to provide business support services and other incidental or allied services to GoDaddy US only and not to the customers of GoDaddy US in India. Under no circumstance, the applicant will provide any support to the customers of GoDaddy US in India; that after sale support including usage of the product or trouble shooting services will be provided to the customers, not by the applicant but by third party Call Centers, who would be directly appointed by GoDaddy US; that applicant will have no role in providing after sale support services to the customers in India in any manner; that applicant will not be remunerated for its services by any customer in India; that the remuneration in respect of applicant’s service will also be provided by GoDaddy US only; that from the customer’s perspective, the payment collection support is provided to the customers bycGoDaddy US only; that the customers will, for all purposes, deal directly with GoDaddy US and not with the applicant in any manner.

It observed that business support services are proposed to be provided by the applicant to GoDaddy US on principal to principal basis. Further, applicant is not concerned in respect of services provided by GoDaddy US to Indian Customers, which relates to domain name registration, transfer services, web hosting services, designing services etc., In case, applicant was providing service to Indian Customers, he would have received “consideration” from Indian Customers. Fact is that no remuneration / consideration is received by the applicant from Indian Customers. Applicant is to only receive from GoDaddy US, a fee equal to the operating cost incurred by the applicant plus mark up of 13% on such costs. It is noticed that applicant is to receive said fees from GoDaddy US, even in respect of Indian Customers, who directly remit service charges to GoDaddy US through International Credit Card, wherein applicant is not in the picture. This fact further shows that the applicant is not providing any service to Indian Customs. In view of above the ruling is as under;

In facts and circumstances of the case, by providing the payment processing services to GoDaddy US, the applicant is not providing any service to the customers of GoDaddy US in India.

Question No.5: In any event, without prejudice to the other questions, whether the service of collection of payments from customers of GoDaddy US in India, is a transaction in money and hence not subject to service tax?

As this point is not pressed by the applicant, same has not been considered.

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