Case Law Details

Case Name : The Himalaya Drug Company Vs ACIT (ITAT Bangalore)
Appeal Number : ITA (TP) No. 2248/Bang/2016
Date of Judgement/Order : 02/11/2020
Related Assessment Year : 2012-13
Courts : All ITAT (7435) ITAT Bangalore (435)

Himalaya Drug Company Vs ACIT (ITAT Bangalore)

We noticed that the assessee has exported finished goods to its AEs located in various Countries and the AEs have only marketed the goods. Since the finished goods exported by the assessee are drugs and beauty care items, the assessee was required to comply with the requirement of local laws of the concerned Country with regard to marketing of the said products. There should not be any dispute that the technical details; the details of clinical trials etc., are available with the assessee only, since it has actually developed the products. Hence the assessee could submit those details to the concerned Government authorities for getting product registration/license. The TPO has expressed the view that the concerned AEs would have obtained the product registration/license, if the assessee had not obtained the same. However, it is the undisputed fact that, if at all the AEs wanted to obtain product registration/license, they have to get relevant details from the assessee only.

Transfer Pricing

The assessee has submitted that such kind of approvals are required to market pharma products in any country. Hence these licenses enable the assessee to market its products. The AEs, in the capacity of distributors, should have also obtained separate license for trading in pharma products. There is also no dispute that the AEs have marketed products as re-sellers only. It is also submitted that it is not the commercial practice to charge any amount as royalty over and above the selling rate. In our view, this submission of the assessee is a reasonable one and also makes sense.

The product registration/licensing are requirement of statute, without which the said products could not be marketed in those countries. As noticed earlier, such kinds of product registration/license could be obtained by the manufacturer only, in normal circumstances. The traders should have obtained separate license for trading in the drugs/beauty items. Hence, it cannot be said that the traders have exploited the registration/license obtained by the suppliers under the various statutes. Further, the manufacturers and other suppliers of the products sell them at profit and the practice or presumption is that the supplier has determined the selling price by taking into account all relevant costs. The Ld A.R also submitted that the obtaining product registration/license is usually the responsibility of the manufacturer and it is not the trade practice to levy separate charges as royalty over and above the selling price. He also submitted that the assessee has not collected any amount over and above the selling price from export made to non-AEs. We have noticed that the tax authorities have taken the view that the assessee would have collected royalty amount for finished goods exported to unrelated parties. However, the Ld A.R pointed out that the assessee has not collected any amount over and above the selling price either from domestic customers or from non-AEs. Hence, the basic premise of the TPO, which formed the basis for determining ALP of alleged royalty fails here. Accordingly, we are of the view that, in the facts and circumstances of the case, it cannot be taken that the AEs have exploited the product registration/license obtained by the assessee from various Governments. Hence the question of payment of royalty does not arise. Accordingly, we set aside the order passed by AO/TPO on this issue and direct the AO to delete this T.P adjustment.

FULL TEXT OF THE ITAT JUDGEMENT

The assessee has filed this appeal challenging the assessment order dated 20-10-2016 passed by the Assessing Officer for assessment year 2012-13 u/s 143(3) r.w.s.144C of the Income-tax Act,1961 [‘the Act’ for short] in pursuance of directions given by the ld. Dispute Resolution Panel (DRP).

2. The assessee has filed concise grounds of appeal running into 8 pages and they give rise to the following issues:

a. Assessment order is bad in law, since the AO has issued demand notice along with the draft assessment order. (Ground No.3)

b. Transfer Pricing adjustment relating to sale of goods to associated enterprises. (Ground Nos. 4 to 8)

c. Transfer Pricing adjustment relating to advertisement and market promotion expenses. (Ground No. 9)

d. Transfer Pricing adjustment relating to royalty. (Ground No.10)

Other issues urged by the assessee are either general in nature or consequential.

3. The facts relating to the case have been narrated as under by the Tribunal in its order passed for AY 2013-14 in ITA No.: 1385/Bang/2017:-

“3. The facts relating to the case are stated in brief. The assessee is a partnership firm engaged in the business of manufacture and sale of Ayurvedic medicament and preparations, consumer/personal care products and animal health care products. The partners of the assessee firm are

(a) M/s Himalaya Global Holdings Pvt Ltd., a foreign company registered in Cayman Islands and

(b) M/s Himalaya Drug Co. Pvt. Ltd.

These two partners respectively hold 88% and 12% share in the profits of the assessee firm. The TPO has also discussed ownership details of the above said two partner companies. Mr. Meeraj Alim Manal, is holding 100% shares in M/s Himalaya Global Holdings Pvt. Ltd. He also holds entire shares except one share in M/s Himalaya Drug Co. Pvt. Ltd.”

4. The legal ground urged by the assessee on the validity of assessment order reads as under:-

“3. The action of Learned Assessing Officer in issuing demand notice under section 156 of IT Act while passing the draft assessment order dated 29-02-2016, is in contravention to the scheme of section 144C(1) of IT Act and said draft assessment order having the effect of final assessment order is bad in law as held in the case of Jazzy Creations Pvt. Ltd vs. ITO (TS-52-ITAT-2016 (Mum)).”

4.1 The facts relating to the above said legal issue are stated in brief. The assessee is a partnership firm engaged in manufacture and sale of Ayurvedic medicaments and preparations, consumer/personal care products and animal health care products. It filed its return of income for the year under consideration declaring total income of Rs.50.19 crores. The case was selected for scrutiny. The AO noticed that the assessee has entered into international transactions and accordingly the AO referred the same to the Transfer Pricing Officer (TPO) after obtaining approval of Principal CIT for determining arms length price of the international transactions. The TPO proposed adjustment to the tune of Rs. 169.05 crores in respect of international transactions entered by the assessee. The assessing officer accordingly passed a “draft assessment order” on 19-02-2016 making addition of transfer pricing adjustment of Rs.169.05 crores proposed by the TPO to the total income returned by the assessee. The said draft assessment order was served upon the assessee on 08-03-2016 along with a “notice of demand dated 19-02-2016 u/s 156 of the Act”.

4.2 The assessee filed its objections before Ld DRP on 06-04-2016. The Ld DRP issued directions to the AO on 11.09.2016 and the assessing officer passed final assessment order on 20-10-2016 and served the same upon the assessee on 21-10-2016 along with a “notice of demand dated 20-10-2016 u/s 156 of the Act”.

4.3 Since the assessing officer has issued the Notice of Demand u/s 156 of the Act along with the “Draft assessment order”, the assessee has raised the above said legal issue. It is the contention of the assessee that the assessing officer cannot issue demand notice at the stage of passing of draft assessment order and since, he has issued the same to the assessee at that stage, it has to be construed that the AO has passed final assessment order. In the case, the AO has failed to follow the mandatory procedure prescribed under sec. 144C of the Act and the same would vitiate the assessment proceedings. Accordingly he contended that the impugned assessment order is liable to be quashed.

4.4 We notice that the AO has stated that the draft assessment order and the final assessment order have been passed u/s 143(3) r.w.s. 144C of the Act. Section 144C of the Act reads as under:-

“Section 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 sub­section (2).

(4) The Assessing Officer shall, notwithstanding anything contained in section 153 or section 153B, pass the assessment order under sub­section (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 to 15….. “

The AO has to complete the assessment by passing a final assessment order in conformity with the directions issued by Ld Dispute Resolution Panel (DRP). It can be noticed that the provisions of sec. 144C of the Act prescribe procedures for completion of assessment of an “eligible assessee”. There is no dispute that the assessee herein is an eligible assessee. Hence as per the provisions of sec. 144C, the AO has to issue a draft assessment order to the assessee and the assessee is entitled to either accept it or to file its objections before Ld DRP & AO. There should not be any dispute that no enforceable demand can arise at the stage of passing of draft assessment order and the tax demand shall arise only after passing of final assessment order.

4.5 The Ld D.R submitted that the assessing officer has duly passed the draft assessment order in the instant case and the assessee, after receipt of the same, has filed its objections before Ld DRP within the stipulated time. The Ld Dispute Resolution Panel has issued directions to the AO after considering objections filed by the assessee and accordingly, the assessing officer has passed the final assessment order in conformity with the directions issued by Ld DRP. Accordingly, Ld D.R submitted that the impugned final assessment order has been passed by duly complying with the procedures prescribed under sec.144C of the Act. He submitted that though the assessing officer has also issued Notice of Demand along with draft assessment order, yet no tax demand would arise at the stage of passing of draft assessment order and hence the notice of demand issued at that stage is a nullity in the eyes of law. He submitted that neither the assessing officer nor the assessee has understood or meant the “draft assessment order” as final assessment order. Hence the action of the AO in issuing a notice of demand, which is not enforceable in law, should be ignored. Accordingly he submitted that the plea of the assessee should be rejected.

4.6 The only question that needs to be examined is whether the action of the AO in issuing Notice of Demand along with the draft assessment order would vitiate the assessment proceedings in the facts and circumstances of the case. There is no dispute that, but for the notice of demand, referred above, there is no flaw in the procedure followed by the AO for completion of assessment.

4.7  The Ld A.R placed his reliance on various case laws in support of his proposition that the AO has not followed the procedure prescribed in sec. 144C of the Act and hence the assessment order should be declared as illegal and be quashed. We shall examine the case laws relied upon the Ld A.R. The first case law relied upon by the Ld A.R is the decision rendered by Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Control Risks India P Ltd vs. DCIT (W.P.(C) 5722/2017 & C.M.No.23860/2017 dated 27-07-2017). The facts discussed in the above said case is that the assessment was originally completed by making transfer pricing adjustment. When the matter reached ITAT, the Tribunal remitted the matter back to the TPO to consider the additional details filed by the petitioner before the ITAT. Accordingly the TPO passed a fresh order. Thereafter, the assessing officer passed a final assessment order, instead of passing draft assessment order. The Hon’ble High Court held the same as contrary to the procedure prescribed in sec.144C of the Act and accordingly set aside the said assessment order. It can be noticed that the Hon’ble Delhi High Court has rendered its decision on different set of facts and hence the same cannot be taken support of by the assessee.

4.8 The Ld A.R took support of decision rendered by Hon’ble Madras High Court in the case of ACIT vs. Vijay Television (P) Ltd (2018)(95 taxmann.com 101). The facts relating to the above said case are stated in brief. The AO referred the matter relating to international transactions to the TPO. After receipt of TPO order, the AO passed an assessment order on 26.3.2013, wherein he appears to have mentioned the section under which the said order was passed as sec.143(3). The AO also issued Notice of demand and penalty notice. Subsequently, noting the mistake that the correct section has not been mentioned, the AO issued a corrigendum on 15.04.2013 stating therein that the assessment order passed on 26.3.2013 has to be read and treated as a draft assessment order as per section 144C r.w.s. 92CA r.w.s 143(3) of the Act. The contention of the assessee before Hon’ble Madras High Court was that the assessment order passed on 26.3.2013 was final assessment order and it cannot be treated as draft assessment order. It was also contended that the corrigendum dated 15.4.2013 cannot alter the above said position. The Hon’ble Madras High Court held as under:-

“25. While Section 292B of the Act makes it clear that no return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding furnished or made or issued or taken or purported to have been furnished or made or issued or taken in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act shall be invalid or shall be deemed to be invalid merely by reason of any mistake, defect or omission in such return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceedings if such return of income, assessment, notice summons or other proceeding is in substance and effect in conformity with or according to the intent and purpose of this Act, Section 144-C mandates the AO, in the first instance, to forward a draft of the proposed order of assessment to the eligible assessee in relation to any variation in the income or loss returned, which is prejudicial to the interest of such assessee, who on receipt of the said draft order, within the time prescribed, shall either file his acceptance of the variations to the AO or file his objections to the variation with the DRP and the AO. It is further mandated that on the objections being received by the DRP under sub-section (2), the DRP shall issue such directions to the AO for the purpose of enabling him to complete the assessment. While issuing directions, the DRP shall consider the documents as mandated under sub-section (6).

26. From the above, it is clear that a right is vested with the assessee to challenge the draft of the proposed order of assessment, issued by the AO with the DRP and the DRP is supposed to guide the AO in completing the assessment.

27. It is the submission of the assessee that no draft assessment order was issued to the assessee by the AO, but the assessment order issued is a final one, which is evident from the corrigendum itself. Further, it is the submission of the assessee that the corrigendum has been issued beyond the limitation period and that the corrigendum cannot rectify the order dated 26.3.2013.

28. A perusal of the records reveal that the original order has been passed on 26.3.2013 and under Column No.13, the Section under which the assessment was passed has been noted as Section

143 (3). It is not in dispute that assessment passed under Section 143 (3) is a final assessment, after duly hearing the assessee and perusing the records.

