Yes, prima facie, it is possible for a company to pay dividend out of reserves.
In advance India, majority of the people are investing in the shares of those companies which are regularly paying dividends. Everybody, who invests expect a healthy return from such investment. The large companies which are regularly paying dividends are becoming big fascination for the people who expects the regular return from their investments.
As per Second proviso of sub-section (1) of section 123 of Companies Act, 2013, where, owing to inadequacy or absence of profits in any financial year, any company proposes to declare dividend out of the accumulated profits earned by it in previous years and transferred by the company to the free reserves, such declaration of dividend shall not be made except in accordance with such rules as may be prescribed in this behalf.
As per Rule 3 of Companies (Declaration and Payment of Dividend) Rules, 2014 –
In the event of inadequacy or absence of profits in any year, a company may declare dividend out of free reserves subject to the fulfillment of following conditions, namely –
(1) The rate of dividend declared shall not exceed the average of the rates at which dividend was declared by it in the three years immediately preceding that year
Provided that this sub-rule shall not apply to a company, which has not declared any dividend in each of the three immediately financial year.
(2) The total amount to be drawn from such accumulated profits shall not exceed one-tenth of the sum of its paid up share capital and free reserves as appearing in the latest audited financial statement.
(3) The amount so drawn shall first be utilized to set off the losses incurred in the financial year in which dividend is declared before any dividend in respect of equity shares is
(4) The balance of reserves after such withdrawal shall not fall below fifteen per cent of its paid up share capital as appearing in the latest audited financial statement.
Let us analyse the above concept:-
It has been clarified that even in the absence of required profits for dividend, company may at its discretion pay dividend, but only out of free reserves of the company that too after fulfillment of all the following conditions –
Example: X Ltd. wants to pay dividend in F.Y. 2020-2021. What shall be the maximum rate it can pay if it has paid dividend in 2017-18 at 11%, 2018-19 at 14% and 2019-20 at 0%?
Average rate of three years rate = (11+14+0)÷3 = 8%.
In the above example, if paid up equity share capital is Rs. 1000 crore, paid up preference share capital is Rs. 500 crore and free reserves amounts to Rs. 500 crore, all summed up as Rs. 2000 crore. Now, maximum amount that can be withdrawn from free reserves will be Rs. 200 crore (10% of 2000 crore).
If in the above example, company has been in losses of Rs. 20 crore in F.Y. 2020-21, than the amount so withdrawn i.e. Rs. 200 crore shall be deducted by losses of Rs. 20 crore, and only Rs. 180 crore can be paid as equity dividend in F.Y. 2020-21.
Now, if we continue the above example, the opening balance of free reserves was Rs. 500 crore, and withdrawal was of Rs. 200 crore. So, the closing balance of free reserves, i.e. after withdrawal of amount for payment of dividend, will be Rs. 300 crore (500-200). The balance that shall be maintained in free reserves is Rs. 225 crore (15% of 1500 crore, i.e., sum of paid up equity share capital and paid up preference share capital). So, this condition has also been fulfilled, and X. Ltd. can pay the maximum dividend of Rs. 180 crore.
It can be concluded that dividend which is to be paid by the company can be paid out of current year profits or previous year profits or even from reserves, but only after complying with the prescribed conditions.
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