prpri Circular No. 526-Income Tax dated 5-12-1988 Circular No. 526-Income Tax dated 5-12-1988

1055. Whether interest payments under Land Acquisition Act are covered by section 194A

1. According to section 194A of the Income-tax Act, 1961, any person, not being an individual or HUF, who is responsible for paying to a resident any income by way of interest other than income by way of “Interest on securities” shall at the time of credit of such income to the account of the payee or at the time of payment thereof in cash or by issue of cheque or draft or by any other mode, whichever is earlier, deduct income-tax thereon at the rates in force. The provisions contained therein are however subject to the exceptions provided in the said section. According to the provisions of section 200 of the Income-tax Act, any person deducting any sum in accordance with the provisions of section 194A shall pay, within the prescribed time, the sum so deducted to the credit of Central Government. If he fails to deduct tax at source or after deducting fails to pay the tax to the credit of Central Government, he shall be liable to action in accordance with the provisions of section 201. In this connection attention is also invited to the provisions of section 276B of the Income-tax Act, as substituted by the Direct Tax Laws (Amend­ment) Act, 1987 according to which if a person fails to pay to the credit of the Central Government the tax deducted at source by him, he shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall be between 3 months and 7 years and with fine.

2. It has come to notice that various State Development Authori­ties, the Housing Boards, Public Works Department, etc., acquire immovable property from the public for the purpose of their developmental activities. Huge amounts are disbursed on behalf of these departments as payments of compensation for land acquired including considerable amount of interest on excess compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act. The interest payment made under the Land Acquisition Act are covered by the provisions of section 194A. As a result tax will have to be deducted at source under section 194A from the interest payments made to the public under the Land Acquisition Act.

Circular : No. 526, dated 5-12-1988.

JUDICIAL ANALYSIS

EXPLAINED IN – In Special Tehsildar and Land Acquisition Officer v. Dandu Saras­watamma [1994] 205 ITR 587 (AP), the Commissioner addressed a D.O. letter dated 1-3-1987 to the then Revenue Secre­tary requesting him to issue instructions to all the officers concerned with land acquisition to deduct income-tax on payment of interest and to follow the provisions as laid down under section 194A and other provisions of the Act. In paragraph 2 of that D.O. letter, it was stated that while paying interest, income-tax was deductible at the rates in force during that financial year with effect from 1-4-1975, if the amount exceeded Rs. 1,000.

Pursuant to those instructions, the Land Acquisition Officers, while depositing the enhanced compensation amounts in various execution petitions filed before the Subordinate Judge, Kovvur, had deducted income-tax on the interest accrued on the compensa­tion amount.

The Court held that the Supreme Court in Rama Bai v. CIT [1990] 181 ITR 400 held that the interest on enhanced compensation for land compulsorily acquired under the Land Acquisition Act awarded by the Court on a reference under section 18 of the Land Acquisi­tion Act or on further appeal has to be taken to have accrued not on the date of the order of the Court granting enhanced compensa­tion but as having accrued year after year from the date of delivery of possession of the land till the date of such order and such interest cannot be assessed to income-tax in one lump sum in the year in which the order is made. The above decision of the Supreme Court in Rama Bai’s case ( supra) has set at rest the conflict of decisions among some High Courts on the above issue. The effect of the decision of the Supreme Court referred to above is that on the enhanced compensation, for land compulsorily acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, awarded by the Court on a reference under section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, inter­est is payable to the claimants. If so, section 194A of the Act empowers the person who is responsible for making the payment to deduct income-tax. But the direction given in the D.O. letter dated 1-3-1987, of the Commissioner of Income-tax stating that while paying interest, income-tax was deductible at the rates in force during that financial year (Emphasis supplied) with effect from 1-4-1975, if the amount exceeded Rs. 1,000 was not and could not be valid. Such a direction did not get support from section 194A under which Department sought deduction of income-tax at source.

The proviso to section 194A of the Act empowers the assessee to receive the income by filing an affidavit or statement in writing declaring that his estimated total income assessable to tax for the assessment year next following the financial year in which the income is credited or paid will be less than the minimum liable to income-tax. The orders under revision did not disclose the break-up in each execution petition about the compensation amount awarded and the interest payable thereon. The orders also did not disclose as to when possession of the land concerned in each execution petition was taken by the Government and the date of depositing the compensation amount. In the absence of those details, it was not possible to determine whether the individual claimants were liable to pay income-tax or not.