29. However, curiously, the error that had crept in by mentioning of the incorrect Section in the proceeding was found out by the Revenue and, therefore, a corrigendum dated 15.4.2013 has been issued in and by which Column No.13 was to read as 144-C rws 92CA (4) rws 143 (3).

30. It is the contention of the learned senior counsel for the respondent/assessee that the issue as to whether the corrigendum issued by the Asst. Comm of Income Tax is really sustainable and whether it would have the effect of curing the deficiencies crept in the order dated 26.3.13 has been extensively dealt with by the learned single Judge and finally after elaborating the reasons it has been held that the corrigendum would not have the effect of curing the original order and the reasons stated are as under :-

Under Section 144 (C) of the Act, the AO is required pass only a draft assessment order. DAO on the basis of the recommendations made by the TPO after giving an opportunity to the assessee to file their objections and only thereafter he could pass a final order. In other words, instead of passing a preliminary order, passing a final order straight away would deprive the assessee to file their objections.

The following circumstances are pointed out to show that the order dated 26.3.13 is a final order and not a pre-assessment order:-

a) The order dated 26.3.13 has raised a demand as well as has imposed penalty; Needless to point out that demand would be made after assessment and not prior to the assessment. When it is clear that taxable amount has been determined it would amount to a final order.

b) Following the order dated 26.3.13 a notice of demand u/s 156 of the Act has been issued pursuant to the order dated 26.3.13.

c) In the corrigendum issued, it is only stated that the order u/s 143 (3) has to be read and treated as DAO in terms of Section 1434(C) r/w Section 92 (CA) (4) r/w Section 143 (3) of the Act.

d) Even though 30 days time was granted to file objections when the assessee approached the DRP, DRP itself declared that it is a final order.(Emphasis supplied)

……..

44. The materials available on record reveal that initially, vide proceedings dated 26.3.13, order of assessment u/s 143 (3) was passed by the Assessing Officer. The last date for the four year block period ended on 31.3.2013. Therefore, the initial order of assessment was passed u/s 143 (3) within the said block period. However, the order passed u/s 143 (3) of the Act is a final assessment order and the Revenue, realising the mistake committed by it, had, thereafter, issued the corrigendum, amending the Section to read as Section 144-C r/w 92 CA r/w 143 (3). Curiously, demand u/s 156 of the Act has been issued and penalty has also been imposed. For all practical purposes, the order of assessment should be deemed to be one under Section  143 (3) of the Act, though the draft assessment order ought to have been passed u/s 144-C. On objections being raised before the DRP, the DRP has also opined that the order passed is a final order and, therefore, it has no jurisdiction to entertain the objections.

45. Further, it is to be pointed out that even though the corrigendum has been issued indicating to read the Section 143(3) as Section 144-C r/w 92 (CA) r/w 143 (3) it does not indicate that the demand and penalty made in the Assessment Order has been withdrawn. Hence, the submission of the Revenue that the Assessment Order passed under section 143(3) read with the corrigendum issued shall be treated as Draft Assessment Order cannot be countenanced. It is not the case of the Revenue that the Assessing Officer has consciously passed the Draft Assessment Order under Section 144-C, however, indicated the Section wrongly.

46. The Revenue, with a view to squirm around from under wrongful act of passing the assessment order, which is prohibited by law and an unlawful one, had issued a corrigendum, amending the Section under which the order has been passed, forgetting that the content of the order that matters and not the mere quoting of the Section alone. In other words, the window dressing which has been attempted by the Revenue would not give life to an order passed without jurisdiction. It is to be pointed out that the order of assessment, once issued under Section 143 (3), becomes final and reopening the same is impermissible. The mistake committed by the Revenue in not following the mandatory requirement of Section 144-C by passing an order under Section 143 (3) cannot be cured by the issuance of a corrigendum. In other words, the proceedings issued in the name of corrigendum trying to correct its mistakes only by introducing a Section without realising the consequences of not following the mandatory requirement u/s 144-C will not do justice to either of the parties.”

The Hon’ble Madras High Court also held that the provisions of sec.292B cannot be taken support of by the Revenue with the following observations:-

“48. Though it is the submission of the Revenue that it is a procedural irregularity, which can be corrected through issuance of a corrigendum and no prejudice would be caused to the assessee, however, it is to be pointed out that the act committed by the Revenue is an incurable illegality, which cannot stand protected by Section 292B of the Act. If the contention of the Revenue is accepted, then it would literally render all the provisions of the Income Tax Act subservient to Section 292B. In effect, any error or omission or mistake committed by the Revenue at any stage of a proceeding cannot be sought to be cured by taking umbrage under Section 292B. Allowing such a contention would be misreading the intention of the Parliament in enacting Section 292B and Section 144-C.”

The facts prevailing in the above said case is totally different from the facts available in the case before us. In the instant case, there is no dispute that the assessing officer has consciously passed the draft assessment order by correctly mentioning that the same is passed u/s 143(3) r.w.s 144C of the Act. The assessee has also understood the same as draft assessment order and accordingly filed its objections before Ld DRP. The Ld DRP has also passed its directions in pursuance of objections filed by the assessee. In our view, the question of applicability of sec.292B of the Act does not require consideration in the instant case. Hence, we are of the view that the decision in the case of Vijay Television P Ltd has been rendered on different set of facts.

4.9 The Ld A.R next placed his reliance on the decision rendered by the co-ordinate bench in the case of M/s Inatech India P Ltd (IT(TP)A No.214/Bang/2018 dated 30-04-2019). In the above said case, the assessing officer, after receipt of order from TPO, passed the assessment order u/s 143(3) r.w.s 92CA of the Act on 24.3.2016. He also issued demand notice and also initiated penalty proceedings u/s 271(1)(c) of the Act. The Tribunal noticed that the assessing officer has also entered the demand raised under the above said order in “Demand and Collection Register” maintained by the department and further the demand was also uploaded on the website of the department. However, the above assessment order was titled as “Draft assessment order”. The assessee filed its reply before the AO against the penalty notice issued u/s 271(1)(c) of the Act and also filed a petition for stay of recovery of tax. Subsequently, the assessee filed an appeal before Ld CIT(A), wherein it contended that the impugned assessment order is invalid as the same has been passed in violation of the procedure set out in section 144C of the Act. Subsequently the AO passed another order of assessment on 24.05.2010, wherein it was stated that since the assessee had not filed its objections before the DRP against the draft assessment order dated 24.03.2016, the final assessment order dated 24.05.2016 has now been passed. Under these set of facts, the co-ordinate bench held that the assessment order dated 24.3.2016 has not been passed in compliance of provisions of sec.144C of the Act and hence the same is to be held as a legal nullity. It can be noticed that the assessee has understood the assessment order dated 24.3.2016 as final assessment order, since the notice of demand and penalty notice were issued along with the assessment order. The AO has also understood it as final assessment order, since the demand has been noted by him in the Demand and Collection Register/website. The AO did not respond to the reply filed by the assessee against the penalty notice and also did not respond to the stay petition filed by the assessee. Hence we are of the view that the decision has been rendered in the above said case by the co-ordinate bench on the basis of facts prevailing therein, which is different from the one prevailing in the instant case.

4.10 The Ld A.R also placed his reliance on the decision rendered by Hon’ble Bombay High Court in the case of PCIT vs. Lionbridge Technologies P Ltd (2018)(100 taxmann.com 413)(Bom). In the above said case, the Tribunal restored the assessment order to the assessing officer on the ground that the Ld Dispute Resolution Panel has not addressed the objections raised by the assessee. Consequent thereto, the AO passed an assessment order on 12.3.2014. Subsequently, the AO issued a corrigendum on 16.4.2014 stating that the above said order should be treated as “draft assessment order” and not final order. The Tribunal noticed that the draft assessment order should have been passed before 31.3.2014 in terms of sec.153A(2A) and hence corrigendum has been issued after the expiry of time limit for passing assessment order. Accordingly it quashed the assessment order. The Hon’ble Bombay High Court did not admit the appeal holding that no substantial question of law arises therein. While holding so, the High Court also observed that “mere consent of parties does not bestow jurisdiction, if the order is beyond jurisdiction”. The Ld A.R drew support from the above said observation and submitted that merely because the assessee has filed objections before Ld DRP, the same will not bestow jurisdiction to the assessee. In this regard, the Ld A.R also placed his reliance on the decision rendered by the Mumbai bench of Tribunal in the case of Jazzy Creations (P) Ltd (2017) (83 taxmann.com 244).

4.11 There should not be any quarrel to the proposition observed by Hon’ble Bombay High Court that “mere consent of parties does not bestow jurisdiction, if the order is beyond jurisdiction”. However, we have observed earlier that the assessing officer, in the instant case, has passed the draft assessment order u/s 143(3) r.w.s. 144C of the Act. The assessee has also, in terms of sec.144C of the Act, filed its objections before the Ld DRP. After the receipt of the directions from Ld. DRP, the assessing officer has passed the final assessment order. Except for attaching a notice of demand along with the draft assessment order, everything has been done in accordance with the law.

4.12 The question that boils down is whether the notice of demand attached with the draft assessment order would make the said draft assessment order as final order and consequently, the whole assessment proceedings is liable to be quashed as illegal. In our view, the answer should be negative. As rightly pointed by Ld D.R, the notice of demand issued along with the draft assessment order is a legal nullity and does not exist in the eyes of law, since no valid demand could be raised under the draft assessment order. In our considered view, a document, which is held to be a legal nullity, cannot vitiate the assessment proceeding and the assessment order. Accordingly, we do not find any merit in the above said legal issue urged by the assessee. Accordingly we reject the above said legal ground of the assessee.

5. The next issue relates to the Transfer Pricing adjustment made in respect of goods sold to Associated Enterprises (AEs). During this year, the assessee reported following international transactions:-

1. Export of Ayurvedic Medicaments and Preparations Rs.84,74,31.755
2. Web designing and Support service Rs. 22,12,029
3. Reimbursement of Expenses Rs. 73,06,306

The TPO has made adjustment in respect of export of ayurvedic medicines and preparations.

5.1 The assessee submitted that it has followed pricing policy of cost plus 15% in respect of exports made to AEs. The assessee has selected Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM) as most appropriate method and OP/OR as Profit Level Indicator. The assessee has compared profit margin earned on exports made to AEs with the profit margin earned by it in respect of Personal care products.

5.2 The TPO, however, held that TNMM is not appropriate method. He took the view that Cost Plus Method is the most appropriate method. The TPO also held that the Gross profit earned by the assessee in Personal care products division (consumer product division) is the profit that should have been added with the Cost of products. Accordingly, the TPO made transfer pricing adjustment of Rs. 97,83,44,697/-. The Ld DRP also confirmed the same.

5.3 The Ld A.R submitted that identical issue has been considered by the co-ordinate benches in AY 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14 in favour of the assessee.

5.4 We have heard Ld D.R and perused the record. We notice that an identical issue has been considered by the Tribunal in AY 2013-14 in ITA No.: IT(TP) A No.1385/Bang/2017 and it was decided as under:-

“20.In the grounds urged by the assessee on this issue, the assessee has raised two preliminary issues, viz., It has questioned the validity of reference made to TPO u/s 92CA and It has also questioned the action of TPO in treating the foreign companies as Associated Enterprises of the assessee. These issues have been urged in ground nos. 7.1 to 7.6. Both the parties agreed that the issue relating to validity of reference made to TPO has been decided against the assessee by the co-ordinate bench in assessee’s own case in IT(TP)A No.807/Bang./2016 dated 04-07-2018 relating to AY 2011-12. The issue relating to AE relationship was declined to be examined by the co-ordinate bench in the above said year and it appears that the assessee has not objected to the same. Following the decision rendered by the co-ordinate bench referred above, we reject these grounds.

21. The ground numbers 7.7 to 8.4 relates to the adoption of “Cost Plus Method” as most appropriate method by the TPO and consequent transfer pricing adjustment made by him, which were confirmed by Ld DRP. Identical issues were considered by the co-ordinate bench in assessee’s own case in IT(TP)A No.807/Bang./2016 dated 04-07-2018 relating to AY 2011-12 reported in (2018)(96 taxmann.com 335). We extract below the relevant discussions made by the co­ordinate bench:-

“8.1 Ground VIII (supra) is raised in respect of the rejection of the assessee’s TP Study/documentation done adopting TNMM as the Most Appropriate Method (MAM) and the TPO’s adoption of CPM as the MAM in place of TNMM. Ground IX (supra) is in respect of the alleged flaws in determination of ALP based on CPM, without admitting CPM as the MAM. In Ground No.X, the assessee is aggrieved with the TPO/DRP action is not allowing adjustments as per Rule 10B(1)(c)(iii) of the IT Rules, 1962 (‘the Rules’), without prejudice to the assessee’s objection on adoption of CPM as MAM. As these grounds (supra) are inter-related and deal with the merits of the case, we deem it appropriate to consider these grounds together.

