Case Law Details

Case Name : ITO Vs Dinesh Madhavlal Patel (ITAT Ahmedabad)
Appeal Number : ITA No. 1398/Ahd/2004
Date of Judgement/Order : 14/08/2019
Related Assessment Year : 1998-99
Courts : All ITAT (6300) ITAT Ahmedabad (429)

ITO Vs Dinesh Madhavlal Patel (ITAT Ahmedabad)

CBDT circular dated 8th August, 2019, the income tax department has further liberalized its policy for not filing appeals against the decisions of the appellate authorities in favour of the taxpayers, wherein tax involved is below certain threshold limits, and announced its policy decision not to file, or press, the appeals, before this Tribunal, against the appellate orders favourable to the assessee in the cases in which overall tax effect, excluding interest-except when interest itself is in dispute, is Rs 50,00,000 or less. What it means, in plain words, is that when a Commissioner (Appeals) gives the taxpayer tax relief of upto Rs 50 lakhs in an appeal in an assessment year, the matter ends there and the relief so granted by the Commissioner (Appeals) cannot be challenged before this Tribunal, that when this Tribunal gives the taxpayer relief of upto Rs 1 crore in an appeal in an assessment year, the matter ends there and the relief so granted by the Tribunal cannot be challenged before the Hon’ble High Court, and that when Hon’ble High Court gives relief of upto Rs 2 crore to the taxpayer in an appeal in an assessment year, that relief cannot be challenged before Hon’ble Supreme Court. These monetary threshold limits for filing of appeals by the income tax authorities do not take into account interest and other corollaries of the tax demands being confirmed such as penalties, except when a penalty itself is subject matter of litigation, and prosecutions. The enhancement of these monetary limits is at an unprecedented scale. The monetary limit for appeals before this Tribunal, which was Rs 3,00,000 till 10th July 2014, has been in effect enhanced to almost 1,700% in the last five years. This substantial relaxation is certainly a huge step which signifies trust reposed by the Government of India in the decisions of the appellate forums, and substantially cuts down time taken in the finality of the appellate process. It is indeed heartening to note that in one stroke, the Government has not only prevented, but has, in effect, set the stage for withdrawal of thousands of appeals before this Tribunal and before Hon’ble Courts above. In an environment in which retrospectivity was attached only to the taxation and not to tax reliefs or concessions, such an approach is a pleasant departure from legacy practices.

CBDT circulars, which used to be in supersession of earlier circulars on the issues, the circular dated 8th August 2019 only modifies the earlier circular which, inter alia, provided for its retrospective application. Our attention is invited to some judicial precedents in support of the contention that the benevolent circular, such as the one in question, is to be given effect in respect of the pending appeals as well. Ms Urvashi Shodhan, learned counsel for the assessee, points outs that its plainly contrary to the scheme of the litigation policy of the Government of India to give this circular only prospective effect. Shri S K Sadhwani, learned counsel for the assessee, invites our attention to the letter dated 16th July 2018 issued by Member CBDT to the all the Principal Chief Commissioners of Income Tax, in the context of circular dated 11th July 2018 that the present circular seeks to modify, seeking report on withdrawal of the appeals covered by the circular. He then points out that it is the old circular is still alive today and the only change is with respect to the monetary limits. In all fairness, therefore, the same approach regarding withdrawal of pending appeals must be followed for this circular as well.

Having considered the rival submissions and having perused the material on record, we do not have slightest of hesitation in holding that the concession extended by the CBDT not only applies to the appeals to be filed in future but it is also equally applicable to the appeals pending for disposal as on now.

FULL TEXT OF THE ITAT JUDGEMENT

1. These 628 appeals and COs pertain to the appeals are filed by various Assessing Officers, all these appeals call into question correctness of the relief granted to the taxpayers by the Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) and, most importantly, the tax effect involved in all these appeals does not exceed Rs 50,00,000 in each of these appeals. The cross objections taken up for hearing are only such cross objections as emanate from these appeals and are broadly in support of the orders passed by the Commissioner (Appeals). In these cases, in the light of the discussions with the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Gujarat) and representatives of the Ahmedabad ITAT Bar Association, individual notices are dispensed with; notices of hearing are given only through the notice board.

