Case Law Details

Case Name : Acer India Pvt. Ltd. Vs. DCIT (ITAT Bangalore)
Appeal Number : IT(TP)A No. 502/Bang/2017
Date of Judgement/Order : 10/05/2019
Related Assessment Year : 2012-13
Courts : All ITAT (7218) ITAT Bangalore (399)

Acer India Pvt. Ltd. Vs The Dy. Commissioner of Income-tax (ITAT Bangalore)

Hon’ble Delhi High Court has held in the case of Maruti Suzuki Ltd (supra) that the revenue needs to establish the existence of international transaction before undertaking benchmarking of AMP expenses. In the instant case, we notice that the TPO has entertained the belief on the basis of presumptions that the assessee’s AMP expenses have promoted the brand value of its AE, i.e., no material has been brought on record to show the existence of International transaction. Before us, the Ld A.R placed his reliance on various case laws. We notice that the decision rendered by Delhi bench of ITAT in the case of L.G. Electronics India P Ltd vs. ACIT (ITA No.6253/DEL/2012 dated 14-01-2019) is applicable to the facts of the present case, wherein also identical T.P adjustment had been made.

FULL TEXT OF THE ITAT JUDGEMENT

Both the appeals filed by the assessee are directed against the orders passed by the assessing officer u/s 143(3) r.w.s.144C(13) of the Act in pursuance of directions given by the Ld Dispute Resolution Panel (DRP) and they relate to the assessment years 2012-13 and 2013-14. Both the appeals were heard together and are being disposed of by this order, for the sake of convenience.

2. The assessee company is engaged in the business of manufacture and trading of computer systems and peripherals.

3. We shall first take up the appeal filed for AY 2012-13. The grounds and additional grounds urged by the assessee give rise to following issues:-

(a) Validity of assessment order passed, i.e., according to the assessee, the assessment order is barred by limitation.

(b) Validity of T.P adjustment made in respect of AMP expenses

(c) Addition made u/s 40(a)(i) of the Act.

In the corporate tax grounds urged by the assessee, the assessee has challenged the levy of interest u/s 234B of the Act. At the time of hearing, the Ld A.R agreed that the same is consequential in nature. The ground relating to levy of penalty u/s 271(1)(c) is premature.

4. With regard to the legal issue relating to validity of the assessment order, the Ld A.R submitted that the impugned assessment order has been passed by the AO beyond the time limit prescribed in sec.153 of the Act. We notice that though the assessing officer has passed the assessment order in terms of sec.144C(13) within one month from the end of the month in which the direction from Ld Dispute Resolution Panel was received. However, it is the contention of Ld A.R that the provisions of sec.144C(13) do not extend the time limit prescribed in sec.153 of the Act and in the instant case, the assessment order though was passed within one month from the receipt of direction given by Ld DRP, the same was beyond the time limit prescribed in sec.153 of the Act.

5. We notice that the co-ordinate bench has examined an identical legal issue in the case of M/s Volvo India P Ltd vs. ACIT (IT (TP) A No.1537/Bang/2012 dated 08-05-2019) and has rejected the same with the following observations:-

“3. Before we deal with the grounds of appeal raised by the Assessee, we need to first consider the Assessee’s application dated 22.11.2018 for admission of the following additional ground of appeal because it is a preliminary issue challenging the impugned order as one passed beyond the period of limitation and therefore non est in law:-

“That on the facts and circumstances of the case and in law, the impugned order passed by the assessing officer is barred by limitation and therefore, is liable to be quashed.”

4. The aforesaid additional ground of appeal raises a purely legal issue which does not require any fresh investigation into facts; facts already being on records. The aforesaid additional ground of appeal is therefore admitted for adjudicated on merits in view of the discretion conferred on the Tribunal under Rule 11 of the Income-tax (Appellate Tribunal) Rules, 1963 and the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court decision in the case of National Thermal Power Co. Ltd. vs. CIT : [1998] 229 ITR 383 (SC) wherein it was held that any legal ground which can be decided on the basis of facts already available on record should be admitted for adjudication. Further the additional ground seeks to raise purely a question of law viz., that the order passed by the AO is beyond the period of limitation. The aforesaid additional ground is therefore admitted for adjudication.

5. As far as the merits of the additional ground of appeal raised by the Assessee as aforesaid is concerned, the following list of dates are material to adjudicate the aforesaid ground of appeal:

Date Chart

Date of filing Income Tax Return  30.09.2008
Date of passing the TPO order 31.10.2011 
Date of passing the draft assessment Order 26.12.2011
Date of DRP directions 03.09.2012
Date of final assessment order under section 143(3)/144C(13)  18.10.2012 
Due date for passing final assessment order u/s 153(1) r.w.s 3rd proviso to the said section. 31.03.2012

6. To adjudicate the addition ground, the relevant statutory provisions have to be seen.

Time limit for completion of assessments and reassessments.

153. (1) No order of assessment shall be made under section 143 or section 144 at any time after the expiry of—

(a) two years from the end of the assessment year in which the income was first assessable ; or

(b) one year from the end of the financial year in which a return or a revised return relating to the assessment year commencing on the 1st day of April, 1988, or any earlier assessment year, is filed under sub-section (4) or sub­section (5) of section 139,

whichever is later :

Provided that in case the assessment year in which the income was first assessable is the assessment year commencing on or after the 1st day of April, 2004 but before the 1st day of April, 2010, the provisions of clause (a) shall have effect as if for the words “two years”, the words “twenty-one months” had been substituted :

Provided further that in case the assessment year in which the income was first assessable is the assessment year commencing on or after the 1st day of April, 2005 but before the 1st day of April, 2009 and during the course of the proceeding for the assessment of total income, a reference under sub-section (1) of section 92CA

(i) was made before the 1st day of June, 2007 but an order under sub-section (3) of that section has not been made before such date; or

(ii) is made on or after the 1st day of June, 2007, the provisions of clause (a) shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the first proviso, have effect as if for the words “two years”, the words “thirty-three months” had been substituted:

Provided also that in case the assessment year in which the income was first assessable is the assessment year commencing on the 1st day of April, 2009 or any subsequent assessment year and during the course of the proceeding for the assessment of total income, a reference under sub-section

(1) of section 92CA

(i) is made before the 1st day of July, 2012, but an order under sub-section (3) of that section has not been made before such date; or

(ii) is made on or after the 1st day of July, 2012, the provisions of clause (a) shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the first proviso, have effect as if for the words “two years”, the words “three years” had been substituted.

Reference to dispute resolution panel.

144C. (1) The Assessing Officer shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act, in the first instance, forward a draft of the proposed order of assessment (hereafter in this section referred to as the draft order) to the eligible Assessee if he proposes to make, on or after the 1st day of October, 2009, any variation in the income or loss returned which is prejudicial to the interest of such assessee.

(2) On receipt of the draft order, the eligible assessee shall, within thirty days of the receipt by him of the draft order,—

(a) file his acceptance of the variations to the Assessing Officer; or

(b) file his objections, if any, to such variation with,—

(i) the Dispute Resolution Panel; and

(ii) the Assessing Officer.