8.2 Briefly stated, the facts relevant for adjudication of these grounds are as under:-

8.2.1 The assessee firm is engaged in the business of manufacture and sale of (a) herbal pharmaceutical products (ayurvedic medicaments and preparations); (b) consumer/personal care products and (c) animal health care products. The manufactured products are sold in India (domestic sales) and are also exported to AEs/related entities outside India. The exports to related entities are from all these ranges of products, i.e. pharmaceutical products, consumer/personal care products and animal health care products. The assessee also sells these products to unrelated parties in CIS countries. In India, pharmaceutical products are driven by the prescription of Doctors. In CIS countries, Ayurveda is widely recognized and therefore largely the practice is akin to India. However, in the other countries, the international business for these products is largely, driven by marketing and advertisement and not by prescription; as is the case with the personal care range of products in India. The personal care division in the domestic market undertakes full fledged marketing activities; including advertisement, sales promotion, etc. However, in respect of exports to AEs/related parties outside India, the entire marketing activities is done by the AEs as the assessee only manufactures the goods as per requirement of the AEs and dispatches the same to them.

8.2.2 In the year under consideration, the assessee exported products amounting to Rs. 74,26,02,810 to AEs. In its TP Study, the assessee selected TNMM as the MAM for determination of the ALP of the international transactions with its AEs. As per its TP Study, the net margin earned by the assessee in respect of personal care division in the domestic segment at 11.30% was compared to the net margin of 15.80% from exports to its AEs. This was stated to be done as the pharmaceutical range of products are on par with the personal care range of products exported outside India and further the margin of domestic pharma division was not comparable as the parameters of marketing, manufacturing, competition, exposure and acceptance of ayurvedic products by customers, government control, etc are entirely different in India for pharma division.

8.2.3 On the other hand, the personal care division products are sold through distributors and the same is market driven and therefore the ranges of personal care division in India was considered with export to AEs. Since the net margin from exports to AEs was higher than the net margin from domestic sales to unrelated parties, the assessee concluded that its exports to AEs were at arm’s length.

8.2.4 The TPO after examining the assessee’s TP Study issued show cause notice to the assessee proposing to substitute CPM as the MAM in place of TNMM adopted by the assessee. In this regard, the TPO compared the gross margin earned on exports at 23.32% as against gross profit of 50.65% earned by the domestic consumer product division and proposed Transfer Pricing Adjustment. The assessee filed its objections thereto challenging the adoption of CPM as the MAM, inter alia, that the GP ratio differed mainly in respect of the marketing, distribution, selling and other similar expenses incurred by the assessee in the domestic market, whereas no such expenditure was incurred by it in respect of exports to AEs, as such expenses were incurred by the AEs in their respective territories and not by the assessee. It was also submitted that there were inherent difficulties in applying CPM and contended that, without admitting that CPM is the MAM, the TPO ought to reduce the gross profit margin earned in the domestic market on account of various difference between domestic sales such as marketing and selling costs, discounts, administrative costs, etc. whereas export sales to AEs are at a price ex-factory. Therefore, since the gross profits would be different in both these segments, they cannot be compared by applying CPM. It was also contended that since the net margin in both segments are less effected by transactional differences at net profit level, therefore TNMM is the MAM.

8.2.5 The TPO, however, rejected the assessee’s contention and passed order under Section 92CA of the Act wherein he considered CPM as the MAM and considered the Gross Profit margin earned in the consumer product division for bench marking. The TPO also held that the assessee acted as a contract manufacturer in respect of products manufactured and exported to AEs as it did not undertake distribution, advertisement, marketing and selling expenditure and alleged that the goods are sold at a mark up of 15% on cost. The TPO computed the Gross Profit margin on cost of goods sold in the domestic consumer product division at 102.63% and the cost of goods sold to AEs amounting to Rs. 56,94,29,812 was accordingly increased by the above rate to Rs. 115,38,35,749. From this, the exports to AEs amounting to Rs. 74,26,02,810 was reduced and the Transfer Pricing Adjustment in respect of exports to AEs was determined at Rs. 41,12,32,939. The DRP upheld these views/actions of the TPO.

8.3.1 Before us, the learned Authorised Representative of the assessee sought to explain the transactional and functional differences between the domestic sales to unrelated parties and export sales to AEs to justify the GP margin under the segments. The learned Authorised Representative, referring to the TPO’s order under Section 92CA of the Act, argued that the TPO accepted that various expenditure like distribution, marketing, advertisement, selling, administrative costs, etc were incurred in the domestic market segment and that the same was not incurred in connection with exports to AEs. It was submitted that in the domestic market, since the assessee had to incur huge expenditure on distribution, marketing, advertisement, selling, etc. in the domestic market, the selling price and gross profit of products for sale in domestic market was fixed at a high price. On the other hand, as the AEs themselves incur similar expenses in the foreign markets, the selling price of products exported to AEs does not factor in similar expenditure and hence the selling price and gross profit of these products are lower when compared to that of products sold in the domestic market.

8.3.2 The learned Authorised Representative referred to and placed reliance on OECD Guidelines for transfer pricing, illustration given thereunder and various judicial pronouncements in order to explain why TNMM and not CPM be regarded as the MAM. It was submitted that CPM cannot be considered as MAM due to transactional and functional differences between domestic and export sales and that TNMM be taken as the MAM as it was less affected by the transactional and functional differences as comparison is made at the net profit level. The learned Authorised Representative submitted that, without prejudice to the assessee’s above contentions, if CPM is to be considered as the MAM, there being various differences between domestic sales and exports sales, adjustments should be allowed for all these differences. Arguments were also put forth that the assessee was a full fledged manufacturer and not a contract manufacturer as held by the TPO for the purpose of applying CPM.

8.4 Per contra, the learned Departmental Representative for Revenue argued justifying the action of the TPO in adopting CPM as the MAM due to the difference in G P Margin in domestic and export sales. The learned Departmental Representative filed a chart showing the percentage of GP to cost of goods sold, in both consumer products in domestic market and exports to AEs for Assessment Years 2009-10 to 2013-14 and submitted that due to huge difference in G P rate in both the above segments, the Transfer Pricing Adjustment made by the TPO is fully justified. The learned Departmental Representative contended that TNMM cannot be considered as the MAM since distribution, marketing, selling expense are incurred only in the domestic market and not in connection with the products exported to AEs. The learned Departmental Representative relied on various judicial pronouncements to contend that CPM was the MAM to be adopted in the case on hand.

8.5.1 We have heard the rival contentions, perused and carefully considered the material on record; including the judicial pronouncements cited. The first issue for consideration is that of what would be the MAM in the facts and circumstances in the case on hand.

As per Sec. 92C(1) of the Act, the ALP in relation to an international transaction hall be determined by any of the following methods, being the MAM, having regard to the nature of transaction or class of transaction OR class of associated persons OR functions performed by such persons OR such other relevant factors as the Board may prescribe, viz.,

(a) Comparable Uncontrolled Price Method;

(b) Resale Price Method;

(c) Cost Plus Method;

(d) Profit Split Method;

(e) Transactional Net Margin Method;

(f) Such other method as may be prescribed by the Board.

Sub-section 2 of Section 92C of the Act provides that the MAM referred to in sub-section (1) shall be applied, for determination of the ALP, in the manner as may be prescribed.

Rule 10B of the IT Rules, 1962 provides for the determination of ALP under Section 92C of the Act. The TPO in the case on hand has applied CPM as the MAM. Rule 10B(1)(c) deals with the determination of ALP as per CPM and the same is extracted hereunder :—

“(c) cost plus method, by which,—

(i) the direct and indirect costs of production incurred by the enterprise in respect of property transferred or services provided to an associated enterprise, are determined;

(ii) the amount of a normal gross profit mark-up to such costs (computed according to the same accounting norms) arising from the transfer or provision of the same or similar property or services by the enterprise, or by an unrelated enterprise, in a comparable uncontrolled transaction, or a number of such transactions, is determined;

(iii) the normal gross profit mark-up referred to in sub-clause (ii) is adjusted to take into account the functional and other differences, if any, between the international transaction 55b[or the specified domestic transaction] and the comparable uncontrolled transactions, or between the enterprises entering into such transactions, which could materially affect such profit mark-up in the open market;

(iv) the costs referred to in sub-clause (i) are increased by the adjusted profit mark-up arrived at under sub-clause (iii);

(v) the sum so arrived at is taken to be an arm’s length price in relation to the supply of the property or provision of services by the enterprise;”

8.5.2 As per CPM, the direct and indirect costs of production incurred by the enterprise in respect of property transferred to an AE is increased by the ‘adjusted profit mark up’ to determine the ALP. The ‘adjusted profit mark up’ is determined by making adjustments to ‘normal gross profit mark up’ to take into account the functional and other differences, if any, between the international transaction and the comparable uncontrolled transactions OR between the enterprises entering into such transactions, which could materially affect such profit mark up in the open market. The ‘normal gross profit mark up’ means the gross profit mark up on direct and indirect costs of production arising from the transfer of the same OR similar property by the enterprise or by an unrelated enterprise, in a comparable uncontrolled transaction OR a number of such transactions.

8.5.4** In the case on hand, the assessee compared the net profit margin from domestic consumer product division with the net profit margin for exports to AEs. At page 46 of his order, the TPO has held that the exports to AEs is comparable in terms of nature of goods to the domestic consumer product division and therefore this section is considered as comparable to exports to AEs. Thus, there is no dispute on the domestic consumer product division being compared with exports to AEs. The TPO, however, compared the gross margin of domestic consumer product division with the gross margin of exports to the AEs. In doing so, we find the TPO disregarded the mandate of Rule 10B(1)(c) of the Rules which require determination of ‘adjusted profit mark up’ by making adjustments to the ‘normal gross profit mark up’ by taking into account the functional and other differences between the international transactions and the comparable uncontrolled transactions. (** Mistake in numbering)

8.5.5 It is an undisputed fact on record that, in respect of finished goods exported to AEs, the entire marketing, adjustment, distribution and sales activities are performed by the AEs and not by the assessee. The TPO has acknowledged/accepted this fact at various places in his order under Section 92CA of the Act; viz. at the 1st para on page 3 and 6, last para of page 4, 2nd para on page 5, etc. The TPO, however, rejected TNMM as the MAM and adopted CPM for determination of ALP of sale of finished goods to the assessee for the reason that, even though the products sold in the domestic consumer product division are comparable to the products sold to AEs, the functions performed, assets employed and risks undertaken in both the segments are not the same. The selling price and gross profit of products sold in the domestic consumer division is higher than that of the products exported to AEs for the reason that the assessee in the domestic consumer product division undertakes all function and incurs expenditure on distribution, marketing, advertisement, transportation, sales promotion, commission, travel, salary, travelling, administrative costs and also undertakes risks such as market risk, debt risk, etc. Therefore the selling price and gross profit of products sold in the domestic consumer products are fixed at a higher level than in the case of export of finished goods to AEs where the selling price is the ex-factory price; the freight at actual is collected by the assessee and also as all other expenditure mentioned above like distribution, marketing, advertisement, transportation, sales promotion, etc. are entirely incurred by the AEs and not by the assessee. Therefore, since the assessee does not undertake the above functions and risks, the selling price of products sold to Assessing Officer are fixed considering a net margin of 15% on the estimated costs.

8.5.6 In our considered view, the TPO has completely disregarded the above important differences in functions performed, assets employed and risks undertaken by the domestic consumer product division and export to AEs; the pricing policy followed by the assessee due to these differences in both segments. In this view of the matter, we are of the considered opinion that the TPO’s approach, in applying the gross profit margin of the domestic consumer product division to the cost of goods sold in exports to AEs to determine the ALP, is factually erroneous and contrary to the mandate of Rule 10B(1)(c) of the Rules.

8.5.7 As per Rule 10B(2), the comparability of an international transaction with an uncontrolled transaction shall be judged with reference to the following namely :—

“(a) the specific characteristics of the property transferred or services provided in either transaction;

(b) the functions performed, taking into account assets employed or to be employed and the risks assumed, by the respective parties to the transactions;

(c) the contractual terms (whether or not such terms are formal or in writing) of the transactions which lay down explicitly or implicitly how the responsibilities, risks and benefits are to be divided between the respective parties to the transactions;

(d) conditions prevailing in the markets in which the respective parties to the transactions operate, including the geographical location and size of the markets, the laws and Government orders in force, costs of labour and capital in the markets, overall economic development and level of competition and whether the markets are wholesale or retail.”

As per Rule 10B(3), an uncontrolled transaction shall be comparable to an international transaction if :—

“E (3) An uncontrolled transaction shall be comparable to an international transaction if—

(i) none of the differences, if any, between the transactions being compared, or between the enterprises entering into such transactions are likely to materially affect the price or cost charged or paid in, or the profit arising from, such transactions in the open market; or

(ii) reasonably accurate adjustments can be made to eliminate the material effects of such differences.”

