SECTION 44AB – AUDIT OF ACCOUNTS OF CERTAIN
BUSINESSMEN OR PROFESSIONALS
405-406. Compulsory Audit – Whether the provision is applicable to commission agents, arahtias, etc.
1. Section 44AB, as inserted by the Finance Act, 1984, casts an obligation on every person carrying on business to get his accounts audited, if his total sales, turnover or gross receipts, as the case may be, exceed Rs. 40 lakhs in any previous year relevant to the assessment year commencing on 1-4-1985 or any subsequent assessment year.
2. The Board have received representations from various persons, trade associations, etc., to clarify whether in cases where an agent effects sales/turnover on behalf of his principal, such sales/turnover have to be treated as the sales/turnover of the agent for the purpose of section 44AB.
3. The matter was examined in consultation with the Ministry of Law. There are various trade practices prevalent in the country in regard to agency business and no uniform pattern is followed by the commission agents, consignment agents, brokers, kachha arahtias and pacca arahtias dealing in different commodities in different parts of the country. The primary necessity in each instance is to ascertain with precision what are the express terms of the particular contracts under consideration. Each transaction, therefore, requires to be examined with reference to its terms and conditions and no hard and fast rule can be laid down as to whether the agent is acting only as an agent or also as a principal.
4. The Board are advised that so far as kachha arahtias are concerned, the turnover does not include the sales effected on behalf of the principals and only the gross commission has to be considered for the purpose of section 44AB. But the position is different with regard to pacca arahtias. A pacca arahtia is not, in the proper sense of the word, an agent or even del credere agent. The relation between him and his constituent is substantially that between the two principals. On the basis of various Court pronouncements, following principals of distinction can be laid down between a kachha arahtia and a pacca arahtia:
(1) A kachha arahtia acts only as an agent of his constituent and never acts as a principal. A pacca arahtia, on the other hand, is entitled to substitute his own goods towards the contract made for the constituent and buy the constituent’s goods on his personal account and thus he acts as regards his constituent.
(2) A kachha arahtia brings a privity contract between his constituent and the third party so that each becomes liable to the other. The pacca arahtia, on the other hand, makes himself liable upon the contract not only to the third party but also to his constituent.
(3) Though the kachha arahtia does not communicate the name of his constituent to the third party, he does communicate the name of the third party to the constituent. In other words, he is an agent for an unnamed principal. The pacca arahtia, on the other hand, does not inform his constituent as to the third party with whom he has entered into a contract on his behalf.
(4) The remuneration of a kachha arahtia consists solely of commission and he is not interested in the profits and losses made by his constituent as is not the case with the pacca arahtia.
(5) The kachha arahtia, unlike the pacca arahtia, does not have any dominion over the goods.
(6) The kachha arahtia has no personal interest of his own when he enters into transaction and his interest is limited to the commission agent’s charges and certain out of pocket expenses whereas a pacca arahtia has a personal interest of his own when he enters into a transaction.
(7) In the event of any loss, the kachha arahtia is entitled to be indemnified by his principal as is not the case with pacca arahtia.
5. The above distinction between a kachha arahtia and pacca arahtia may also be relevant for determining the applicability of section 44AB in cases of other types of agents. In the case of agents whose position is similar to that of kachha arahtia, the turnover is only the commission and does not include the sales on behalf of the principals. In the case of agents of the type of pacca arahtia, on the other hand, the total sales/turnover of the business should be taken into consideration for determining the applicability of the provisions of section 44AB.
Circular : No. 452 [F. No. 201/3/85-IT(A-II)], dated 17-3-1986.
EXPLAINED IN – In Jeyar Consultant & Investment (P.) Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner  46 ITD 71 (Mad.-Trib.), it was observed that it is ex facie clear from the CBDT Circular No. 452 of 17-3-1986 which came to be issued in relation to kacha and pacca arhatias, who are an integral part of the trading sector, that instructions issued by the Board as respects kacha and pacca arhatias could not be applied to the case of the assessee who has arranged finances for other for a fee. The assessee may choose to label the fee as brokerage or even as commission. But the fee—or to use a generic expression ‘receipt’—could not be regarded as turnover proper.
RELIED ON IN – The above circular was relied on in ITO v. Shantilal Chunilal & Co.  45 ITD 581 (Pune – Trib.), with the following observations :
“. . . Further, reference was made by assessee to pages 52 to 54 which contains Board’s Circular No. 452, dated 17-3-1986 which has been issued in connection with section 44AB of the Income-tax Act, 1961. Reliance was placed on para 4 of the said circular according to which the Board were advised that so far as kachha arahatias were concerned, the turnover did not include sales effected on behalf of the principals and only gross commission has to be considered for the purpose of section 44AB. The submission of the learned counsel for the assessee was that the case of the assessee is one of kachha arahatia and not a pucca arahatia and, therefore, only gross commission has to be considered for the purpose of section 44AB of the Income-tax Act, 1961. . . . The CIT (Appeals) has excluded the adat receipt as well as interest receipt from the purview of turnover for the purpose of section 44AB. Relying on the clarifications given by the Board in its Circular No. 452, dated 17-3-1986, he has categorised the assessee as kachha arahatia and he has charged expenses incurred on such business which resulted in gross profit rate of 1.09 per cent. Therefore, it is very much relevant to clinch the issue whether the assessee is a kachha arahatia or not. Going by the clarification issued by the Board in the aforesaid Circular No. 452, dated 17-3-1986 the case of the assessee fits in with the kachha arahatia vis-a-vis case of pucca arahatia. . . .” (pp. 585-586).
REFERRED TO IN – Manish Textiles v. ACIT  38 ITD 365 (Bom.).