2. It is in this backdrop that we are pleased to take note of a very pragmatic and taxpayer friendly policy decision by the Government of India for reducing the income tax litigation. Vide CBDT circular dated 8th August, 2019, the income tax department has further liberalized its policy for not filing appeals against the decisions of the appellate authorities in favour of the taxpayers, wherein tax involved is below certain threshold limits, and announced its policy decision not to file, or press, the appeals, before this Tribunal, against the appellate orders favourable to the assessee in the cases in which overall tax effect, excluding interest-except when interest itself is in dispute, is Rs 50,00,000 or less. What it means, in plain words, is that when a Commissioner (Appeals) gives the taxpayer tax relief of upto Rs 50 lakhs in an appeal in an assessment year, the matter ends there and the relief so granted by the Commissioner (Appeals) cannot be challenged before this Tribunal, that when this Tribunal gives the taxpayer relief of upto Rs 1 crore in an appeal in an assessment year, the matter ends there and the relief so granted by the Tribunal cannot be challenged before the Hon’ble High Court, and that when Hon’ble High Court gives relief of upto Rs 2 crore to the taxpayer in an appeal in an assessment year, that relief cannot be challenged before Hon’ble Supreme Court. These monetary threshold limits for filing of appeals by the income tax authorities do not take into account interest and other corollaries of the tax demands being confirmed such as penalties, except when a penalty itself is subject matter of litigation, and prosecutions. The enhancement of these monetary limits is at an unprecedented scale. The monetary limit for appeals before this Tribunal, which was Rs 3,00,000 till 10th July 2014, has been in effect enhanced to almost 1,700% in the last five years. This substantial relaxation is certainly a huge step which signifies trust reposed by the Government of India in the decisions of the appellate forums, and substantially cuts down time taken in the finality of the appellate process. It is indeed heartening to note that in one stroke, the Government has not only prevented, but has, in effect, set the stage for withdrawal of thousands of appeals before this Tribunal and before Hon’ble Courts above. In an environment in which retrospectivity was attached only to the taxation and not to tax reliefs or concessions, such an approach is a pleasant departure from legacy practices.

3. In view of the above factual background and the generous concession by this benevolent CBDT circular, all these appeals must be dismissed as withdrawn and the related cross objections must be dismissed as infructuous. There is, however, a small issue that we must deal with.

4. Smt Aparna Agarwal, learned Departmental Representative, however, has a point to make. She points out that the circular dated 8th August 2019 is not clearly retrospective inasmuch as it specifically states in para 4 that “(t)he said modifications shall come into effect from the date of issue of this Circular”. It is thus pointed out that this sentence gives an impression that is only after the date of the said circular that the departmental appeals will not be filed in the cases within the specified tax effect limits. We are urged to bear in mind the impact of this observation while giving effect to the circular dated 8th August, 2019. She, however, hastens to add that she is yet to have any specific instructions on the issue and she leaves it for the bench to take the appropriate call. Learned representatives appearing for the taxpayers vehemently oppose the suggestion implicit in her submissions. All of them are unanimous in their argument that the circular must be held to have retrospective application and must equally apply to the pending appeals as well. Shri J P Shah, Senior Advocate, points out that the circular dated 8th August 2019 is not a standalone circular and it is required to be read with the old circular no. 3 of 2018 which is what it seeks to modify. This circular, according to the learned counsel, only enhances the monetary limits and gives further relaxation. He urges us not to read the circular in a manner so as to nullify the underlying approach and object of reducing litigation. Shri Soparkar, learned Senior Advocate, submits that all that the present circular does is to modify the monetary limits and nothing more, and, therefore, it cannot be treated to follow any other approach other than the approach followed in the old circular. The old circular, beyond any dispute or controversy, categorically applied to the pending appeals as on the date of issuance of circular. Shri Tushar Hemani, learned Senior Advocate, points out that the circular dated 8th August 2019 only gives further relief not only in terms of the monetary limits but also in terms of the manner in which the application of circular to orders dealing with more than one year is to made. Shri S N Divetia, learned counsel for the assessee, submits that unlike in the cases of earlier CBDT circulars, which used to be in supersession of earlier circulars on the issues, the circular dated 8th August 2019 only modifies the earlier circular which, inter alia, provided for its retrospective application. Our attention is invited to some judicial precedents in support of the contention that the benevolent circular, such as the one in question, is to be given effect in respect of the pending appeals as well. Ms Urvashi Shodhan, learned counsel for the assessee, points outs that its plainly contrary to the scheme of the litigation policy of the Government of India to give this circular only prospective effect. Shri S K Sadhwani, learned counsel for the assessee, invites our attention to the letter dated 16th July 2018 issued by Member CBDT to the all the Principal Chief Commissioners of Income Tax, in the context of circular dated 11th July 2018 that the present circular seeks to modify, seeking report on withdrawal of the appeals covered by the circular. He then points out that it is the old circular is still alive today and the only change is with respect to the monetary limits. In all fairness, therefore, the same approach regarding withdrawal of pending appeals must be followed for this circular as well. On the same lines, arguments are advanced by the learned representatives which, for the sake of brevity and to avoid repetition, we are not referring to in more specific details. In brief rejoinder, learned Departmental Representative graciously leaves the matter to us.