The effect of Rule 10B(2) and (3) is to compare an international transaction with an uncontrolled transaction with reference to the parameters as explained at (a) to (d) above and to make reasonably accurate adjustments to eliminate the material effects of differences between the international transactions and uncontrolled transactions.

8.5.8 In the case on hand, as discussed above, the assessee mentions a higher gross margin in the domestic market because it incurs significant administration, selling and distribution expenses, etc. In case of group concerns (AEs) since the administration, selling, distribution and other expenses are incurred by the group concerns themselves, necessitating the levying of higher margins for the group concerns/AEs and consequently, keeping correspondingly lower margin for the assessee. Before the TPO, the assessee put forth the above discussed explanations in respect of functional differences between exports to AEs and the domestic consumer product division (extracted at pages 16 to 21, pages 31 to 33 of TPO’s order). Several other differences like public awareness of ayurvedic products in India and outside India, popularity of Brand ‘Himalaya‘ in India and abroad, support of doctors and Govt. of India and abroad, etc. were explained before the TPO. The assessee also submitted that if CPM is considered as the MAM, then the gross profit margin earned in the domestic market should be reduced on account of the many/various differences like, freight to move goods to the sales depots and subsequently to the stockists, commission to C&F Agents through whom the sales are achieved, filed staff salaries, sales commission to employees, travelling cost to promote and achieve sales all over India, communication charges, brand premium, allowances for negative publicity in the international market, etc.

8.5.9 Rule 10B(1)(c) r.w. Rule 10B(3) provides for making reasonably accurate adjustments to eliminate the material effects of differences between transactions being compared. In the case on hand, from the details on record, the differences between domestic sales and export sales are large in number and some being qualitative, unless reasonably accurate adjustments are made to normal gross profit mark up to eliminate the material effects of the many differences between domestic sales and export sales, the two margins cannot be compared. In our view, to give a mathematical number to all these differences would mean indulging in the exercise within a realm of subjectivity which is to be avoided. We are conscious of the principle that CPM can be applied in the case of a manufacturer selling goods to both AEs and non-AEs. However, in our considered view, in the peculiar factual matrix of the case on hand, as discussed and laid out above, we are of the view that CPM cannot be considered as the MAM. In coming to this view, we are fortified by the decision of the Pune Bench of the ITAT in the case of Drilbits International (P.) Ltd. v. Dy. CIT [2011] 142 TTJ 86, wherein on similar facts and circumstances, it was held that gross profit mark up on domestic sales cannot be compared with gross profit on export sales to AE, reasonably accurate adjustments cannot be made to eliminate the differences between the domestic sale; export sales and consequently CPM cannot be considered as the MAM; and in this regard at para 50 thereof held as under :—

“50. Considering the above submissions, vis-à-vis the method i.e. CPM (cost plus method) adopted by the learned TPO to determine the ALP, which has been relied upon by the learned Departmental Representative, we find that the learned TPO while adopting CPM has failed to appreciate several material aspects of the issue as discussed above. In our view, the learned TPO was not justified in comparing the gross margin in export segment vis-a-vis gross margins in domestic segment. There are various differences in the functions performed and the risk assumed in these two segments and therefore, the same cannot be considered as comparable cases for determining the ALP. There is no marketing risk in the export segment, no risk of bad debts, no product liability risk in export segments whereas the assessee has to bear all these risks in the domestic segment. The contractual statements also defer in the domestic segment vis-a-vis export segments. There are different characteristics and contractual terms in the two segments and further geographical and marked differences are also present. Thus, we are of the view that it is very difficult to make suitable adjustments for these differences, hence the CMA method is not appropriate method for determining the ALP. The learned TPO, in our view, has thus erred in adopting the CPM method as appropriate method.”

8.5.10 Similarly, the ITAT, Pune Bench in the case of Alfa Lavel (I) Ltd. v. Dy. CIT [2014] 46 taxmann.com 394/149 ITD 285 (Pune – Trib.), rejected CPM as the MAM. In its decision in that case, where the assessee was engaged in the business of manufacture and sale of various industrial products such as decanters, separators, etc. to its AE located abroad as well as in the domestic sector, in view of the fact that there were various differences in export segment and domestic segment, such as market fluctuations, geographic differences, volume difference, credit risk, RPT, etc., the Bench held that the TPO was not justified in adopting CPM as the MAM as suitable adjustments are not possible.

8.5.11 The learned Departmental Representative for Revenue placed reliance on the decision of the Delhi Bench of ITAT in the case of Wrigley India (P.) Ltd. v. Addl. CIT [2011] 14 taxmann.com  91/48 SOT 53 (URO) (Delhi) to put forward the proposition that CPM should be considered as the MAM for manufacture and sale of finished goods in the domestic markets and exports to AEs. In fact, in this decision (supra), the Tribunal held that ‘since the marketing and advertisement expenditure has to be also incurred by the AEs to market the product in their respective territories, therefore this aspect for making adjustments as provided in Rule 10B(1)(c)(iii) has to be considered. It is thus seen that the above decision relied on by the learned Departmental Representative also recognizes that adjustments have to be made as per Rule 10B(1)(c)(iii) under CPM also. No doubt, as a proposition, the above principle holds good, however, as we have held that, in the case on hand reasonably accurate adjustments cannot be made to determine the adjusted profit mark up as per Rule 10B(1)(c), CPM cannot be considered as the MAM.

8.5.12 The learned Departmental Representative also placed reliance on the decision in the case of Diamond Dye Chem Ltd. v. Dy. CIT in ITA No.3073/Mum/2006 dt. 14.5.2010, wherein the Tribunal accepted CPM as MAM for the following reasons as held at para 35 thereof, which is extracted hereunder :—

“35. We find the assessee is manufacturing Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs) which are being used in textile and paper industries and which are exported by the assessee to the AEs as well as Non-AEs. Therefore, we do not find any merit in the contention of the assessee that there is product dissimilarity between goods exported to AEs and unrelated parties and, therefore, the Cost Plus Method is not applicable. Further the learned counsel for the assessee also could not satisfactorily explain as to what are the substantial differences in the functional and risk profiles of the activities undertaking by the assessee in respect of the exports made to the AEs and Non-AEs. Therefore, we do not find merit in the submission of the learned counsel for the assessee that in cases where the differences in functional profile are so material that the same cannot be reasonably adjusted while carrying out a gross profit analysis, it may be appropriate to consider a net level analysis using operating margin in view of Rule 10B(1)(c)(iii). Therefore, the submission of the learned counsel for the assessee that if at all an internal comparison has to be carried out in the instant case then it should be carried out at the operating level i.e., using the net/operating margin. Further we find force in the submission of the learned DR that since the cost data for the manufacture of products are available as per cost audit report, the reliability there of is assured and therefore Cost Plus Method is the most appropriate method. In this view of the matter and in view of the detailed discussion by the learned CIT (A), we hold that the Cost Plus Method (CPM) is the most suitable method for the international transactions with AEs in the instant case.”

In this decision (supra), the Tribunal accepted CPM as the MAM considering the fact that the assessee was not able to satisfactorily explain the substantial difference in the FAR analysis in respect to exports to AEs and non-AEs and therefore did not accept that comparison should be made at the operating level using the net operating margin. In the case on hand, however, the assessee has brought on record many functional, quantitative and qualitative differences between the domestic consumer product division and the exports to AEs. As discussed earlier, reasonably accurate adjustments cannot be made in the case on hand to determine the adjusted profit mark up as per Rule 10B(1)(c) and therefore CPM cannot be considered as the MAM. Consequently, the aforesaid decision relied on by the learned Departmental Representative is not applicable to the facts of the case on hand.

8.5.13 The OECD, TP Guidelines, 2010 relied on by the assessee provides that CPM may become less reliable when there are differences between the controlled and uncontrolled transactions and those differences have a material effect on the attribute being used to measure arm’s length conditions. It further states that when there are material differences that affect the gross margins earned in controlled and uncontrolled transactions, adjustments should be made to account for such differences. The extent and reliability of those adjustments will affect the relative reliability of the analysis.

8.5.14 On the other hand, the OECD, TP Guidelines, 2010, provides that TNMM is less affected by the transactional and functional differences as seen form Part III, B.2 at 2.68 thereof :—

“2.68 One strength of the transactional net margin method is that net profit indicators (e.g. return on assets, operating income to sales, and possibly other measures of net profit) are less affected by transactional differences than is the case with price, as used in the CUP method. Net profit indicators also may be more tolerant to some functional differences between the controlled and uncontrolled transactions than gross profit margins. Differences in the functions performed between enterprises are often reflected in variations in operating expenses. Consequently, this may lead to a wide range of gross profit margins but still broadly similar levels of net operating profit indicators. In addition, in some countries the lack of clarity in the public data with respect to the classification of expenses in the gross or operating profits may make it difficult to evaluate the comparability of gross margins, while the use of net profit indicators may avoid the problem.”

8.5.15 Rule 10B(1)(c) deals with the determination of ALP a per TNMM. As per this Rule, the net profit margin from a comparable uncontrolled transaction is adjusted to take into account the differences between the international transactions and comparable uncontrolled transactions, which could materially affect the amount of net profit margin in the open market. This is compared with the net profit margin from the international transactions entered into with an AE. TNMM requires establishing comparability at a broad functional level, requiring comparison between net margins derived from the operation of the uncontrolled transactions and net margin derived in similar international transactions. Thus, TNMM removes the limitations of other methods and since the comparison is made at the net profit level, it is the only method where comparison is possible when there are differences in the transactions and further making reasonable adjustments to the comparable transaction is impossible. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India (P.) Ltd. v. CIT [2015] 55  taxmann.com 240/231 Taxman 113/374 ITR 118 held that the TNMM is a preferred TP Method for determination of ALP of international transactions for its proficiency, convenience and reliability and in TNMM preference should be given to internal or in-house comparables; as held in paras 89 and 90 thereof :—

“89. The TNM Method has seen a transition from a disfavoured comparable method, to possibly the most appropriate Transfer Pricing method due to ease and flexibility of applying the compatibility criteria and enhanced availability of comparables. Net profit record/data is assessable and within reach. It is readily and easily available, entity-wise in the form of audited accounts. The TNM Method is a preferred transfer pricing arm’s length principle for its proficiency, convenience and reliability. Ideally, in TNM Method preference should be given to internal or in-house comparables. In absence of internal comparables, the taxpayer can and would need to rely upon external comparables, i.e. comparable transactions by independent enterprises. For several reasons, database providers, it is apparent, have the requisite information and data of external comparables to enable comparability analysis of the controlled and uncontrolled transactions with necessary adjustment to obtain reliable results under TNM Method. This method also works to the benefit and advantage of the tax authorities in view of convenience and easier availability of data not only from third party providers, but on their own level, i.e. assessment records of other parties.

90. The strength of the TNM Method is that net profit indicators are less affected by transactional differences in comparison with some other methods. This method is more tolerant to functional differences between controlled and uncontrolled transactions in comparison with resort to gross profit margins   “

8.5.16 In the case on hand, the net margin earned by the assessee in respect of personal care division in the domestic segment at 11.30% was compared to the net margin from exports to AEs at 15.80%. Since the net margin from exports to AEs was higher than the net margin from domestic sales to unrelated parties, the assessee concluded that its exports to AEs were at arm’s length. The TPO has taken AE sales comprising of both pharma and personal care products and compared the same with the personal care products of the domestic segment. Since the products compared are different, consequently the gross profits are also different. Further, the number of differences and adjustments to be carried out for comparison purposes as detailed from page 19 of the TPO’s order are large in number and therefore where differences are many, CPM cannot be considered as MAM. Consequently, in our considered view, TNMM is the MAM in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case on hand.”

22. As regards the view of the TPO that the assessee is a contract manufacturer, the co-ordinate bench in the assessee’s own case for assessment year 2011-12 (supra) has held as under:-

“9.1 The TPO held that the assessee acted as a contract manufacturer in respect of products exported to AEs since the products are sold to AEs at cost plus 15% and the assessee does not undertake any other functions. The OECD, TP Guidelines, 2010 explain the meaning of contract manufacturing with an example wherein a 100% subsidiary company assembles products (a) at the expense/risk of the holding company; (b) based on all necessary component, know how provided by the holding company (c) based on guarantee provided by the holding company for purchase of products. The OECD, TP Guidelines further states that in contract manufacturing, the producer may get extensive instructions about what to produce, in what quantity and of what quality and therefore in such circumstances, the producing company bears low risk. The Guidelines also provide that a contract manufacturer under control of principal, manufactures the product on behalf of the principal, using technology that belongs to the principal, where purchase of the products manufactured and remuneration are guaranteed by the principal, irrespective of whether and if so at what price the principle is able to re-sell the product.

9.2 In the case on hand, the products involved are standard goods manufactured by the assessee and selling them in the ordinary course of its business, both in the domestic and overseas markets. The assessee does not depend on the technology of the AEs for manufacture of products; whose specifications whether technical or otherwise are decided by the assessee itself. At para 1.2 on page 3 of his order under Section 92CA of the Act, the TPO has accepted that the assessee has its own range of products and the AEs only choose from the standard products which are manufactured by the assessee for the Indian Market. In our view, the TPO’s understanding of a contract manufacturer will make every manufacturer of goods in India who would not only make domestic sales but also effect sales to an overseas distributor as a contract manufacturer. A co­ordinate bench of this Tribunal in the case of Essilor Mfg. India (P.) Ltd. v. Dy. CIT [2016] 67 taxmann.com 377 held that an assessee carrying out its independent activity of manufacturing cannot be treated as a contract manufacturer. It was held that in such circumstances CPM cannot be applied and TNMM will be the MAM. In view of the overall consideration of the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, as discussed above, we hold that CPM adopted by the TPO is incorrect and contrary to the facts of the instant case and that the assessee is justified in adopting TNMM for determining the ALP in respect of finished goods exported to AEs. In this view of the matter, the Transfer Pricing Adjustment of Rs. 41,12,32,939 made by the TPO by adopting CPM is accordingly deleted. Consequently, ground No. VIII & IX raised by the assessee are allowed.”

23. We notice that the co-ordinate bench has held in AY 2011-12 that the assessee is justified in adopting TNMM as most appropriate method for determining the Arm’s Length Price of the international transactions of export of finished goods to its Associated Enterprises. It has also held that the assessee cannot be considered to be a contract manufacturer. Accordingly, the co-ordinate bench has deleted the Transfer pricing adjustment made on this point in AY 2011-12. The Ld A.R submitted that the decision rendered in AY 2011-12 was also followed in the assessee’s own case in AY 2010-11 in IT(TP)A No.187/Bang/2015 dated 30-04-2019. He invited our attention to the following observations made by the Tribunal in AY 2010-11 with regard to the ALP of exports made to AEs:-

“6.6 For the year under consideration also, the TPO has accepted the fact that in respect of sale of products in India, the assessee has undertaken marketing, selling and administrative functions and the assessee has not performed any such functions in respect of sales to AEs. The number of differences and adjustments to be carried out for comparability purposes as laid out at page 17 of the TPO’s order are many in number and therefore, where differences are many, CPM cannot be considered as the MAM. In this view of the matter and following the decision of the Co-ordinate Bench of this Tribunal in the assessee’s own case for Assessment Year 2011-12 (supra), we hold that TNMM is the MAM. Under the said method, the assessee has earned net margin of 13.39% from exports to its AEs whereas the net loss suffered by the assessee in respect of the personal care division in the domestic segment is (-) 10.16%. As the net margins from the assessee’s exports to its AEs is higher when compared to the result of its margins in respect of transactions in the personal care division in the domestic segment, the price of the sale of finished goods are at arms length. In this factual view of the matter, the TP Adjustment of Rs.38,84,32,314/- made by the TPO by adopting CPM as the MAM is accordingly deleted. Consequently, grounds 5 to 7 are disposed off as above.”

24. In assessment year 2010-11, the co-ordinate bench has also examined the Arms length price of export to AEs under TNM method. It has compared Net margin rate declared by the assessee in respect of “Domestic – Personal Care Division” with the net margin rate declared in Exports to AE. After comparison, the co-ordinate bench has held that the net margin rate from assessee’s exports to AE is higher when compared to the result of its margins in respect of transactions in the personal care division in the domestic segment and accordingly held that the price of sale of finished goods to its AE is at arm’s length. Accordingly, the co-ordinate bench has deleted the T P adjustment made in respect of Exports made to AEs. Before us, the Ld A.R submitted that the Net profit margin declared during the year under consideration was 12.60% in Export to AE and the net profit margin declared in the domestic personal care division was 1.19%. Accordingly, he submitted that the international transaction of Export to AEs is at arms length and hence the impugned T P adjustment should be deleted.

25. We heard the parties on this issue and perused the record. We have noticed that the CPM method adopted by the TPO for bench marking the international transaction of Export to AEs has been rejected by the Co-ordinate bench in AY 2010-11 and 2011-12 in the assessee’s own case. Accordingly, consistent with the view taken by the co­ordinate bench in the assessee’s own case in the above said years and for the detailed reasons discussed in the order of the Tribunal, we also hold that the assessee was justified in adopting TNMM as most appropriate method for determining the Arm’s Length Price of the international transactions of export of finished goods to its Associated Enterprises.

26. While bench marking the international transaction of Export to AEs under Cost Plus method, the TPO has taken “Domestic Personal Care division” as ‘uncontrolled internal comparable’. The reasoning given by TPO is available at pages 14 & 15 of his order. The co-ordinate bench has also taken “Domestic – Personal Care Division” as uncontrolled comparable in AY 2010-11. Accordingly, we are of the view that “Domestic Personal Care division” can be taken as uncontrolled comparable under TNM method in this year also.”

5.5 We notice that the co-ordinate benches are consistently holding that the TNM method is the most appropriate method for determining the ALP of the exports of ayurvedic medicaments and preparations. Consistent with the view so taken, we reject the decision to TPO to adopt Cost Plus Method in this year and hold that the TNM method is the most appropriate method. Both the assessee and the TPO have taken “Domestic Personal care division” as uncontrollable comparable.

5.6 The co-ordinate bench has also rejected the view of the TPO to adopt Gross profit ratio as Profit level Indicator, while rejecting the Cost Plus Method as Most appropriate method. The Tribunal held that the net profit ratio should be adopted as Profit Level Indicator. The observations made by the Tribunal in AY 2013-14 in this regard are extracted below:-

27. We notice that the TPO has adopted “Gross Profit Margin rate” as PLI under Cost Plus Method, while the contention of the assessee is that “net profit margin rate” should be taken as PLI. In this regard, the Ld A.R submitted that the “Net Profit Margin rate” shall be the appropriate PLI in the facts and circumstances of the case. He submitted that the co-ordinate bench has taken the net profit margin rate as PLI under TNM method in AY 2010-11. He further submitted that the TPO himself has accepted that

(a) AEs perform marketing function and the assets required to perform the function of marketing are owned by the AEs.

(b) In AY 2012-13, the TPO has expressed the view that the Corporate expenses should not be debited to “Exports to AE section”.

(c) The TPO has also observed in AY 2012-13 that the administrative and selling expenses are not incurred on export to AEs.

The Ld A.R submitted that the division wise profit and loss account prepared by the assessee for the year under consideration adheres to the view taken by the TPO. He submitted that the TPO has, in principle, has accepted the division wise profit and loss account except with regard to discounts, i.e., The assessee had deducted discounts and discounts for damaged goods from Sales figure, while the TPO has taken it as a Profit and Loss item. He submitted that this adjustment made by TPO will not have any impact when the net profit margin rate is taken as PLI. He submitted that the assessee had to incur Corporate expenses, Administrative expenses and Marketing expenses for “domestic personal care division”, while these expenses are not required to be incurred/allocated for “Exports to AE segment”. The Marketing expenses is, in fact, huge expenditure incurred by the assessee. Since the assessee has to factor in huge marketing expenses and other expenses that are required to be incurred for domestic segment in the selling price, the G.P margin rate is bound to be higher in respect of “Domestic – Personal care division”. Hence comparison of G.P margin rate of both divisions would give distorted picture, as Sales pricing methodology is totally different between both segments. Accordingly, he submitted that the comparison of net profit margin rate is ideal one in the facts and circumstances of the case, as “net margin rate” is more tolerant to some functional differences between the controlled and uncontrolled transactions than gross profit margin rate. We find merit in the said contentions.

28. During the year under consideration, the assessee has declared net profit margin rate @ 1.19% for “Domestic – Personal care division” and @ 12.60% for “Exports to AE division”. Admittedly, the net profit margin rate of “Exports to AEs division” is more than the uncontrolled comparable selected by the assessee/TPO. Hence price charged for export of finished goods to AEs is at arms length. In AY 2010-11 also, the co-ordinate bench has given a finding that the price charged for export of finished goods to AEs is at arms length, since the net profit margin rate was higher in that division vis-à-vis the Domestic – Personal care division. Accordingly, the co-ordinate bench held that the TP adjustment made in this regard is liable to be deleted. The facts available in this year also are identical and accordingly we hold that the T.P adjustment made by the AO in respect of international transaction of Export to AEs is liable to be deleted. Accordingly we direct the AO to delete the same.”

5.7 During the year under consideration, i.e., in AY 2012-13, the assessee has submitted that it has earned net profit margin of 10.70% in “Domestic- Personal care division”, while the margin earned by the assessee in respect of “Export Sales to AEs” was 12.01%. Accordingly, it was submitted that its export made to associated enterprises was at arms length. However, the TPO has re­cast the profit and loss account at pages 12 and 13 of his order. Accordingly, he has worked out the net profit margin @ 19.43% in “Domestic-Personal care division” and at 13.08% in “Exports to AEs” division. Since the TPO proceeded to compare gross profit margin, he did not give any significance to the net profit margin. We have earlier rejected the methodology adopted by the TPO and we have upheld the assessee’s stand on TNMM and Net profit margin.

5.8 The assessee has furnished explanations in this regard. It has submitted that the TPO has omitted to deduct following expenses while working out the net profit for “Domestic – Personal care division”:-

Payments to and Provision for employees Rs.17,63,83,224
Freight and forwarding charges Rs.11,70,49,511

The assessee submitted that the net profit worked out by the assessee in “Domestic-Personal care division” was Rs.28.68 crores. The TPO has worked out the net profit at Rs.58.02 crores. The difference represents the aggregate amount of above said two expenses, i.e., Rs.29.34 crores. The Ld A.R submitted that the TPO has excluded both the above said expenses without assigning any reason. The Ld A.R submitted that the assessee has adopted consistently very same methodology to work out net profit in the past and future years. Accordingly, the Ld A.R submitted that the working made by TPO should be rejected.

5.9 We find merit in the submissions made by Ld A.R. There should not be any dispute that the methodology consistently followed to work out net profit year after year should be followed in this year also. It should not be tinkered with, unless proper reasons are given. The TPO has not given any reason as to why he did not consider above said two expenses while working out net profit margin of “Domestic – Personal care division”. Hence the workings made by TPO is liable to rejected. We have noticed that the net profit margin worked out by the assessee in “Domestic – Personal care division” was 10.70%. The net profit margin worked out for “Exports to AEs” was 12.01%. Hence the net profit margin earned in the exports to AEs division is higher than its comparable “Domestic – Personal care division”. Hence it has to be held that the international transactions of making exports to AEs are at arms length and hence no T.P adjustment is called for. Accordingly, we direct deletion of Transfer pricing adjustment made in respect of Exports to AEs.

6. The next issue relates to the Transfer pricing adjustment made in respect of Advertisement and Marketing expenses. The TPO took the view that the assessee is incurring huge amount towards Selling and Marketing Expenditure. He took the view that these expenses go to increase the brand name owned by the Parent company. Accordingly, the TPO proceeded to find out average selling expenses incurred by comparable companies. He noticed that the average selling and marketing expenses incurred by the comparable companies work out to 15.50%. Accordingly, the TPO took the view that the selling and marketing expenses incurred over and above 15.50% of the sales value is towards increasing brand name held by Parent company. Accordingly, he made transfer pricing adjustment of Rs.65,44,65,790/- in respect of the selling and marketing expenses incurred over and above 15.50% of sale value.

6.1 We heard the parties and perused the record. The AO/TPO has made identical transfer pricing adjustments in AY 2013-14 and 2011-12 also. Accordingly, identical issue was considered by the co­ordinate bench in AY 2013-14 and the same was decided in favour of the assessee by following the decision rendered by the co-ordinate bench in AY 2011-12. The discussions made by the Tribunal in AY 2013-14 are extracted below:-

“33. We notice that an identical issue was examined by the co-ordinate bench in the assessee’s own case in AY 2011-12. The relevant discussions made by the co-ordinate bench in assessment year 2011-12 are extracted below:-

“11. Ground No.XI – Advertisement, Marketing & Sales Promotion (AMP) Expenses – Transfer Pricing Adjustment : Rs. 31,69,02,034.

11.1 In the course of proceedings, the TPO noted that the assessee had incurred huge advertisement and selling expenditure in marketing its products. Taking into account the fact that the brand name and logo ‘Himalaya’ is owned by M/s. Himalaya Global Holding Ltd; Cayman Islands, the TPO held that the legal owner, namely, M/s. Himalaya Global Holding Ltd., Cayman Islands (viz. holding 88% share in the assessee firm) should meet the expenditure on promotion of the brand name OR it should compensate the assessee for performing the function of developing the brand name and logo in India. The TPO was of the view that the AMP expenditure incurred by the assessee is in excess of the gross profit itself, it cannot be said that the entire AMP expenditure is incurred for the purpose of the assessee’s business. In this view of the matter, the TPO applied the ‘Bright Line Test’ to identify the expenditure on AMP which is routine in nature and which an entity working at arm’s length is expected to incur and held the balance expenditure to be non-routine and for the purpose of development of the brand and logo. The TPO worked out the non-routine AMP identifying the percentage of AMP expenditure (i.e. selling and marketing expenditure/sales) incurred by uncontrolled companies and in this context selected five companies as comparables and determined the average percentage of selling and marketing expenditure to sales @ 24.05%. The TPO applied this rate to sales of Rs. 197,25,42,327 and the routine expenses were determined at Rs. 47,43,96,429. Reducing this amount from the actual selling and marketing expenditure of Rs. 77,62,07,890, the non-routine expenditure was computed at Rs. 30,18,11,461 and after adding a mark up of 5% on this, the TPO determined the adjustment at Rs. 31,69,02,034. The DRP upheld and confirmed the above views/contentions of the TPO.

11.2.1 Before us, the learned Authorised Representative for the; assessee placed reliance on the decisions of the co-ordinate bench of this Tribunal in the case of Essilor India (P.) Ltd. v. Dy. CIT [2016] 68 taxmann.com 311 (Bang. – Trib.); Dy. CIT v. Nike India (P.) Ltd. in IT (TP) Appeal No.232/Bang/2014 and other judicial pronouncements to contend that in the absence of any agreement OR arrangement with M/s. Himalaya Global Holdings Ltd., Cayman Islands to incur AMP expenses on its behalf to promote the brand value of the products, the AMP expenses cannot be treated as an international transaction.

11.2.2 Reliance was placed by the learned Authorised Representative on the Affidavit of Sri Meeraj Alim Manal dt.27.8.2012 (pages 452 to 454 of Paper Book 2), the major shareholder of M/s. Himalaya Global Holdings Ltd., Cayman Islands (‘HGH’), to contend that it is the assessee firm which has developed all its assets including the trademarks of the products in India and the assessee is exclusively and beneficially entitled to explore and use the same in India. It was submitted that as per the above Affidavit, the legal ownership of the brand with ‘HGH’ was necessitated by the fact that the assessee, being a firm was not recognized as a legal entity outside India and therefore ‘HGH’, being a partner and a legal entity was recognized as the owner of the brand. It was contended that Sec. 92 of the Act is a machinery provision and not a charging section and therefore notional income cannot be charged to tax. According to the learned Authorised Representative, the advertisements aired OR printed do not carry the name of ‘HGH’ and in this regard, relying on the certificate issued by M/s. Starcom Worldwide (page 471 of Paper Book – 2) submitted that the advertisement expenses are for the Indian Market only as these advertisements are not aired in the international market. The learned Authorised Representative further contended that the ‘Bright Line Test’ adopted by the TPO for making the Transfer Pricing Adjustment has no legal sanctity and hence entire Transfer Pricing Adjustment should be deleted.

11.2.3 Without prejudice, it was contended by the learned Authorised Representative that selling expenses do not form part of AMP and consequently if the correct amount of advertisement expenses is considered, it would be seen that it is well within the routine AMP limit determined by the TPO. In this context, the learned Authorised Representative prayed for the deletion of the Transfer Pricing Adjustment on AMP expenditure.

11.3 Per contra, the learned Departmental Representative placed strong reliance on the order of the TPO. It was contended that as the assessee is not the legal owner of the brand ‘Himalaya’, any AMP expenses incurred by the assessee will directly or indirectly result in promotion of the brand ‘Himalaya’ owned by ‘HGH’ Cayman Islands. It was therefore argued that the TPO rightly made the Transfer Pricing Adjustment on AMP.

11.4.1 We have heard the rival contentions, perused and carefully considered the material on record; including the judicial pronouncements cited. The question of whether incurring AMP expenditure result in an international transaction was considered at length by a co-ordinate bench of this Tribunal in the case of Essilor India (P.) Ltd. (supra) which decision was followed by another co-ordinate bench of this Tribunal in the case of Nike India (P.) Ltd. (supra). In the case of Nike India (P.) Ltd. (supra), after considering various judicial pronouncements on the subject, the co-ordinate bench held that in the absence of any arrangement between the assessee and the foreign AE for incurring AMP expenditure, no Transfer Pricing Adjustment can be made in respect of AMP expenditure. In this regard, we find that at paras 19 to 22 of its order in the case of Essilor India (P.) Ltd. (supra), it was held as under :—

’19. In the present case, the assessee-company imports the lens from its foreign AE and after some processing, sells the products on its own. However, the amount of value addition on account of processing in terms of total revenue is not clear from the material on record. That apart, the assessee-company has been throughout contesting before all the authorities the very existence of international transaction on account of incurring AMP expenditure between assessee-company and its AE and therefore, the contentions that the law laid down by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Sony Ericsson Mobile Communication India (P.) Ltd. (supra) should be applied to the case on hand, is not correct. Therefore, the submission of the learned Departmental Representative that the matter be remanded to the file of TPO for fresh decision in the light of law laid down by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communication India (P.) Ltd. (supra), cannot be acceded to.

20. Subsequent to the decision in the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communication India (P.) Ltd. (supra), the Hon’ble Delhi High Court had rendered five decisions on the same issue. Those decisions are:

(i) Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. v. CIT (282 CTR 1),

(ii) CIT v. Whirlpool of India Ltd. (129 DTR (169),

(iii) Bausch & Lomb Eyecare (India) (P.) Ltd. v. Addl. CIT (129 DTR 201) and

(iv) Yum Restaurants (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. ITO (ITA No.349/2015 dated 13/01/2016) and

(v) Honda Seil Products

In the above-mentioned decisions, the issue of the very existence of international transaction on incurring AMP expenditure and the method of determination of ALP was the subject matter of appeal before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court had categorically held that in the absence of agreement between Indian entity and foreign AE whereby the Indian entity was obliged to incur AMP expenditure of a certain level for foreign entity for the purpose of promoting the brand value of the products of the foreign entity, no international transaction can be presumed. It was further held that the fact that there was an incidental benefit to the foreign AE, it cannot be said that AMP expenditure incurred by an Indian entity was for promoting brand of foreign AE. One more aspect highlighted by the Hon’ble High Court is that in the absence of machinery provisions, bringing an imagined transaction to tax was not possible. While coming to this conclusion, the Hon’ble High Court had placed reliance on the decisions of the Hon’ble Apex Court in the cases of CIT v. B.C. Srinivasa Setty (128 ITR 294) and PNB Finance Ltd. v. CIT (307  ITR 75). The Hon’ble Delhi High Court after referring to its earlier decision in the case of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (supra) and Whirlpool of India (P.) Ltd. (supra) had considered the question of existence of the international transaction and computation of ALP thereon in the case of Bausch & Lomb Eyecare (India) (P.) Ltd. (supra) vide para 51 to 65 as under:

“51. The central issue concerning the existence of an international transaction regarding AMP expenses requires the interpretation of provisions of Chapter X of the Act, and to determine whether the Revenue has been able to show prima facie the existence of international transaction involving AMP between the Assessee and its AE.

52. At the outset, it must be pointed out that these cases were heard together with another batch of cases, two of which have already been decided by this Court. The two decisions are the judgement dated 11th December 2015 in ITA No. 110/2014 (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income Tax) and the judgment dated 22nd December 2015 in ITA No. 610 of 2014 (The Commissioner of Income Tax-LTU v. Whirlpool of India Ltd.) and many of the points urged by the counsel in these appeals have been considered in these two judgments.

53. A reading of the heading of Chapter X [“Computation of income from international transactions having regard to arm’s length price”] and Section 92 (1) which states that any income arising from an international transaction shall be computed having regard to the ALP and Section 92C (1) which sets out the different methods of determining the ALP, makes it clear that the transfer pricing adjustment +is made by substituting the ALP for the price of the transaction. To begin with there has to be an international transaction with a certain disclosed price. The transfer pricing adjustment envisages the substitution of the price of such international transaction with the ALP.

54. 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.

55. Section 92B defines ‘international transaction’ as under:

“Meaning of international transaction. 92B.(1) For the purposes of this section and sections 92, 92C, 92D and 92E, “international transaction” means a transaction between two or more associated enterprises, either or both of whom are non-residents, in the nature of purchase, sale or lease of tangible or intangible property, or provision of services, or lending or borrowing money, or any other transaction having a bearing on the profits, income, losses or assets of such enterprises, and shall include a mutual agreement or arrangement between two or more associated enterprises for the allocation or apportionment of, or any contribution to, any cost or expense incurred or to be incurred in connection with a benefit, service or facility provided or to be provided to any one or more of such enterprises. (2) A transaction entered into by an enterprise with a person other than an associated enterprise shall, for the purposes of sub­section (1), be deemed to be a transaction entered into between two associated enterprises, if there exists a prior agreement in relation to the relevant transaction between such other person and the associated enterprise, or the terms of the relevant transaction are determined in substance between such other person and the associated enterprise.”

56. Thus, under Section 92B(1) an ‘international transaction’ means- (a) a transaction between two or more AEs, either or both of whom are non-resident (b) the transaction is in the nature of purchase, sale or lease of tangible or intangible property or provision of service or lending or borrowing money or any other transaction having a bearing on the profits, incomes or losses of such enterprises, and (c) shall include a mutual agreement or arrangement between two or more AEs for allocation or apportionment or contribution to the any cost or expenses incurred or to be incurred in connection with the benefit, service or facility provided or to be provided to one or more of such enterprises.

57. Clauses (b) and (c) above cannot be read disjunctively. Even if resort is had to the residuary part of clause (b) to contend that the AMP spend of BLI 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 BLI and B&L, USA whereby BLI is obliged to spend excessively on AMP in order to promote the brand of B&L, USA. 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 an ‘international transaction’. This might be only an illustrative list, but significantly it does not list AMP spending as one such transaction.

58. In Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (supra) one of the submissions of the Revenue was: “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.” This was negatived by the Court by pointing out: “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.”

59. In Whirlpool of India Ltd. (supra), the Court interpreted the expression “acted in concert” and in that context referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Daiichi Sankyo Company Ltd. v. Jayaram Chigurupati 2010(6) MANU/SC/0454/2010, which arose in the context of acquisition of shares of Zenotech Laboratory Ltd. by the Ranbaxy Group. The question that was examined was whether at the relevant time the Appellant, i.e., Daiichi Sankyo Company and Ranbaxy were “acting in concert” within the meaning of Regulation 20(4) (b) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 1997. In para 44, it was observed as under:

“The other limb of the concept requires two or more persons joining together with the shared common objective and purpose of substantial acquisition of shares etc. of a certain target company. There can be no “persons acting in concert” unless there is a shared common objective or purpose between two or more persons of substantial acquisition of shares etc. of the target company. For, de hors the element of the shared common objective or purpose the idea of “person acting in concert” is as meaningless as criminal conspiracy without any agreement to commit a criminal offence. The idea of “persons acting in concert” is not about a fortuitous relationship coming into existence by accident or chance. The relationship can come into being only by design, by meeting of minds between two or more persons leading to the shared common objective or purpose of acquisition of substantial acquisition of shares etc. of the target company. It is another matter that the common objective or purpose may be in pursuance of an agreement or an understanding, formal or informal; the acquisition of shares etc. may be direct or indirect or the persons acting in concert may cooperate in actual acquisition of shares etc. or they may agree to cooperate in such acquisition. Nonetheless, the element of the shared common objective or purpose is the sine qua non for the relationship of “persons acting in concert” to come into being.”

60. The transfer pricing 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 proceeding to make the adjustment of the difference in order to determine the value of such AMP expenditure incurred for the AE. In any event, after the decision in Sony Ericsson (supra), the question of applying the BLT to determine the existence of an international transaction involving AMP expenditure does not arise.

61. There is merit in the contention of the Assessee that a distinction is required to be drawn between a ‘function’ and a ‘transaction’ and that every expenditure forming part of the function cannot be construed as a ‘transaction’. Further, the Revenue’s attempt at re-characterising the AMP expenditure incurred as a transaction by itself when it has neither been identified as such by the Assessee or legislatively recognised in the Explanation to Section 92B runs counter to legal position explained in CIT v. EKL Appliances Ltd. (supra) which required a TPO “to examine the ‘international transaction’ as he actually finds the same.”

62. In the present case, the mere fact that B&L, USA through B&L, South Asia, Inc holds 99.9% of the share of the Assessee will not ipso facto lead to the conclusion that the mere increasing of AMP expenditure by the Assessee involves an international transaction in that regard, with B&L, USA. A similar contention by the Revenue, namely, that even if there is no explicit arrangement, the fact that the benefit of such AMP expenses would also enure to the AE is itself sufficient to infer the existence of an international transaction has been negatived by the Court in Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (supra) as under:

“68. The above submissions proceed purely on surmises and conjectures and if accepted as such will lead to sending the tax authorities themselves on a wild-goose chase of what can at best be described as a ‘mirage’. First of all, there has to be a clear statutory mandate for such an exercise. The Court is unable to find one. To the question whether there is any ‘machinery’ provision for determining the existence of an international transaction involving AMP expenses, Mr. Srivastava only referred to Section 92F (ii) which defines ALP to mean a price “which is applied or proposed to be applied in a transaction between persons other than AEs in uncontrolled conditions”. Since the reference is to ‘price’ and to ‘uncontrolled conditions’ it implicitly brings into play the BLT. 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.

**        **        **

70. What is clear is that it is the ‘price’ of an international transaction which is required to be adjusted. The very existence of an international transaction cannot be presumed by assigning some price to it and then deducing that since it is not an ALP, an ‘adjustment’ has to be made. The burden is on the Revenue to first show the existence of an international transaction. Next, to ascertain the disclosed ‘price’ of such transaction and thereafter ask whether it is an ALP. If the answer to that is in the negative the TP adjustment should follow. The objective of Chapter X is to make adjustments to the price of an international transaction which the AEs involved may seek to shift from one jurisdiction to another. An ‘assumed’ price cannot form the reason for making an ALP adjustment.”

71. Since a quantitative adjustment is not permissible for the purposes of a TP adjustment under Chapter X, equally it cannot be permitted in respect of AMP expenses either. As already noticed hereinbefore, what the Revenue has sought to do in the present case is to resort to a quantitative adjustment by first determining whether the AMP spend of the Assessee on application of the BLT, is excessive, thereby evidencing the existence of an international transaction involving the AE. The quantitative determination forms the very basis for the entire TP exercise in the present case.

**        **        **

74. The problem with the Revenue’s approach is that it wants every instance of an AMP spend by an Indian entity which happens to use the brand of a foreign AE to be presumed to involve an international transaction. And this, notwithstanding that this is not one of the deemed international transactions listed under the Explanation to Section 92B of the Act. The problem does not stop here. Even if a transaction involving an AMP spend for a foreign AE is able to be located in some agreement, written (for e.g., the sample agreements produced before the Court by the Revenue) or otherwise, how should a TPO proceed to benchmark the portion of such AMP spend that the Indian entity should be compensated for?

63. Further, in Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (supra) the Court further explained the absence of a ‘machinery provision qua AMP expenses by the following analogy:

“75. As an analogy, and for no other purpose, in the context of a domestic transaction involving two or more related parties, reference may be made to Section 40 A (2) (a) under which certain types of expenditure incurred by way of payment to related parties is not deductible where the AO “is of the opinion that such expenditure is excessive or unreasonable having regard to the fair market value of the goods.” In such event, “so much of the expenditure as is so considered by him to be excessive or unreasonable shall not be allowed as a deduction.” The AO in such an instance deploys the ‘best judgment’ assessment as a device to disallow what he considers to be an excessive expenditure. There is no corresponding ‘machinery’ provision in Chapter X which enables an AO to determine what should be the fair ‘compensation’ an Indian entity would be entitled to if it is found that there is an international transaction in that regard. In practical terms, absent a clear statutory guidance, this may encounter further difficulties. The strength of a brand, which could be product specific, may be impacted by numerous other imponderables not limited to the nature of the industry, the geographical peculiarities, economic trends both international and domestic, the consumption patterns, market behaviour and so on. A simplistic approach using one of the modes similar to the ones contemplated by Section 92C may not only be legally impermissible but will lend itself to arbitrariness. What is then needed is a clear statutory scheme encapsulating the legislative policy and mandate which provides the necessary checks against arbitrariness while at the same time addressing the apprehension of tax avoidance.”

64. In the absence of any machinery provision, bringing an imagined transaction to tax is not possible. The decisions in CIT v. B.C. Srinivasa Setty (1981) 128 ITR 294  (SC) and PNB Finance Ltd. v. CIT (2008) 307 ITR 75  (SC) make this position explicit. Therefore, where the existence of an international transaction involving AMP expense with an ascertainable price is unable to be shown to exist, even if such price is nil, Chapter X provisions cannot be invoked to undertake a TP adjustment exercise.

65. As already mentioned, merely because there is an incidental benefit to the foreign AE, it cannot be said that the AMP expenses incurred by the Indian entity was for promoting the brand of the foreign AE. As mentioned in Sassoon J David (supra) “the fact that somebody other than the Assessee is also benefitted by the expenditure should not come in the way of an expenditure being allowed by way of a deduction under Section 10 (2) (xv) of the Act (Indian Income Tax Act, 1922) if it satisfies otherwise the tests laid down by the law”.

21. Respectfully following the ratio of the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the above cases, we hold that no TP adjustment can be made by deducing from the difference between AMP expenditure incurred by assessee-company and AMP expenditure of comparable entity, if there is no explicit arrangement between the assessee-company and its foreign AE for incurring such expenditure. The fact that the benefit of such AMP expenditure would also enure to its foreign AE is not sufficient to infer existence of international transaction. The onus lies on the revenue to prove the existence of international transaction involving AMP expenditure between the assessee-company and its foreign AE. We also hold that that in the absence of machinery provisions to ascertain the price incurred by the assessee-company to promote the brand values of the products of the foreign entity, no TP adjustment can be made by invoking the provisions of Chapter X of the Act.

22. Applying the above legal position to the facts of the present case, it is not a case of revenue that there existed an arrangement and agreement between the assessee-company and its foreign AE to incur AMP expenditure to promote brand value of its products on behalf of the foreign AE, merely because the assessee-company incurred more expenditure on AMP compared to the expenditure incurred by comparable companies, it cannot be inferred that there existed international transaction between assessee-company and its foreign AE. Therefore, the question of determination of ALP on such transaction does not arise. However, the transaction of expenditure on AMP should be treated as a part of aggregate of bundle of transactions on which TNMM should be applied in order to determine the ALP of its transactions with its AE. In other words, the transaction of expenditure on AMP cannot be treated as a separate transaction. In the present case, we find from the TP study that the operating profit cost to the total operating cost was adopted as Profit Level Indicator which means that the AMP expenditure was not considered as a part of the operating cost. This goes to show that the AMP expenditure was not subsumed in the operating profitability of the assessee-company. Therefore, in order to determine the ALP of international transaction with its AE, it is sine qua non that the AMP expenditure should be considered as a part of the operating cost. Therefore, we restore the issue of determination of ALP, on the above lines, to the file of the AO/TPO. The grounds of appeal raised by the assessee-company on this issue are partly allowed.’

11.4.2 In the case on hand, the TPO has made the Transfer Pricing Adjustment in respect of AMP expenses on the ground that the said expenditure has resulted in promotion of the brand ‘Himalaya’ owned by M/s. Himalaya Global Holdings Ltd., Cayman Islands and has applied the ‘Bright Line Test’ for this purpose. However, neither the TPO nor the Assessing Officer has brought on record any material evidence to substantiate the existence of any agreement or arrangement, either express or implied between the assessee and ‘HGH’, Cayman Islands for promotion of its brand. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in a series of decisions, inter alia, including the case     of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. v. CIT [20151 64 taxmann.com 150/[20161 237 Taxman 256/381 ITR 117  (Delhi) emphasized the importance of Revenue having to first discharge the initial burden upon it with regard to showing the existence of an international transaction between the assessee and the AE. In the case of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (supra), at para 64 it was held as under :—

“64. The transfer pricing 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. And, yet, that is what appears to have been done by the Revenue in the present case. It first arrived at the ‘bright line’ by comparing the AMP expenses incurred by MSIL with the average percentage of the AMP expenses incurred by the comparable entities. Since on applying the BLT, the AMP spend of MSIL was found ‘excessive’ the Revenue deduced the existence of an international transaction. It then added back the excess expenditure as the transfer pricing ‘adjustment’. This runs counter to legal position explained in CIT v. EKL Appliances Ltd. (2012) 345 ITR 241 (Del), which required a TPO “to examine the ‘international transaction’ as he actually finds the same.” In other words the very existence of an international transaction cannot be a matter for inference or surmise.” At para 76 of its order, the Hon’ble High Court has held as under :-

“76. As explained by the Supreme Court in CIT v. B.C. Srinivasa Setty [1981] 128 ITR 294 (SC) and PNB Finance Ltd. v. CIT (2008) 307 ITR 75 (SC) in the absence of any machinery provision, bringing an imagined international transaction to tax is fraught with the danger of invalidation. In the present case, in the absence of there being an international transaction involving AMP spend with an ascertainable price, neither the substantive nor the machinery provision of Chapter X are applicable to the transfer pricing adjustment exercise.”

11.4.3 In our considered view, the requirement of there being an international transaction has not been satisfied in the case on hand. In fact, it is not the case of the TPO that there exists an arrangement between the assessee and ‘HGH’ to promote the brand by incurring AMP expenses. The case of the TPO is that the AMP expenditure incurred by the assessee has resulted in a benefit to the legal owner of the brand and the logo, i.e. M/s. Himalaya Global Holdings, Cayman Islands. The contentions of the TPO that the foreign AE has benefitted on account of the AMP expenditure incurred and therefore the AMP expenditure cannot be said to have been incurred by the assessee for its own business, etc. have been rejected by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court. In the case of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications India (P.) Ltd. (supra), the Hon’ble Delhi High Court at para 121 of its order observed that there is nothing in the Act on Rules to hold that it is obligatory that AMP expenses must be necessarily be subjected to the ‘Bright Line Test’ as this would amount to adding words in the statute and Rules and introducing a new concept which has not been recognized and accepted as per the general principles of international taxation accepted and applied universally. In the case of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (supra), the Hon’ble Delhi High Court at paras 84 to 86 thereof have held as under :—

“84. The Court next deals with the submission of the Revenue that the benefit to SMC as a result of the MSIL selling its products with the co-brand ‘Maruti-Suzuki’ is not merely incidental. The decision in Sony Ericsson acknowledges that an expenditure cannot be disallowed wholly or partly because its incidentally benefits the third party. This was in context on Section 57(1) of the Act. Reference was made to the decision in Sassoon J David & Co (P.) Ltd. v. CIT [1979] 118 ITR 261 (SC). The Supreme Court in the said decision emphasised that the expression ‘wholly and exclusively’ used in Section 10 (2) (xv) of the Act did not mean ‘necessarily’. It said: “The fact that somebody other than the Assessee is also benefitted by the expenditure should not come in the way of an expenditure being allowed by way of a deduction under Section 10 (2) (xv) of the Act if it satisfies otherwise the tests laid down by the law.”

85. The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines, para 7.13 emphasises that there should not be any automatic inference about an AE receiving an entity group service only because it gets an incidental benefit for being part of a larger concern and not to any specific activity performed. Even paras 133 and 134 of the Sony Ericsson judgment makes it clear that AMP adjustment cannot be made in respect of a full-risk manufacturer.

MSIL’s higher operating margins

86. In Sony Ericsson it was held that if an Indian entity has satisfied the TNMM i.e. the operating margins of the Indian enterprise are much higher than the operating margins of the comparable companies, no further separate adjustment for AMP expenditure was warranted. This is also in consonance with Rule 10B which mandates only arriving at the net profit by comparing the profit and loss account of the tested party with the comparable. As far as MSIL is concerned, its operating profit margin is 11.19% which is higher than that of the comparable companies whose profit margin is 4.04%. Therefore, applying the TNMM method it must be stated that there is no question of TP adjustment on account of AMP expenditure.’

11.4.4 In the case on hand, the net margin from exports to AEs at 15.80% is more than the net margin earned by the assessee in respect of personal care product division in the domestic argument at 11.30%. In the factual matrix of the case, as discussed above, the ALP of the assessee’s international transactions with its AEs were at Arm’s Length and therefore no separate adjustment for AMP expenditure is called for. We, consequently hold that the Transfer Pricing Adjustment of Rs. 31,69,02,034 made by the TPO in respect of AMP expenditure is to be deleted. Ground No. XI is accordingly allowed.”

34. We notice that the co-ordinate bench has, following various decisions, held that the revenue has to first show that the AMP expenses would fall under the category of “international transactions”. For that purpose, the revenue has to show that there existed an agreement between the assessee and its AE in the matter of incurring of AMP expenses. Admittedly, it is not shown in the instant case that there existed any agreement relating to incurring of AMP expenses. Thus, we notice that there is no change in facts relating to this issue between the current year and the AY 2010-11/2011-12. It was also held that when TNMM method is applied to benchmark the entire international transactions, then there is no requirement of making separate TP adjustment on account of AMP expenditure. In the earlier paragraphs, we have also held that TNMM as most appropriate method and has also held that the international transaction of Exports to AEs is at arms length. Hence, no separate adjustment is required to be made in respect of AMP expenses on this account also.

