Aligning the scope of “business connection” with modified PE Rule as per Multilateral Instrument (MLI).

Under the existing provisions of Explanation 2 to clause (i) of sub-section (1) of section 9, “business connection” includes business activities carried on by non-resident through dependent agents. The scope of “business connection” under the Act is similar to the provisions relating to Dependent Agent Permanent Establishment (DAPE) in India’s Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs). In terms of the DAPE rules in tax treaties, if any person acting on behalf of the non-resident, is habitually authorised to conclude contracts for the non-resident, then such agent would constitute a PE in the source country. However, in many cases, with a view to avoid establishing a permanent establishment (hereafter referred to as ‘PE’) under Article 5(5) of the DTAA, the person acting on the behalf of the non-resident, negotiates the contract but does not conclude the contract. Further, under paragraph 4 of Article 5 of the DTAAs, a PE is deemed not to exist when a place of business is engaged solely in certain activities such as maintenance of stocks of goods for storage, display, delivery or processing, purchasing of goods or merchandise, collection of information. This exclusion applies only when these activities are preparatory or auxiliary in relation to the business as a whole.

The OECD under BEPS Action Plan 7 reviewed the definition of ‘PE’ with a view to preventing avoidance of payment of tax by circumventing the existing PE definition by way of commissionaire arrangements or fragmentation of business activities. In order to tackle such tax avoidance scheme, the BEPS Action plan 7 recommended modifications to paragraph (5) of Article 5 to provide that an agent would include not only a person who habitually concludes contracts on behalf of the non-resident, but also a person who habitually plays a principal role leading to the conclusion of contracts. Similarly Action Plan 7 also recommends the introduction of an anti fragmentation rule as per paragraph 4.1 of Article 5 of OECD Model tax conventions, 2017 so as to prevent the tax payer from resorting to fragmentation of functions which are otherwise a whole activity in order to avail the benefit of exemption under paragraph 4 of Article 5 of DTAAs.

Further, with a view to preventing base erosion and profit shifting, the recommendations under BEPS Action Plan 7 have now been included in Article 12 of Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures (herein referred to as ‘MLI’), to which India is also a signatory. Consequently, these provisions will automatically modify India’s bilateral tax treaties covered by MLI, where treaty partner has also opted for Article 12. As a result , the DAPE provisions in Article 5(5) of India’s tax treaties, as modified by MLI, shall become wider in scope than the current provisions in Explanation 2 to section 9(1)(i). Similarly, the anti-fragmentation rule introduced as per paragraph 4.1 of Article 5 of the OECD Model Tax Conventions, 2017 has narrowed the scope of the exception under Article 5(4), thereby expanding the scope of PE in DTAA vis-a-vis domestic provisions contained in Explanation 2 to section 9(1)(i). In effect, the relevant provisions in the DTAAs are wider in scope than the domestic law. However, sub-section (2) of section 90 of the Act provides that the provisions of the domestic law would prevail over corresponding provisions in the DTAAs, to the extent they are beneficial. Since, in the instant situations, the provisions of the domestic law being narrower in scope are more beneficial than the provisions in the DTAAs, as modified by MLI, such wider provisions in the DTAAs are ineffective.

In view of the above, it is proposed to amend the provision of section 9 of the Act so as to align them with the provisions in the DTAA as modified by MLI so as to make the provisions in the treaty effective. Accordingly, clause (i) of sub-section (1) of section 9 is being proposed to be amended to provide that “ business connection” shall also include any business activities carried through a person who, acting on behalf of the non-resident, habitually concludes contracts or habitually plays the principal role leading to conclusion of contracts by the non-resident . It is further proposed that the contracts should be-

(i) in the name of the non-resident; or

(ii) for the transfer of the ownership of, or for the granting of the right to use, property owned by that non-resident or that the non-resident has the right to use; or

(iii) for the provision of services by that non-resident.

This amendment will take effect from 1st April, 2019 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to assessment year 2019-20 and subsequent assessment years.

Extract of Clause 4 of Finance Bill 2018

Clause 4 of the Bill seeks to amend section 9 of the Income-tax Act relating to income deemed to accrue or arise in India.

Explanation 2 to clause (i) of sub-section (1) of the said section provides that “business connection” shall include any business activity carried out through a person who, acting on behalf of the non-resident, has and habitually exercises in India, an authority to conclude contracts on behalf of the non-resident, unless his activities are limited to the purchase of goods or merchandise for the non-resident; or has no such authority, but habitually maintains in India a stock of goods or merchandise from which he regularly delivers goods or merchandise on behalf of the non-resident; or habitually secures orders in India, mainly or wholly for the non-resident or for that non-resident and other non-residents controlling, controlled by, or subject to the same common control, as that non-resident.

The proviso to the said Explanation provides that such business connection shall not include any business activity specified therein.

It is proposed to substitute clause (a) of the said Explanation 2 so as to provide that “business connection” shall include any business activity carried through a person who, acting on behalf of the non-resident, has and habitually exercises in India, an authority to conclude contracts on behalf of the non-resident or habitually concludes contracts or habitually plays the principal role leading to conclusion of contracts by the non-resident and the contracts are—

(i) in the name of the non-resident; or

(ii) for the transfer of the ownership of, or for the granting of the right to use, property owned by that non-resident or that non-resident has the right to use; or

(iii) for the provision of services by that non-resident.

It is further proposed to insert a new Explanation 2A in clause (i) of sub-section (1) of the said section so as to provide that the significant economic presence of a non-resident in India shall constitute “business connection” of the non-resident in India and the “significant economic presence” for this purpose, shall mean—

(a) any transaction in respect of any goods, services or property carried out by a non-resident in India including provision of download of data or software in India, if the aggregate of payments arising from such transaction or transactions during the previous year exceeds such amount as may be prescribed; or

(b) systematic and continuous soliciting of its business activities or engaging in interaction with such number of users as may be prescribed, in India through digital means.

It is further proposed to provide that the transactions or activities shall constitute significant economic presence in India, whether or not the non-resident has a residence or place of business in India or renders services in India.

It is also proposed to provide that only so much of income as is attributable to the transactions or activities referred to in clause (a) or clause (b) shall be deemed to accrue or arise in India.

These amendments will take effect from 1st April, 2019 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2019-2020 and subsequent years.

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Category : Income Tax (28372)
Type : Articles (18293)
Tags : Budget (1957) Budget 2018 (401) DTAA (318) OECD (48)

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