(3) The Assessing Officer shall complete the assessment on the basis of the draft order, if—

(a) the assessee intimates to the Assessing Officer the acceptance of the variation; or

(b) no objections are received within the period specified in sub-section (2).

(4) The Assessing Officer shall, notwithstanding anything contained in section 153 or section 153B, pass the assessment order under sub-section (3) within one month from the end of the month in which,—

(a) the acceptance is received; or

(b) the period of filing of objections under sub-section (2) expires.

(5) The Dispute Resolution Panel shall, in a case where any objection is received under sub-section (2), issue such directions, as it thinks fit, for the guidance of the Assessing Officer to enable him to complete the assessment.

(6) The Dispute Resolution Panel shall issue the directions referred to in sub-section (5), after considering the following, namely:—

(a) draft order;

(b) objections filed by the assessee;

(c) evidence furnished by the assessee;

(d) report, if any, of the Assessing Officer, Valuation Officer or Transfer Pricing Officer or any other authority;

(e) records relating to the draft order;

(f) evidence collected by, or caused to be collected by, it; and

(g) result of any enquiry made by, or caused to be made by, it.

(7) The Dispute Resolution Panel may, before issuing any directions referred to in sub-section (5),—

(a)  make such further enquiry, as it thinks fit; or

(b) cause any further enquiry to be made by any income-tax authority and report the result of the same to it.

(8) The Dispute Resolution Panel may confirm, reduce or enhance the variations proposed in the draft order so, however, that it shall not set aside any proposed variation or issue any direction under sub-section (5) for further enquiry and passing of the assessment order.

Explanation.—For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that the power of the Dispute Resolution Panel to enhance the variation shall include and shall be deemed always to have included the power to consider any matter arising out of the assessment proceedings relating to the draft order, notwithstanding that such matter was raised or not by the eligible assessee.

(9) If the members of the Dispute Resolution Panel differ in opinion on any point, the point shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority of the members.

(10) Every direction issued by the Dispute Resolution Panel shall be binding on the Assessing Officer.

(11) No direction under sub-section (5) shall be issued unless an opportunity of being heard is given to the assessee and the Assessing Officer on such directions which are prejudicial to the interest of the assessee or the interest of the revenue, respectively.

(12) No direction under sub-section (5) shall be issued after nine months from the end of the month in which the draft order is forwarded to the eligible assessee.

(13) Upon receipt of the directions issued under sub-section (5), the Assessing Officer shall, in conformity with the directions, complete, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in section 153 or section 153B, the assessment without providing any further opportunity of being heard to the assessee, within one month from the end of the month in which such direction is received.

(14) The Board may make rules for the purposes of the efficient functioning of the Dispute Resolution Panel and expeditious disposal of the objections filed under sub-section (2) by the eligible assessee.

The following sub-section (14A) shall be inserted after sub­section (14) of section 144C by the Finance Act, 2012, w.e.f. 1­4-2013 :

(14A) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any assessment or reassessment order passed by the Assessing Officer with the prior approval of the Commissioner under sub­section (12) of section 144BA.

(15) For the purposes of this section,—

(a) “Dispute Resolution Panel” means a collegium comprising of three Commissioners of Income-tax constituted by the Board 5 for this purpose;

(b) “eligible assessee” means,—

(i) any person in whose case the variation referred to in sub-section (1) arises as a consequence of the order of the Transfer Pricing Officer passed under sub-section (3) of section 92CA; and

(ii) any foreign company.

6. It is not in dispute that the Assessee is an eligible Assessee and therefore the Assessment in the case of the Assessee is to be completed keeping in mind the statutory provisions of Sec.143(3), 144C and Sec.153 of the Act.

7. In so far as an eligible Assessee is concerned, the third proviso to Sec.153(1) lays down the period of limitation and it lays down a period of 3 years from the end of the relevant Assessment year as the time within which Assessment has to be completed. As per the third proviso the period of limitation in the case of the Assessee would end on 31.3.2012 i.e., three years from the end of the relevant AY, which is AY 2008-09 in this case. The order of assessment has however been passed in this case only on 18.10.2012.

8. It is the plea of the Revenue that in the case of an eligible Assessee the procedure to be followed is first to pass a draft assessment order as per the provisions of Sec.144C(1) of the Act which has a non-obstante clause. The Assessee has a right to file objection to the draft assessment order or convey his acceptance to the proposals in the draft assessment order and the time limit for doing so is 30 days from the date of receipt of the draft assessment order. If the Assessee conveys his acceptance to the draft assessment order or does not file objections to the DRP within the time limit specified in Sec.144C(2), the AO has do pass final assessment order within one month from receipt of acceptance or expiry of period for filling objection to DRP and no such objection is filed (Sec.144C(3) of the Act). If objections are filed before DRP, the DRP shall issue such directions, as it thinks fit, for the guidance of the Assessing Officer to enable him to complete the assessment u/s. 144C(5). In terms of Sec.144C(12) directions u/s.144C(5) has to be issued on or before expiry of nine months from the end of the month in which the draft order is forwarded to the eligible assessee. Sec.144C(13) of the Act lays down the time limit for the AO to pass an order giving effect to the directions of the Tribunal and it reads thus:-

“Upon receipt of the directions issued under sub-section (5), the Assessing Officer shall, in conformity with the directions, complete, notwithstanding anything to the contrary  contained in section 153 or section 153B, the assessment without providing any further opportunity of being heard to the assessee, within one month from the end of the month in which such direction is received.”

9. According to the revenue, the non-obstante clause in Section 144C(13) of the Act, gives the AO, a time limit of one month from the end of the month in which direction is received by the AO and if that be so, the order of assessment passed on 18.10.2012 is within the period of limitation and is valid.

10. The contention of the Assessee on the other hand is that an assessment order passed by the assessing officer pursuant to the directions of the DRP is under section 143(3) read with section 144C(13) of the Act. Such an order cannot be construed as having been passed independently and on a stand-alone basis under section 144C(13) of the Act. The further contention of the Assessee is that the time limit for completion of assessment in terms of section 153(1) of the Act is ordinarily 2 years from the end of the relevant assessment year. The said limit was enhanced to 3 years in case of an assessee wherein reference was made to the TPO (i.e., in the case of eligible assessee). It was submitted that the enhanced time limit of 3 years is provided in the statute in order to take care of the time that would be taken, inter alia, in the TPO passing the order, passing of draft assessment order, objections being filed before the DRP, disposal of objections by DRP and passing of assessment order. It was submitted that the provisions of section 144C do not, give a go bye to the limitation enshrined in section 153 of the Act and provisions of section 153 are not made subject to provisions of section 144C of the Act nor do provisions of the latter section override the former, notwithstanding the non-obstante clause in sub­sections (4) and (13) thereof. It was submitted that the non-obstante clause in Sec.144C(1) of the Act, is only with regard to the procedure to be followed in the case of eligible assessee requiring passing of a draft assessment order in case of an eligible assessee and should be read limited to the context, i.e., exception to the ordinary rule that there will be only one assessment order passed by the assessing officer on culmination of the assessment proceedings.