5. Having considered the rival submissions and having perused the material on record, we do not have slightest of hesitation in holding that the concession extended by the CBDT not only applies to the appeals to be filed in future but it is also equally applicable to the appeals pending for disposal as on now. Our line of reasoning is this. The circular dated 8th August 2019 is not a standalone circular. It is to be read in conjunction with the CBDT circular no 3 of 2018 (and subsequent amendment thereto), and all it does is to replace paragraph nos. 3 and 5 of the said circular. This is evident from the following extracts from the circular dated 8th August 2019:

2. As a step towards further management of litigation. it has been decided by the Board that monetary limits for filing of appeals in income-tax cases be enhanced further through amendment in Para 3 of the Circular mentioned above and accordingly. the table for monetary limits specified in Para 3 of the Circular shall read as follows:

S.No. Appeals/SLPs in Income-tax matters Monetary Limit (Rs.)
1 Before Appellate Tribunal 50,00,000
2 Before High Court 1,00,00,000
3 Before Supreme Court 2,00,00,000

3. Further, with a view to provide parity in filing of appeals in scenarios where separate order is passed by higher appellate authorities for each assessment year vis-a-vis where composite order for more than one assessment years is passed. para 5 of the circular is substituted by the following para:

“5. The Assessing Officer shall calculate the tax effect separately for every assessment year in respect of the disputed issues in the case of every assessee. If in the case of an ass essee, the disputed issues arise in more than one assessment year, appeal can be filed in respect of such assessment year or years in which the tax effect in respect of the disputed issues exceeds the monetary limit specified in para 3. No appeal shall be filed in respect of an assessment year or years in which the tax effect is less than the monetary limit specified in para 3. Further, even in the case of composite order of any High Court or appellate authority which involves more than one assessment year and common issues in more than one assessment year no appeal shall be filed in respect of an assessment year or years in which the tax effect is less than the monetary limit specified in para 3. In case where a composite order/ judgement involves more than one assessee, each assessee shall be dealt with separately”

4. The said modifications shall come into effect from the date of issue of this Circular.

6. Clearly, all other portions of the circular no. 3 of 2018 (supra) have remained intact. The portion which has remained intact includes paragraph 13 of the aforesaid circular which is as follows:

13. This Circular will apply to SLPs/ appeals/ cross objections/ references to be filed henceforth in SC/HCs/Tribunal and it shall also apply retrospectively to pending SLPs/ appeals/ cross objections/references. Pending appeals below the specified tax limits in pare 3 above may be withdrawn/ not pressed.

7. In view of the above discussions, we hereby hold that the relaxation in monetary limits for departmental appeals, vide CBDT circular dated 8th August 2019 (supra) shall be applicable to the pending appeals in addition to the appeals to be filed henceforth.

8. Learned Commissioner (DR) then submits liberty may kindly be given to point out, upon necessary further verifications, and to seek recall the dismissal of appeals and restoration of the appeals in the cases (i) in which it can be demonstrated that the appeals are covered by the exceptions, and (ii) which are inadvertently included in this bunch of appeals, wherein the tax effect, in terms of the CBDT circular (supra), exceeds Rs 50,00,000. None opposes this prayer; we accept the same. We make it clear that the appellants shall be at liberty to point out the cases which are wrongly included in the appeals so summarily dismissed, either owing to wrong computation of tax effect or owning to such cases being covered by the permissible exceptions- or for any other reason, and we will take appropriate remedial steps in this regard.

9. In the light of the above discussions, all the appeals stand dismissed as withdrawn. As the appeals filed by the Revenue are found to be non-maintainable and as all the related cross-objections of the assessee arise only as a result of those appeals and merely support the order of the CIT(A), the cross objections filed by the assessee are also dismissed as infructuous. Ordered, accordingly.

10. As we part with the matter, we must place on record our deep appreciation to our own team which has painstakingly identified all these low tax effect appeals in the long weekend and less than two working days, to the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax Gujarat, as also the learned Departmental Representatives, for his immense help, cooperation and active involvement in speedily disposing of these appeals, and, of course, to the ITAT Bar Association Ahmedabad for their whole hearted cooperation in this special drive. The circular was issued on Thursday the 8th August 2019, and within two working days and the long weekend, today on 14th August 2019, all the appeals stand disposed of. It’s only a team effort and whole hearted cooperation of all the stakeholders that can enable us to so speedily implement taxpayer friendly initiatives of the Government of India. The taxpayer relief involved in these appeals, including interest and the other corollaries, is estimated to be well over Rs 350 crores. The lead case before us is an appeal filed over fifteen years ago by the Income Tax Officer and it deals with an assessment year which pertains to the period over twenty years ago. Yet, the matter had not reached the finality and the revenue’s challenge to the relief granted by the Commissioner (Appeals) had remained undecided. That is nothing but prolonged agony of uncertainty to the taxpayers. It is indeed an appreciable goodwill gesture by the Government, for so many taxpayers, on the eve of this Independence Day and offering them freedom from the prolonged mental agony and uncertainty of litigation.

11. In the results, all the appeals are dismissed as withdrawn and the cross objections are dismissed as infructuous. Pronounced in the open court today on the 14th August, 2019.

Download Judgment/Order

More Under Income Tax

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *