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Case Law Details

Case Name : Checkmate Services P. Ltd Vs CIT (Supreme Court of India)
Appeal Number : Civil Appeal No. 2833 of 2016
Date of Judgement/Order : 12/10/2022
Related Assessment Year :
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Checkmate Services P. Ltd Vs CIT (Supreme Court)

The factual narration reveals two diametrically opposed views in regard to the interpretation of Section 36(1)(va) on the one hand and proviso to Section 43(b) on the other. If one goes by the legislative history of these provisions, what is discernible is that Parliament’s endeavour in introducing Section 43B [which opens with its non-obstante clause] was to primarily ensure that deductions otherwise permissible and hitherto claimed on mercantile basis, were expressly conditioned, in certain cases upon payment. In other words, a mere claim of expenditure in the books was insufficient to entitle deduction. The assessee had to, before the prescribed date, actually pay the amounts – be it towards tax liability, interest or other similar liability spelt out by the provision.

Section 43B falls in Part-V of the IT Act. What is apparent is that the scheme of the Act is such that Sections 28 to 38 deal with different kinds of deductions, whereas Sections 40 to 43B spell out special provisions, laying out the mechanism for assessments and expressly prescribing conditions for disallowances. In terms of this scheme, Section 40 (which too starts with a non-obstante clause overriding Sections 30-38), deals with what cannot be deducted in computing income under the head “Profits and Gains of Business and Profession”. Likewise, Section 40A(2) opens with a non-obstante clause and spells out what expenses and payments are not deductible in certain circumstances. Section 41 elaborates conditions which apply with respect to certain deductions which are otherwise allowed in respect of loss, expenditure or trading liability etc. If we consider this scheme, Sections 40- 43B, are concerned with and enact different conditions, that the tax adjudicator has to enforce, and the assessee has to comply with, to secure a valid deduction.

The scheme of the provisions relating to deductions, such as Sections 32­37, on the other hand, deal primarily with business, commercial or professional expenditure, under various heads (including depreciation). Each of these deductions, has its contours, depending upon the expressions used, and the conditions that are to be met. It is therefore necessary to bear in mind that specific enumeration of deductions, dependent upon fulfilment of particular conditions, would qualify as allowable deductions: failure by the assessee to comply with those conditions, would render the claim vulnerable to rejection. In this scheme the deduction made by employers to approved provident fund schemes, is the subject matter of Section 36 (iv). It is noteworthy, that this provision was part of the original IT Act; it has largely remained unaltered. On the other hand, Section 36(1)(va) was specifically inserted by the Finance Act, 1987, w.e.f. 01-04-1988. Through the same amendment, by Section 3(b), Section 2(24) – which defines various kinds of “income” – inserted clause (x). This is a significant amendment, because Parliament intended that amounts not earned by the assessee, but received by it, – whether in the form of deductions, or otherwise, as receipts, were to be treated as income. The inclusion of a class of receipt, i.e., amounts received (or deducted from the employees) were to be part of the employer/assessee’s income. Since these amounts were not receipts that belonged to the assessee, but were held by it, as trustees, as it were, Section 36(1)(va) was inserted specifically to ensure that if these receipts were deposited in the EPF/ESI accounts of the employees concerned, they could be treated as deductions. Section 36(1)(va) was hedged with the condition that the amounts/receipts had to be deposited by the employer, with the EPF/ESI, on or before the due date. The last expression “due date” was dealt with in the explanation as the date by which such amounts had to be credited by the employer, in the concerned enactments such as EPF/ESI Acts. Importantly, such a condition (i.e., depositing the amount on or before the due date) has not been enacted in relation to the employer’s contribution (i.e., Section 36(1)(iv)).

The significance of this is that Parliament treated contributions under Section 36(1)(va) differently from those under Section 36(1)(iv). The latter (hereinafter, “employers’ contribution”) is described as “sum paid by the assessee as an employer by way of contribution towards a recognized provident fund”. However, the phraseology of Section 36(1)(va) differs from Section 36(1)(iv). It enacts that “any sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which the provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 apply, if such sum is credited by the assessee to the employee’s account in the relevant fund or funds on or before the due date.” The essential character of an employees’ contribution, i.e., that it is part of the employees’ income, held in trust by the employer is underlined by the condition that it has to be deposited on or before the due date.

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