12. It was further submitted that the non-obstante clause in section 144C(4) of the Act curtailing the time limit to pass a final assessment order within one month, in case where the assessee does not make an application to the DRP, notwithstanding the time limit provided in section 153(1) of the Act is to curtail the limitation that would otherwise have been available to the assessing officer to pass the final assessment order. The time limit of one month in section 144C(4) cannot be read as additional time provided to the assessing officer, over and above limitation in section 153 of the Act to pass the final assessment order in the case of an eligible assessee. It was submitted that for the same reason, the time limit of one month in section 144C(13) to pass the assessment order pursuant to the directions of the DRP cannot be construed as additional time available to the assessing officer, over and above the normal limitation in section 153 of the Act to pass the assessment order. It was submitted that the non-obstante clause(s) in sections 144C(1)/144C(4) / 144C(13) have to be read in context, limited to the purpose for which the same are created and are not intended to completely bypass provisions of section 153 of the Act or provide for additional time over and above the limitation contained in the said section. Our attention was also drawn to the scheme of section 144C that was introduced in the statute and that the Dispute Resolution Panel was constituted to expedite the dispute resolution process involving eligible assessees. In this regard, our attention was drawn to the Memorandum to the Finance (No. 2) Bill, 2009 while introducing the provisions of section 144C in the statute clarifying the legislative intent in the following terms:-

“The dispute resolution mechanism presently in place is time consuming and finality in high demand cases is attained only after a long drawn litigation till Supreme Court. Flow of foreign investment is extremely sensitive to prolonged uncertainty in tax related matter. Therefore, it is proposed to amend the Income-tax Act to provide for an alternate dispute resolution mechanism which will facilitate expeditious resolution of disputes in a fast track basis”

12. It was submitted that if the non-obstante clause in sections 144C(4)/ 144C(13) of the Act is interpreted as allowing the assessing officer additional time over and above the limit provided under section 153(1) third proviso, of the Act, the same would defeat the entire purpose of expediting the dispute resolution process, by enlarging the time available for completion of assessment to almost five years from the end of the relevant previous year (four years from the end of the relevant assessment year).

13. We have considered the submissions of the learned counsel for the Assessee. We however find similar issue has already been considered and decided against the Assessee by the ITAT Delhi Bench in the case of Honda Trading Corporation vs. CIT :

(2015) 61 taxmann.com 233 wherein it was held that the provisions of section 144C override the provisions of section 153 of the Act. While rejecting the assessee’s contention that the limitation in section 153 referred to passing of draft assessment order, the Tribunal held that:

(i) Section 144C gives a complete go bye to section 153; and

(ii) The Act does not contemplate any limitation for passing of draft assessment order, which can be passed within a reasonable time.

14. Though arguments were advanced that the aforesaid decision does not lay down the correct law, we are of the view that a co-ordinate Bench decision is binding on us, and we find no reason reason for not following the same. We therefore reject the additional ground raised by the Assessee on the question of limitation.”

6. Before us, the Ld D.R placed his reliance on the decision rendered by the Cochin bench of Tribunal in the case of Envestnet Asset Management (India) P Ltd (2015)(67 SOT 217), wherein also the provisions of sec.144C(13) has been interpreted. The Ld A.R submitted that the issue before the Cochin bench of Tribunal was different, i.e., it was a case, where the assessment order was passed beyond the period of 3 years prescribed in sec. 153 as well as beyond the period of one month from the end of month in which the direction from DRP was received. Accordingly the Cochin bench of Tribunal has held that the assessment order is barred by limitation. Accordingly he contended that the said decision was not rendered in the context of legal urged now before this bench.

7. However, we notice that the Cochin bench of Tribunal has examined the provisions of sec.153 and sec.144C(13) and interpreted both the provisions while deciding the issue agitated before them. For the sake of convenience, we extract below the relevant discussions made by the Cochin bench of Tribunal:-

“4. We have considered the rival submissions on either side and perused the relevant material on record. The power to pass assessment order other than block assessment in the case of search flows from section 143(3) of the Income-tax Act. Section 153 of the Income-tax Act provides for limitation for passing the assessment order. In fact, 3rd proviso to section 153(1) provides for three years from the end of the assessment year in which its income was first assessable for passing the assessment order, wherever the matter was referred to TPO. We also find that section 92CA(3A) enables the TPO to pass an order before 60 days prior to the time limit provided for passing the assessment order in 153 or 153B, as the case may be. Therefore, wherever the issue of adjustment of transfer pricing arises for consideration, the TPO is expected to pass his order before 60 days prior to the period of limitation referred in 153 or 153B, as the case may be.

4.1 We further find from section 144C of the Act, that when the Assessing Officer drafted a proposed assessment order and the assessee accepted the variation made by the Assessing Officer in the draft order, then the Assessing Officer has to pass the assessment order within one month from the end of the month in which the acceptance of the assessee is received by the Assessing Officer. This period of limitation provided in section 144C(4) of the Act. Whenever the assessee objects to the proposed assessment order drafted by the Assessing Officer, the DRP should issue directions as provided in section 144C(5) of the Act. Sub­section (12) of section 144C prohibits the DRP from issuing any direction after 9 months from the end of the month in which the draft assessment order is forwarded to the eligible assessee. Sub-section (13) of section 144C mandates the Assessing Officer to pass assessment order within one month from the end of the month in which such direction from the DRP was received. Therefore, it is obvious that section  153 provides for limitation of 3 years prior to the end of the assessment year in which the income was first assessable. Section 144C(5) provides for limitation of one month in the end of the month from which the acceptance of the assessee was received by the Assessing Officer. However, section 144C(13) provides for period of one month in the end of the month from which the direction of DRP was received by the Assessing Officer. Since different period of limitations are provided in different provisions as stated above, wherever the transfer pricing adjustment are involved the question arises for consideration is which provisions of theIncome-tax Act would be applicable when the DRP directed the Assessing Officer to make transfer pricing adjustment. It is well settled principles of rule of interpretation that whenever conflicting provisions are provided in the enactment all the provisions of the Act shall be read harmoniously so as to give effect to all the provisions of the Act. If for any reasons any of the provisions could not be reconciled, the latter provision will prevail over the former. By keeping this Rule of interpretation as approved by the Privy Council and the Apex Court in mind, let us now examine, whether the impugned order of assessment is barred by limitation or not?

4.2 Section 153(1) provides for 3 years for passing the assessment order from the end of the assessment year in which the income was first assessable. In this case, admittedly, the income is assessable for assessment year 2009-2010. Thus, three years period expired on 31.03.2013. However the assessment order was admittedly passed on 28.3.2014. Therefore, it is beyond the period prescribed u/s 153.

4.3 Section 144C(13) reads as follows:-

“(13) Upon receipt of the directions issued under sub­section (5), the Assessing Officer shall, in conformity with the directions, complete, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in section 153 [or section 153B], the assessment without providing any further opportunity of being heard to the assessee, within one month from the end of the month in which such direction is received.”

4.4 In view of section 144C(13), notwithstanding anything contained in section 153, the Assessing Officer has to pass order within one month from the end of the month in which the direction of the DRP is received. Therefore, even though the period of limitation provided in 3rd proviso to section 153(1) expired  on 31.3.2013. Section 144C(13) gives extension of further period of one month from the date of receipt of direction from the DRP. In view of the above, the date of receipt of direction of DRP by the Assessing Officer becomes crucial…. ”

8. We notice that various benches of Tribunal are taking the view that the provisions of sec.144C(13) give extension of further period of one month from the end of month in which the direction of DRP was received. In the instant case, there is no dispute that the assessing officer has passed the assessment order within one month from the end of the month in which direction of DRP was received. Accordingly, consistent with the view taken by various benches of Tribunal, we reject the legal ground urged by the assessee.

9. We shall now take up the issue relating to disallowance made u/s 40(a)(i) of the Act. We notice that the AO has treated the payments made by the assessee for purchase of softwares as “Royalty” by following the decision rendered by Hon’ble jurisdictional Karnataka High Court in the case of CIT, International Taxation vs. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (2012)(345 ITR 494)(Kar). Since the assessee did not deduct tax at source from the payments so made, the AO disallowed the value of software purchases amounting to Rs.5306.25 lakhs u/s 40(a)(i) of the Act.

10. Before us, the Ld A.R submitted that the assessee is a reseller of software imported by it and hence the decision rendered by Hon’ble jurisdictional High Court in the case of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (supra) is distinguishable. The Ld A.R invited our attention to the written submissions, wherein a table distinguishing the facts between the assessee’s case and Samsung’s case is given. For the sake of convenience, we extract below the said table:-

Table

The Ld A.R accordingly submitted that the decision rendered in the case of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (supra) should not be applied in the instant case. He further submitted that the co-ordinate bench has restored an identical issue to the file of the AO in the case of Bodhi Professional Solutions P Ltd vs. ITO (ITA No.419/Bang/2011). In the alternative, the Ld A.R submitted that the disallowance u/s 40(a)(i) should be restricted to the portion of “taxable income” on the payments so made. The Ld A.R submitted that the taxable income is only 10% of the payments and hence the disallowance should be restricted to 10% of the payments. In this regard, the Ld A.R drew support from the CBDT circulat No.2/2014 dated 26-02-2014.

11. The Ld D.R, on the contrary, submitted that the decision rendered by jurisdictional High Court is binding and accordingly submitted that the order passed by AO on this issue does not call for any interference.

12. We have heard rival contentions on this issue and perused the record. We have gone through the decision rendered by the co­ordinate bench in the case of Bodhi Professional Solutions P Ltd. We notice that the disallowance made by the AO u/s 40(a)(i), in the above said case, consisted of payments made for purchase of hardware and services. The assessee contended before the Tribunal that the payments made for purchase of hardware/services cannot be considered as Royalty payments. Further, the assessee was claiming certain treaty benefits. Under these set of facts, the co­ordinate bench had restored the issue for examining the same afresh. On the other hand, in the instant case, the payments have been made for purchase of software. The assessee is contending that the software were purchased for selling it to its customers and accordingly contended that the decision rendered in the case of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (supra) is not binding. We are unable to accept the said contentions. Since the payments have been made for purchase of software, we are of the view that the decision rendered by Hon’ble jurisdictional Karnataka High Court in the case of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (supra) is applicable to the facts of the present case.

13. The Ld A.R has raised an alternative contention that the disallowance u/s 40(a)(i) should be restricted to the portion of payment which is chargeable to tax in India. Since this alternative contention was not raised before the AO, the same requires examination at his end. Accordingly we restore this alternative contention to the file of the AO for examining the same in accordance with law.

14. We shall now take up the issue relating to the Transfer Pricing adjustment made by the AO/TPO in respect of Advertisement and Market promotion (AMP) expenses. In its T.P Study, the assessee reported that it had received “reimbursement towards advertisement expenses” of an amount of Rs.3357.28 lakhs. The TPO noticed that the assessee has incurred following expenses towards AMP:-

Sales Promotion and Advertisement expenses –

4506.65 lakhs

Sales Schemes and Trade discounts –

16480.68 lakhs

Sales Commission   –

1353.22 lakhs

The assessee had received reimbursements from its AE to the tune of Rs.3357.28 lakhs. After adjusting the same, the assessee disclosed net expenses of Rs.18983.27 lakhs as AMP expenses.

15. The TPO took the view that the assessee has performed value added functions, which would not have been done by a routine trader. He further noticed that the assessee has declared net loss from its trading business. Accordingly he took the view that the assessee has, in effect, has promoted brand value of its AE, i.e., it has enriched the marketing intangibles owned by the AE. Accordingly the TPO took the view that the reimbursement of Rs.3357.28 lakhs made by the AE is inadequate.

16. The TPO selected certain comparable companies engaged in Brand promotion activities and noticed that the average OP/OC (Operating profit/Operating Cost) works out to 15.69%. The TPO also examined the AMP expenses incurred by those comparable companies vis-à-vis their sales and noticed that the average % AMP on sales of those comparable companies worked out to 0.41%. The TPO noticed that the % of AMP expenses on sales worked out to 9.70% in the hands of the assessee company. Hence the TPO took the view that the AMP expenses to the extent of 0.41% is acceptable (Bright Line Test) and any expenditure incurred in excess of the same would result in promoting the marketing intangibles of the AE. Accordingly, by applying the above said ratio, the TPO arrived at the excess expenditure at Rs.21393.17 lakhs. Out of the same, the assessee had received reimbursement to the tune of Rs.3357.28 lakhs. The TPO also added profit margin of 15.69% on the excess expenditure of Rs.21393.17 lakhs. After giving set off the amount of reimbursement received by the assessee and adding profit margin, discussed above, the TPO made adjustment of Rs.21392.48 lakhs on account of AMP expenses incurred by the assessee. The Ld DRP also confirmed the same.

17. We heard the parties and perused the record. The Ld A.R contended that the AMP expenses incurred by the assessee do not fall under the definition of “International Transactions” given in sec.92B and 92F of the Act. By placing reliance on the decision rendered by Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Moser Baer (316 ITR 1), the Ld A.R submitted that the TPO has to bring on record some empirical evidence or material on record to show that there existed a mutual arrangement or understanding between the parties or they acted in concert so as to constitute an international transaction. Accordingly he contended that the AO/TPO cannot reach his conclusions on mere presumptions that the parties have acted in concert or they had an understanding or arrangement between them so as to construe existence of a transaction, which can be termed as international transaction.

18. The Ld A.R submitted that the TPO has followed Bright Line  Test (BLT) in order to determine the alleged excess expenses incurred by the assessee towards AMP expenses. He submitted that the Hon’ble Delhi High Court has rejected the BLT as means for determining the ALP of an international transaction in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India P Ltd vs. CIT (374 ITR 118). He submitted that the above said decision has been followed by the Tribunal in various case laws. He further placed his reliance on the decision rendered by Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (381 ITR 117) and submitted that the TPO cannot make TP adjustment without proving existence of international transaction. He submitted that the assessee has only disclosed the reimbursement received by it from its AE as an international transaction. The assessee did not consider the AMP expenses incurred by it as International transaction at all. Accordingly he submitted that the tax authorities are not justified in making TP adjustment on account of AMP expenses incurred by the assessee. The Ld A.R further submitted that the Ld DRP has deleted the identical T.P adjustment made in AY 2011-12. He also submitted that the TPO should not have considered Sales schemes, trade discounts and sales commission as part of AMP expenses, as they have been incurred only for promotion of sales. He also submitted that the AMP expenditure is closely linked with the business of the assessee and the profit margin of the assessee is better than the comparables. Hence no adjustment is necessary under TNMM method. He submitted that the operating margin of the assessee is 4.14% in the manufacturing segment and 7.37% in the distribution segment. Both these margins are higher than the comparable companies, which stand at 2.41% in the manufacturing segment and 4.22% in the distribution segment.