In view of above it was further held that Circular No. 526, dated 5-12-1988, which is on same line as D.O. stated above, will not have binding effect on Civil Court unless provisions of the Act are made applicable.

CLARIFICATION TWO

I am directed to say that it had recently come to the notice of the Board that there was no uniform practice in vogue in the matter of the deduction of tax at source from interest payments awarded by the Courts of Law in land acquisition cases. At cer­tain places such deduction was being made by the land acquisition authority who was responsible for paying the compensation (along with interest) to the persons whose land had been acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, while at other places, such deduction was being made by the Court of Law which awarded the compensation (with interest), after the concerned authority had deposited the entire amount with the Court, for payment to the concerned par­ties in accordance with the decree passed by the Court. In the latter case, it is observed that certain Courts were seeking assistance of the concerned Income-tax Authorities for effecting tax-deduction at source.

2. It has now been decided in consultation with the Ministry of Law & Justice that the responsibility for making deduction of tax at source under section 194A of the Income-tax Act, 1961, should be that of the Collector (Land Acquisition) or any other authority empowered under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, to acquire land for the public purpose as laid down by that Act. When the con­cerned parties, whose land has been acquired, go to the Court of Law, seeking higher compensation (with interest) and the Court allows their claims the concerned authority which had acquired their land, shall, while paying the compensation, deduct tax at source from the amount of interest forming part of the compensa­tion, and deposit the remaining amount with the Court of Law, for disbursement to the successful litigants. The same authority shall also issue the TDS certificates to the concerned parties in the prescribed Form 16A.

Order : F.No. 275/109/92-IT(B), dated 21-9-1994.

ANNEX – MINISTRY OF LAW, JUSTICE & C.A. (DEPARTMENT OF LEGAL AFFAIRS) ADVICE (B) SECTION

The question for consideration is as to who is the person respon­sible for deduction of tax at source for the purpose of section 204 of the Income-tax Act, 1961 in the case of payment of compen­sation under the Land Acquisition Act.

A prima facie view was expressed by us in the matter on the assumption that Collector, Land Acquisition is the person making payment and as such he is responsible for making deduction at source in terms of section 204( iii) of the Income-tax Act. Howev­er, we had requested the Department to confirm the factual posi­tion from the Ministry of Rural Development.

The Department of Rural Development have stated that the person responsible for payment of compensation under Land Acquisition Act is the Collector. In Baldeep Singh v. UOI [1993] 199 ITR 628 the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that “the Court is not the person responsible for paying any income by way of interest…As per the legal incidents, the legal person responsible for paying income by way of interest is the Land Acquisition Collector who had the money in his possession and was responsible for making the payment of that income to the petitioners….The Court is acting only as a conduit for getting the payment to the petition­er in execution of a decree passed in his facour.” In view of the above, we confirm the views expressed by us earlier, referred to above.

The Administrative Department have stated that while there may be no objection to TDS being made by Collector, in such cases a practical difficulty that may arise is that the Collector would be required by the court to deposit the entire amount of compen­sation and interest with it and if the Collector deducts tax from that amount it would be regarded as disobedience of the Court’s order.

In this connection the following observation made by the Supreme Court in Lt. Col. K.D. Gupta v. UOI [1989] 46 Taxman 124 is considered very relevant :

“We see no justification to initiate any contempt proceeding against the respondents for withholding a sum of Rs. 1,20,000 out of the sum of Rs. 4 lakhs directed to be paid to the petitioner. Rs. 1,20,000 have been withheld  on the plea that under Chapter XVII of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (‘the Act’), the Union of India has the obligation to deduct income-tax at source. The intention of the payer in the facts of the case for withholding the amount cannot be held to be either mala fide or is there any scope to impute that the respondents intended to violate the direction of this Court.”

If out of the decretal amount the Land Acquisition Officer pays the TDS amount to the Central Government and deposits only the balance amount with the Court, in view of the aforesaid ruling, the Court may not hold it as disobedience of its orders.

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