19. The Ld D.R, on the contrary, submitted that the Hon’ble  Delhi High Court has only held in the case of Maruti Suzuki Ltd (supra) that that TPO has to initially show that there existed an international transaction related to AMP expenditure and thereafter should proceed to make T.P adjustment. The Ld D.R submitted that the conduct of the assessee and its AE would show that there existed an international transaction on account of AMP expenses. He submitted that the assessee has received reimbursement of part of AMP expenses, which would showthat there existed an international transaction. Further the assesee is also responsible for conducting market research for the products in demand in India and also responsible for identifying customers in India. The assessee is required to keep its AE updated on the general market data available with it. This information includes competitive analysis, market driver requests for new products etc. Further, the key marketing decisions are taken by the assessee in consultation with its AE. The Ld D.R, accordingly submitted that these activities would show the existence of international transaction on account of AMP.

20. We heard rival contentions on this issue and perused the  record. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court has held in the case of Maruti Suzuki Ltd (supra) that the revenue needs to establish the existence of international transaction before undertaking benchmarking of AMP expenses. In the instant case, we notice that the TPO has entertained the belief on the basis of presumptions that the assessee’s AMP expenses have promoted the brand value of its AE, i.e., no material has been brought on record to show the existence of International transaction. Before us, the Ld A.R placed his reliance on various case laws. We notice that the decision rendered by Delhi bench of ITAT in the case of L.G. Electronics India P Ltd vs. ACIT (ITA No.6253/DEL/2012 dated 14-01-2019) is applicable to the facts of the present case, wherein also identical T.P adjustment had been made. For the sake of convenience, we extract below the relevant observations made and decision taken by the Delhi bench of Tribunal:-

“8. The TPO observed that since AMP expenses incurred by the assessee as percentage of sales was more than similar percentage for comparable companies, the assessee had incurred such AMP expenditure on brand promotion and development of marketing intangibles for the AE. The TPO further added a mark-up of 15%, which was subsequently reduced to 12.5% by the DRP and, accordingly, adjustment of Rs. 2,64,96,17,750/- was made, which was computed as under:

Computation of TP adjustment  Rs.
Value of sales 8605,67,65,713
AMP/Sales of the comparables 4.93%
Arms Length Price (as per Bright Line) 424,25,98,549
Expenditure on AMP by the appellant 689,60,79,670
Expenditure in excess of bright line 265,34,81,121
Mark-up at 12.5% on excessive AMP as  per DRP direction 33,16,85,139
Reimbursement that appellant should have received. 298,51,66,260
Reimbursement that appellant has received. 33,55,48,510
Adjustment to assessee’s income 264,96,17,750

9. Before us, the ld. AR has vehemently stated that the TPO has proceeded by inferring the expenses of international transaction by applying BLT by drawing support from the judgment of the Special Bench of the Tribunal in the case of assessee in ITA No. 5140/DEL/2011.

10. At the outset, we have to state that the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India Pvt Ltd vs CIT 374 ITR 118 has discarded the BLT. The Hon’ble High Court, at para 120 held as under:

“120. Notwithstanding the above position, the argument of the Revenue goes beyond adequate and fair compensation and the ratio of the majority decision mandates that in each case where an Indian subsidiary of a foreign AE incurs AMP expenditure should be subjected to the bright line test on the basis of comparables mentioned in paragraph 17.4. Any excess expenditure beyond the bright line should be regarded as a separate international transaction of brand building. Such a broad-brush universal approach is unwarranted and would amount to judicial legislation. During the course of arguments, it was accepted by the Revenue that the TPOs/Assessing Officers have universally applied bright line test to decipher and compute value of international transaction and thereafter applied Cost Plus Method or Cost Method to compute the arm’s length price. The said approach is not mandated and stipulated in the Act or the Rules. The list of parameters for ascertaining the comparables for applying bright line test in paragraph 17.4 and, thereafter, the assertion in paragraph 17.6 that comparison can be only made by choosing comparable of domestic cases not using any foreign brand, is contrary to the Rules. It amounts to writing and prescribing a mandatory procedure or test which is not stipulated in the Act or the Rules. This is beyond what the statute in Chapter X postulates. Rules also do not so stipulate.”

11. Respectfully following the judgment of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi [supra], we hold that BLT has no mandate under the Act and accordingly, the same cannot be resorted to for the purpose of ascertaining if there exists an international transaction of brand promotion services between the assessee and the AE.

12. In our considered opinion, while dealing with the issue of bench marking of AMP expenses, the Revenue needs to establish the existence of international transaction before undertaking bench marking of AMP expenses and such transaction cannot be inferred merely on the basis of BLT. For this proposition, we draw support from the judgment of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd 381 ITR 117.

13. In this case, the Hon’ble High Court held that existence of an international transaction needs to be established de hors the Bright Line Test. The relevant finding of the Hon’ble High Court reads as under:

“43. Secondly, the cases which were disposed of by the judgment, i.e. of the three Assessees Canon, Reebok and Sony Ericsson were all of distributors of products manufactured by foreign AEs. The said Assessees were themselves not manufacturers. In any event, none of them appeared to have questioned the existence of an international transaction involving the concerned foreign AE. It was also not disputed that the said international transaction of incurring of AMP expenses could be made subject matter of transfer pricing adjustment in terms of Section 92 of the Act.

44. However, in the present appeals, the very existence of an international transaction is in issue. The specific case of MSIL is that the Revenue has failed to show the existence of any agreement, understanding or arrangement between MSIL and SMC regarding the AMP spend of MSIL. It is pointed out that the BLT has been applied to the AMP spend by MSIL to (a) deduce the existence of an international transaction involving SMC and (b) to make a quantitative ‘adjustment’ to the ALP to the extent that the expenditure exceeds the expenditure by comparable entities. It is submitted that with the decision in Sony Ericsson having disapproved of BLT as a legitimate means of determining the ALP of an international transaction involving AMP expenses, the very basis of the Revenue’s case is negated.

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51. The result of the above discussion is that in the considered view of the Court the Revenue has failed to demonstrate the existence of an international transaction only on account of the quantum of AMP expenditure by MSIL. Secondly, the Court is of the view that the decision in Sony Ericsson holding that there is an international transaction as a result of the AMP expenses cannot be held to have answered the issue as far as the present Assessee MSIL is concerned since finding in Sony Ericsson to the above effect is in the context of those Assessees whose cases have been disposed of by that judgment and who did not dispute the existence of an international transaction regarding AMP expenses.

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60. As far as clause (a) is concerned, SMC is a non­resident. It has, since 2002, a substantial share holding in MSIL and can, therefore, be construed to be a non­resident AE of MSIL. While it does have a number of ‘transactions’ with MSIL on the issue of licensing of IPRs, supply of raw materials, etc. the question remains whether it has any ‘transaction’ concerning the AMP expenditure. That brings us to clauses (b) and (c). They cannot be read disjunctively. Even if resort is had to the residuary part of clause (b) to contend that the AMP spend of MSIL is “any other transaction having a bearing” on its “profits, incomes or losses”, for a ‘transaction’ there has to be two parties. Therefore for the purposes of the ‘means’ part of clause (b) and the ‘includes’ part of clause (c), the Revenue has to show that there exists an ‘agreement’ or ‘arrangement’ or ‘understanding’ between MSIL and SMC whereby MSIL is obliged to spend excessively on AMP in order to promote the brand of SMC. As far as the legislative intent is concerned, it is seen that certain transactions listed in the Explanation under clauses (i) (a) to (e) to Section 92B are described as ‘international transaction’. This might be only an illustrative list, but significantly it does not list AMP spending as one such transaction.

61. The submission of the Revenue in this regard is: “The mere fact that the service or benefit has been provided by one party to the other would by itself constitute a transaction irrespective of whether the consideration for the same has been paid or remains payable or there is a mutual agreement to not charge any compensation for the service or benefit.” Even if the word ‘transaction’ is given its widest connotation, and need not involve any transfer of money or a written agreement as suggested by the Revenue, and even if resort is had to Section 92F (v) which defines ‘transaction’ to include ‘arrangement’, ‘understanding’ or ‘action in concert’, ‘whether formal or in writing’, it is still incumbent on the Revenue to show the existence of an ‘understanding’ or an ‘arrangement’ or ‘action in concert’ between MSIL and SMC as regards AMP spend for brand promotion. In other words, for both the ‘means’ part and the ‘includes’ part of Section 92B (1) what has to be definitely shown is the existence of transaction whereby MSIL has been obliged to incur AMP of a certain level for SMC for the purposes of promoting the brand of SMC.

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68……………… In other words, it emphasises that where the price is something other than what would be paid or charged by one entity from another in uncontrolled situations then that would be the ALP. The Court does not see this as a machinery provision particularly in light of the fact that the BLT has been expressly negatived by the Court in Sony Ericsson. Therefore, the existence of an international transaction will have to be established de hors the BLT.”

14. In the light of the aforesaid finding of the Hon’ble High Court, before embarking upon a benchmarking analysis, the Revenue needs to demonstrate on the basis of tangible material or evidence that there exists an international transaction between the assessee and the AE. Needless to mention, that the existence of such a transaction cannot be a matter of inference.

15. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in case of Whirlpool of India Ltd vs DCIT 381 ITR 154 has held that there should be some tangible evidence on record to demonstrate that there exists an international transaction in relation with incurring of AMP expenses for development of brand owned by the AE. In our considered opinion, in the absence of such demonstration, there is no question of undertaking any benchmarking of AMP expenses. The relevant findings of the Hon’ble High Court in the case of Whirlpool of India Ltd [supra] read as under:

“32. Under Sections 92B to 92F, the pre-requisite for commencing the TP exercise is to show the existence of an international transaction. The next step is to determine the price of such transaction. The third step would be to determine the ALP by applying one of the five price discovery methods specified in Section 92C. The fourth step would be to compare the price of the transaction that is shown to exist with that of the ALP and make the TP adjustment by substituting the ALP for the contract price.

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34. The TP adjustment is not expected to be made by deducing from the difference between the ‘excessive ‘ AMP expenditure incurred by the Assessee and the AMP expenditure of a comparable entity that an international transaction exists and then proceed to make the adjustment of the difference in order to determine the value of such AMP expenditure incurred for the AE.

35. It is for the above reason that the BLT has been rejected as a valid method for either determining the existence of international transaction or for the determination of ALP of such transaction. Although, under Section 92B read with Section 92F (v), an international transaction could include an arrangement, understanding or action in concert, this cannot be a matter of inference. There has to be some tangible evidence on record to show that two parties have “acted in concert”.

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37. The provisions under Chapter X do envisage a ‘separate entity concept’. In other words, there cannot be a presumption that in the present case since WOIL is a subsidiary of Whirlpool USA, all the activities of WOIL are in fact dictated by Whirlpool USA. Merely because Whirlpool USA has a financial interest, it cannot be presumed that AMP expense incurred by the WOIL are at the instance or on behalf of Whirlpool USA. There is merit in the contention of the Assessee that the initial onus is on the Revenue to demonstrate through some tangible material that the two parties acted in concert and further that there was an agreement to enter into an international transaction concerning AMP expenses.

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39. It is in this context that it is submitted, and rightly, by the Assessee that there must be a machinery provision in the Act to bring an international transaction involving AMP expense under the tax radar. In the absence of any clear statutory provision giving guidance as to how the existence of an international transaction involving AMP expense, in the absence of an express agreement in that behalf, should be ascertained and further how the ALP of such a transaction should be ascertained, it cannot be left entirely to surmises and conjectures of the TPO.

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47. For the aforementioned reasons, the Court is of the view that as far as the present appeals are concerned, the Revenue has been unable to demonstrate by some tangible material that there is an international transaction involving AMP expenses between WOIL and Whirlpool USA. In the absence of that first step, the question of determining the ALP of such a transaction does not arise. In any event, in the absence of a machinery provision it would be hazardous for any TPO to proceed to determine the ALP of such a transaction since BLT has been negatived by this Court as a valid method of determining the existence of an international transaction and thereafter its ALP.”

16. The case of the Revenue is that Indian subsidiary incurred certain expenses for the promotion of brands in India and for development of the Indian market and the creation of marketing intangibles in India which remain the functions of the parent company which is the entrepreneur. The brands are owned by the parent company. The Indian subsidiary only acts on behalf of the parent company. The Revenue alleges that eventual beneficiary of the acts of the Indian subsidiary is the parent company. Any benefit that may accrue to the Indian subsidiary is at best incidental to the entire exercise. This action of the Indian subsidiary amounts to rendering of a service to its foreign AE for which arm’s length compensation was payable by foreign AE to its Indian subsidiary.

17. It is the say of the ld. DR that the functions carried out by the assessee are in the nature of development, enhancement, maintenance, protection and exploitation of the relevant intangibles and thus, the assessee deserves compensation.

18. The case of the ld. DR is that the act of incurring of AMP expenses by the assessee is not a unilateral act and is an international transaction for following reasons:-

i) Though, the AMP expenditure may be for the purpose of business of the assessee but it is in performance of function of market development for the brands and products of the AE that enhances the value of the marketing intangibles owned by the foreign AE, and hence there is a transaction of rendering of service of market development to the AE.

ii) The short term benefit of the transaction accrues both to assessee and AE in terms of higher sales but long term benefit accrues only to the AE.

iii) The benefit to the AE is not incidental but significant. Once, it is established that the act of incurring of AMP expenditure is not a unilateral act of the assessee; the AE needs to compensate the assessee for AMP expenses.

iv) It is a fact that brands are valuable and even loss making enterprises having no real assets are purchased for substantial value for their brand and marketing intangibles.

v) The issue is not that of transfer of marketing intangibles to AE as the brands and marketing intangibles are already owned by the AE. The issue is that of addition in the value of marketing intangibles owned by the AE owing to the services of development of brand and markets by the assessee for the AE and that of compensation for rendering these services not provided unilaterally by the assessee.

19. We do not find any force in the aforesaid contentions of the ld. DR. As mentioned elsewhere, the Revenue needs to establish on the basis of some tangible material or evidence that there exists an international transaction of provisions of brand building service between the assessee and the AE. We find support from the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Honda Seil Power Products Ltd vs DCIT ITA No 346/2015.

20. The Hon’ble Delhi Court in its recent decision in the case of CIT vs Mary Kay Cosmetic Pvt Ltd (ITA No.1010/2018), too, dismissed the Revenue’s appeal, following the law laid down in its earlier decision (supra) and held as under:

“We have examined the assessment order and do not find any good ground and reason given therein to treat advertisement and sales promotion expenses as a separate and independent international transaction and not to regard and treat the said activity as a function performed by the respondent-assessee, who was engaged in marketing and distribution. Further, while segregating / debundling and treating advertisement and sales promotion as an independent and separate international transaction, the assessing officer did not apportion the operating profit/ income as declared and accepted in respect of the international transactions.”

21. In our understanding of the facts and law, mere agreement or arrangement for allowing use of their brand name by the AE on products does not lead to an inference that there is an “action in concert” or the parties were acting together to incur higher expenditure on AMP in order to render a service of brand building. Such inference would be in the realm of assumption/surmise. In our considered opinion, for assumption of jurisdiction u/s 92 of the Act, the condition precedent is an international transaction has to exist in the first place. The TPO is not permitted to embark upon the bench marking analysis of allocating AMP expenses as attributed to the AE without there being an ‘agreement’ or ‘arrangement’ for incurring such AMP expenses.

22. The aforesaid view that existence of an international transaction is a sine qua non for invoking the transfer pricing provisions contained in Chapter X of the Act, can be further supported by analysis ofsection 92(1) of the Act, which seeks to benchmark income / expenditure arising from an international transaction, having regard to the arm’s length price. The income / expenditure must arise qua an international transaction, meaning thereby that the (i) income has accrued to the Indian tax payer under an international transaction entered into with an associated enterprise; or (ii) expenditure payable by the Indian enterprise has accrued / arisen under an international transaction with the foreign AE. The scheme of Chapter X of the Act is not to benchmark transactions between the Indian enterprise and unrelated third parties in India, where there is no income arising to the Indian enterprise from the foreign payee or there is no payment of expense by the Indian enterprise to the associated enterprise. Conversely, transfer pricing provisions enshrined in Chapter X of the Act do not seek to benchmark transactions between two Indian enterprises.

23. The Revenue further contends that the assessee is not an independent manufacturer but is manufacturing for the benefit of the group entities and his status is akin to that of a contract manufacturer. Hence AMP activity is not for the sole benefit of the assessee but for the group as a whole.

24. It is the say of the ld. DR that pricing regulations are to applied keeping in mind the overall scheme of the tax payer’s business arrangement. The contention of the ld. DR can be summarized as under:

a) The assessee being part of a group is not completely independent in its pricing policies including price of raw material purchased from AE, payments in respect of copyrights and patents payable to the AE. Even their product pricing is not completely independent. Linder such circumstances, the benefits emanating from the AMP function cannot be enjoyed by the assessee alone. The assessee is not an independent manufacturer who takes all the risks and enjoys all the benefits of the functions performed by them.

b) The assessee is not engaged only in manufacture. It is also engaged in distribution of goods by its own admission. In fact, the assessee has a dual function of manufacturer and distributor. In any case, given its distribution function, the assessee is covered by the judgement of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in M/s Sony Ericsson.

c) The benefits to the AE from AMP function continue to be the same as in the case of distributor like increase in sale of raw material, components and spare parts, increase in dividend, and increase in copyright and patent payments apart from creation/enhancement of Brand value. Therefore, the argument advanced by the assessee would not have any bearing on the existence of ‘international transaction’ just because it is engaged in manufacture has not merit.

25. Considering the aforesaid contention of the Revenue, we are of the considered view that the Hon’ble High Court in the case of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd [supra] held that the findings of the Hon’ble High Court with regard to existence of international transaction was only with respect to the case of three limited risk distributors namely, Sony Ericsson, Canon and Reebok etc., wherein the existence of international transaction was admitted and not in dispute. The Court accordingly held that such findings in the case of Sony Ericsson cannot be applied to the case of the manufacturers.

26. The Hon’ble High Court held as under:

“43. Secondly, the cases which were disposed of by the Sony Ericsson judgment, i.e. of the three Assessees Canon, Reebok and Sony Ericsson were all of distributors of products manufactured by foreign AEs. The said Assessees were themselves not manufacturers. In any event, none of them appeared to have questioned the existence of an international transaction involving the concerned foreign AE. It was also not disputed that the said international transaction of incurring of AMP expenses could be made subject matter of transfer pricing adjustment in terms of Section 92 of the Act.

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45. Since none of the above issues that arise in the present appeals were contested taxguru.in by the Assessees who appeals were decided in the Sony Ericsson case, it cannot be said that the decision in Sony Ericsson, to the extent it affirms the existence of an international transaction on account of the incurring of the AMP expenses, decided that issue in the appeals of MSIL as well.”

27. At this stage, it would not be out of place to refer to para 6.38 of the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines which apply only to limited risk distributors and not to full risk manufacturers like the assessee. The said para from OECD TP Guidelines read as under:

“6.38 Where the distributor actually bears the cost of its marketing activities (i.e. there is no arrangement for the owner to reimburse the expenditures), the issue is the extent to which the distributor is able to share in the potential benefits from those activities. In general, in arm’s length transactions the ability of a party that is not the legal owner of a marketing intangible to obtain the future benefits of marketing activities that increase the value of that intangible will depend principally on the substance of the rights of that party. For example, a distributor may have the ability to obtain benefits from its investments in developing the value of a trademark from its turnover and market share where it has a long-term contract of sole distribution rights for the trademarked product. In such cases, the distributor’s share of benefits should be determined based on what an independent distributor would obtain in comparable circumstances. In some cases, a distributor may bear extraordinary marketing expenditures beyond what an independent distributor with similar rights might incur for the benefit of its own distribution activities. An independent distributor in such a case might obtain an additional return from the owner of the trademark, perhaps through a decrease in the purchase price of the product or a reduction in royalty rate.”

28. The Hon’ble High Court in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India Pvt Ltd (supra) has further held that no transfer pricing adjustment in respect of AMP expenses can be made where the assessee (Indian entity) has economic ownership of the brand/logo/trademark in question, in the case of long term right of use of the same. This principle also squarely covers the present case. The assessee has a long term agreement for the use of the trademark ‘LG’ in India. This clearly evidences the fact that the economic benefit arising out of the alleged promotion of the AE’s logo is being enjoyed by the assessee. There is a clear opportunity and reasonable anticipation for the assessee to benefit from the marketing activities undertaken by it. This is clearly evidenced by the significantly higher profits made by assessee compared to its industry peers and also the very sizeable year on year increase in its turnover. In view of the aforesaid, it is respectfully submitted that the economic ownership of the trademark ‘LG’ rests with the assessee. The Hon’ble High Court in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India Pvt Ltd (supra) disagreed with the finding of the Special Bench that the concept of economic ownership is not recognized under the Act. The relevant observations in paras 151 to 154 of the judgement are reproduced here under:

“151. Economic ownership of a trade name or trade mark is accepted in international taxation as one of the components or aspects for determining transfer pricing. Economic ownership would only arise in cases of long­term contracts and where there is no negative stipulation denying economic ownership. Economic ownership when pleaded can be accepted if it is proved by the assessed. The burden is on the assessed. It cannot be assumed. It would affect and have consequences, when there is transfer or termination of economic ownership of the brand or trademark.

152. Determination whether the arrangement is long­term with economic ownership or short-term should be ordinarily based upon the conditions existing at the start of the arrangement and not whether the contract is subsequently renewed. However, it is open to the party, i.e. the assessed, to place evidence including affirmation from the brand owner AE that at the start of the arrangement it was accepted and agreed that the contract would be renewed.

153. Economic ownership of a brand is an intangible asset, just as legal ownership. Undifferentiated, economic ownership brand valuation is not done from moment to moment but would be mandated and required if the assessed is deprived, denied or transfers economic ownership. This can happen upon termination of the distribution-cum-marketing agreement or when economic ownership gets transferred to a third party. Transfer Pricing valuation, therefore, would be mandated at that time. The international transaction could then be made a subject matter of transfer pricing and subjected to tax.

154. Brand or trademark value is paid for, in case of sale of the brand or otherwise by way of merger or acquisition with third parties. ………….  

Re-organisation, sale and transfer of a brand as a result of merger and acquisition or sale is not directly a subject matter of these appeals. As noted above, in a given case where the Indian AE claims economic ownership of the brand and is deprived or transfers the said economic ownership, consequences would flow and it may require transfer pricing assessment.” (emphasis supplied)

29. As held by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications (supra), if the Indian entity is the economic owner of the brand and is incurring AMP expenses for the purpose of promotion of such brand, benefit is only received by the Indian entity. It was submitted that the economic ownership of the brand rests with the assessee and accordingly, the assessee cannot be expected to seek compensation for the expenditure incurred on the asset economically owned by it. No Transfer Pricing adjustment on account of AMP expenses would be warranted. The aforesaid test is fully satisfied in the case of the assessee and the Transfer Pricing adjustment on account of AMP expenses made by the TPO is liable to be deleted.

30. The assessee being a full-fledged manufacturer, entire AMP expenditure is incurred at its own discretion and for its own benefit for sale of LG products in India. In the case of the appellant, the advertisements are aimed at promoting the sales of the product sold under trademark ‘LG’ manufactured by the assessee and not towards promoting the brand name of the AE. In such circumstances, the alleged excess AMP expenditure does not result in an international transaction and the assessee cannot be expected to seek compensation for such expenses unilaterally incurred by it from the AE.

31. The Revenue has strongly objected for the aggregated bench marking analysis for the AMP. According to the Revenue, the assessee company has not been able to demonstrate that there is any logic or rationale for aggregation or that the transactions of advertisement expenditure and the other transactions in the distribution activity are inter-dependent, the clubbing of transactions cannot be allowed. According to the Revenue, bench marking of AMP transaction is to be carried out using segregated approach and for determination of ALP of such transactions, Bright Line is used as the tool.

32. This contention of the Revenue is no more good as BLT has been discarded by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi as mentioned elsewhere. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India Pvt Ltd in Tax Appeal NO. 16 of 2014 has held that if the Indian entity has satisfied Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM), i.e., as long as the operating margins of the Indian enterprise are higher than the operating margins of comparable companies, no further separate compensation for AMP expenses is warranted. The Hon’ble Court held as under:

“101. However, once the Assessing Officer/TPO accepts and adopts TNM Method, but then chooses to treat a particular expenditure like AMP as a separate international transaction without bifurcation/segregation, it would as noticed above, lead to unusual and incongruous results as AMP expenses is the cost or expense and is not diverse. It is factored in the net profit of the inter- linked transaction. This would be also in consonance with Rule 10B(1)(e), which mandates only arriving at the net profit margin by comparing the profits and loss account of the tested party with the comparable. The TNM Method proceeds on the assumption that functions, assets and risk being broadly similar and once suitable adjustments have been made, all things get taken into account and stand reconciled when computing the net profit margin. Once the comparables pass the functional analysis test and adjustments have been made, then the profit margin as declared when matches with the comparables would result in affirmation of the transfer price as the arm’s length price. Then to make a comparison of a horizontal item without segregation would be impermissible.”

33. Considering the aforementioned findings of the Hon’ble Jurisdictional High Court of Delhi In the case in hand, the operating profit margin of the assessee is at 5.01% in the manufacturing segment and 4.52% in the distribution segment and the same is higher than that of the comparable companies at 4.04% in the manufacturing segment and 4.46% in the distribution segment. TNMM has undisputedly been satisfied. Since the operating margins of the assessee are in excess of the selected comparable companies, no adjustment on account of AMP expenses is warranted.

34. Considering the facts of the case in hand in totality, we are of the view that the Revenue has failed to demonstrate by bringing tangible material evidence on record to show that an international transaction does exist so far as AMP expenditure is concerned. Therefore, we hold that the incurring of expenditure in question does not give rise to any international transaction as per judicial discussion hereinabove and without prejudice to these findings, since the operating margins of the assessee are in excess of the selected comparable companies, no adjustment is warranted. Ground Nos. 3 to 3.34 of the assessee are allowed.”

21. We notice that the above said decision squarely applies to the facts of the present case. In his arguments, the Ld A.R also submitted that the economic ownership of brand lies in the hands of the assessee. As noticed earlier, the revenue has not shown that there existed any international transaction on account of incurring of AMP expenses. Accordingly, following the above said decision, we hold that the AO/TPO was not justified in making T.P adjustment on account of AMP expenses. Accordingly we hold that no adjustment needs to be done in respect of AMP expenses and accordingly delete the addition made by the AO in this regard.

22. We shall now take up the appeal filed by the assessee for AY 2013-14. In this year also, the assessee is contending that the assessment order is barred by limitation and is also contesting the T.P adjustments made by the TPO/AO in respect of AMP expenses. Identical issues were contested in AY 2012-13 also and the decision rendered by us on both the issues in that year can be conveniently applied in this year also. Following the same, we reject the legal contention relating to the validity of assessment order and direct the AO to delete the T.P adjustment made.

23. In the result, both the appeals of the assessee are partly

Order pronounced in the Open Court on 10th May, 2019.

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One Comment

  1. vswami says:

    IMPROMPTU

    Suggest to look through the expert article published and available in public domain on a search, titled- “Will Dispute Resolution Panels really be able to resolve disputes?”
    In the light of the further bizarre developments since then, and the woeful field reality as of now, – mainly in the form of inconsistent itat and court decisions handed down- does not the title need to be reframed to read, – have DRPs really been able to resolve disputes; instead, not given rise to fresh kind of disputes, unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future ?!
    courtesy

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