35. We notice that, in this case, there is one more reason to state that the T.P adjustment for AMP expenses is not required. We noticed earlier that the “legal owner” of the “brand and logo” is neither the assessee nor the AEs to which the exports were made. The legal ownership rests with M/s Himalaya Global Holding Ltd, which is one of the partners of the assessee firm. While hearing the appeal of the assessee for AY 2011-12 by the co-ordinate bench, the Tribunal took note of an affidavit dated 27.08.2012 filed by Mr. Meeraj Alim Manal with regard to the ownership of the brand name. At the cost of repetition, we extract below the observations made by the co-ordinate bench in AY 2011-12 on the said affidavit:-

“11.2.2 Reliance was placed by the learned Authorised Representative on the Affidavit of Sri Meeraj Alim Manal dt. 27.8.2012 (pages 452 to 454 of Paper Book 2), the major shareholder of M/s. Himalaya Global Holdings Ltd., Cayman Islands (‘HGH’), to contend that it is the assessee firm which has developed all its assets including the trademarks of the products in India and the assessee is exclusively and beneficially entitled to explore and use the same in India. It was submitted that as per the above Affidavit, the legal ownership of the brand with ‘HGH’ was necessitated by the fact that the assessee, being a firm was not recognized as a legal entity outside India and therefore ‘HGH’, being a partner and a legal entity was recognized as the owner of the brand.”

The submissions of the assessee would show that though M/s Himalaya Global Holdings Ltd (HGH) is the legal owner, yet it was admitted that the assessee firm only has developed all its assets including trademarks. Hence the brand name has actually been developed by the assessee. It is also stated that the assessee is exclusively and beneficially entitled to explore and use the same in India. Hence, it is admitted that the legal ownership was transferred to HGH due to business necessity/compulsion.   Hence the transfer of legal ownership is an internal arrangement between related parties, which was made on account of business necessities. However, it is made to clear that the right to exploit the brand name, logo, trademarks etc., continue with the assessee only. Hence, the assessee is also beneficiary of AMP expenses or the promotion of brand. In this view of the matter also, the question of making T.P adjustment in respect of AMP expenses on account of “brand promotion” does not arise. Hence, on this reasoning also, the impugned TP adjustment on AMP expenses is liable to be quashed.

36. Accordingly, following the decision rendered by the co-ordinate bench in the assessee’s own case in AY 2011-12 (referred above) and also for the reasons discussed in the preceding paragraph, we direct the AO to delete the T.P adjustment made in respect of AMP expenditure.”

6.2 The facts and circumstances surrounding this issue is identical in this year also. Accordingly, following the decision rendered by the Tribunal in AY 2013-14 and 2011-12, we direct the AO to delete the transfer pricing adjustment made in respect of Selling and Marketing expenses.

7. The last issue relates to the Transfer pricing adjustment made in respect of royalty. The TPO noticed that the assessee has got “Research and Development” unit. He took the view that the assessee has obtained product registration in foreign countries. Accordingly, the TPO took the view as under:-

“3.5 It needs to be appreciated that the product registration is owned by the tax payer. The underlying intellectual property based on which the registration was granted (clinical trial data, technical specifies etc.) have been generated in R & D unit of the tax payer. It is amply clear that the bundle of tangible and intangible assets in the product registration belong to tax payer exclusively. These registrations are being harnessed by AEs and surprisingly they do not remunerate the taxpayer for it.”

Accordingly, the TPO took the view that the AEs should compensate the assessee by paying royalty. He estimated the royalty @ 2% of the net sales of AEs. Accordingly he made transfer pricing adjustment of Rs.5,77,74,434/- towards royalty.

7.1 The Ld A.R submitted identical adjustment was made by TPO in AY 2013-14 and it was deleted by the Tribunal.

7.2 We heard Ld D.R and perused the record. We notice that an identical issue has been examined by the co-ordinate bench in AY 2013-14 (supra) and it was decided as under:-

“37. The next issue urged by the assessee relates to the Transfer Pricing adjustment relating to “royalty”. The facts relating thereto are discussed in brief. The TPO noticed that the assessee is having a “Research & Development” unit in India and accordingly developing all its products. He also noticed that, if any company wants to market any of its food/medical products in any country, then it has to obtain approval from local authorities of that Country. The drug controller in any Country will need valid test data and clinical reports on the efficacy and genuineness of the drug in order to give approval for marketing the products. The TPO noticed that it is the assessee, which has obtained approval for its products in various Countries. However, it did not directly market any of its products in those Countries directly, i.e., it has exported the products to its AEs located in that Country, which in turn has marketed the products.

38. The TPO called for sample application forms submitted to Drug control authorities of various Countries like Nigeria, Romania, Ghana, Latvia etc. He noticed that the assessee has furnished Clinical study report, technical specifications etc., and applied for registration. He also noticed that one of the conditions put by the concerned authorities is that they can visit to India in order to audit the manufacturing facilities of the assessee in India. The TPO noticed that the assessee possesses 597 products registrations in various Countries. The TPO took the view that the “Product registrations/license” is an intangible asset. The TPO noticed that the assessee did not market its products directly by using the “Product registration/license” obtained from various Countries. However, it has indirectly marketed the products through its AEs and has also allowed its AEs to use the Product registration/license. Accordingly, he took the view that the assessee should have collected royalty from its AEs. Accordingly, he took the view that the AEs have exploited the benefits of the product licences obtained by the assessee without paying royalty or usage charges to the assessee. Following observations made by the TPO are relevant here:-

“3.6 It is also observed that an AE which is resident in UAE is marketing products in African Countries using taxpayer’s product registration. Had tax payer itself marketed the products in Africa, it would have gained the entire profits. The AE based in UAE/Dubai is getting the profits because it performs the critical functions-assets-risks. But the taxpayer is performing the critical function of providing license to AE to trade in the African Country; the taxpayer is owner of the critical tangible and intangible assets underlying the license; and taxpayer is taking all the risk of research and clinical trials. Hence, the taxpayer has a critical FAR role in the business of UAE-based AE in African Countries.”

Since the TPO took the view that the “Product registration/licenses” constitute an intangible asset, he also took the view that the assessee would have charged royalty from third parties for using such intangibles.

39. Accordingly, the TPO issued a show cause notice to the assessee asking it to show as to why ALP of royalty should not be determined on use of intangible assets, referred above. The assessee submitted that the selling price charged to its AEs is inclusive of everything. It was also submitted that nowhere in the world, a manufacturer would sell the goods for a price and also charge separate amount for royalty. The assessee also submitted that the TPO has made TP adjustments in respect of sale of goods to the AEs and hence no further adjustment is required on account of royalty.

40. The TPO, however, took the view that the royalty payable on usage of a license/product registration is an independent transaction, i.e., independent of export. Hence it is a separate intangible and the assessee would have charged royalty from non-related parties. Accordingly the TPO held that the ALP of the royalty should be determined. He noticed that the royalty rates reported by Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) and the Licensing Executive Society (LES) range from 0.1% to 25%. The TPO noticed that the products manufactured by taxpayer are both pharma and beauty care products, whose product registrations vary in complexity. Accordingly, the TPO held that the ALP of royalty may be determined at 2% of the export value of products exported to the AEs of the assessee. Accordingly he proposed T.P adjustment, towards royalty on usage of product registration/ licenses, of Rs.2,52,10,867/-. The Ld DRP also confirmed the same.

41. The Ld A.R submitted that the price charged by the assessee on exports would include all the costs incurred by it for sale of its products in foreign countries. He submitted that the view taken by the TPO is against trade practice, i.e., no manufacturer would charge separate amount as royalty over and above the selling price. He submitted that the product license/registration could be obtained only by the manufacturer of the drugs, since the manufacturer alone would hold the details of clinical trials, technical details of products etc. He submitted that it is primary condition prescribed by any Country to obtain product registration/licences before marketing the drugs/beauty products and the same has to be obtained only by the manufacturer, before marketing the products in a Country. Hence it is only a matter of compliance with concerned Government regulations. He submitted that the decision as to direct marketing of products by itself or marketing the products through distributors appointed, is a commercial decision/business strategy of any business concern. The compliance of Government regulations actually help or enable the assessee to market its products in those Countries and hence the real beneficiary is the assessee only. He submitted that the AEs are marketing the products as mere traders and they are not concerned with the registration formalities. In fact, the dealers should have obtained necessary license to deal with pharma products at their individual level. Accordingly, the Ld A.R submitted that the view taken by the tax authorities in this regard is contrary to trade practice. He submitted that the TPO did not make similar kinds of adjustments in AY 2011-12 or earlier years. Accordingly, he contended that impugned TP adjustment should be deleted.

42. The Ld D.R, however, reiterated the views expressed by TPO. She submitted that the “principle of res-judicata” will not apply to income tax proceedings, as held by the co-ordinate bench in the case of Nike India (P) Ltd vs. DCIT (2013) (34 taxmann.com 282)(Bang.-Trib.). Hence the fact that no TP adjustment was made in AY 2011-12 and earlier years would not debar the AO/TPO to make adjustments in this year. She submitted that the product registration/license is a separate intangible asset, which has been used by the AEs without adequately compensating the assessee. The Ld DR submitted that the AEs could not have conducted the business in their respective countries without these licenses. The Ld DR submitted that, had the assessee has not obtained the product license, the AEs would have obtained it themselves. She submitted that the assessee would have collected royalty from third parties for use of these licenses. The Ld D.R further submitted that there is no requirement of existence of any agreement for payment of royalties for use of intangibles.

43. The Ld D.R placed her reliance on the decision rendered by Delhi bench of Tribunal in the case of Dabur India Ltd vs. ACIT (2017)(83 taxmann.com 305), which has since been affirmed by Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the same case reported in (2018)(89 taxmann.com 78)(Delhi).  She submitted that, in the above cited case, the Tribunal and High Court has upheld the ALP adjustment made in respect of royalty payable by foreign AE of the assessee for using the brand name “Dabur” in its products, even though there was no agreement for charging royalty.

44. The Ld A.R, in the rejoinder, submitted that the selling price charged to the AE subsumes all expenses including the alleged royalty. He submitted that the assessee has also exported to non-AEs and did not charge royalty separately. He further submitted that the AEs did not carry on any manufacturing activity and assessee has not given any license to the AEs. It has simply exported the finished goods for resale only.

45. He submitted that the decision rendered in the case of Dabur India Ltd (supra) is not applicable to the facts of the present case. He submitted that, in the case of Dabur India Ltd, the foreign AE was carrying on manufacturing activity and the assessee therein gave license to the said AE to use its brand name on the products manufactured by the foreign AE. It was also noted that the said products were manufactured earlier by another company (unrelated to the assessee), from whom the assessee had collected royalty for use of its brand name. The said company was acquired by the assessee and hence it became its AE. After becoming AE, it stopped collecting royalty contending that there is no agreement to pay royalty. Under the above set of facts, it was held that the TPO was justified in making T.P adjustment. He submitted that the assessee herein is simply exporting the finished goods to its AEs, which in turn, sell those products as mere traders. The AEs do not carry on any manufacturing activity and there was no necessity to give license to them. The product registration/license is only a basic formality to be complied with in order to market finished products and hence it cannot be said that the same has resulted in any intangible asset.

46. We heard rival contentions on this issue and perused the record. We noticed that the assessee has exported finished goods to its AEs located in various Countries and the AEs have only marketed the goods. Since the finished goods exported by the assessee are drugs and beauty care items, the assessee was required to comply with the requirement of local laws of the concerned Country with regard to marketing of the said products. There should not be any dispute that the technical details; the details of clinical trials etc., are available with the assessee only, since it has actually developed the products. Hence the assessee could submit those details to the concerned Government authorities for getting product registration/license. The TPO has expressed the view that the concerned AEs would have obtained the product registration/license, if the assessee had not obtained the same. However, it is the undisputed fact that, if at all the AEs wanted to obtain product registration/license, they have to get relevant details from the assessee only.

47. The assessee has submitted that such kind of approvals are required to market pharma products in any country. Hence these licenses enable the assessee to market its products. The AEs, in the capacity of distributors, should have also obtained separate license for trading in pharma products. There is also no dispute that the AEs have marketed products as re-sellers only. It is also submitted that it is not the commercial practice to charge any amount as royalty over and above the selling rate. In our view, this submission of the assessee is a reasonable one and also makes sense.

48. We have gone through the decision rendered in the case of Dabur India Ltd. The facts prevailing in the case of M/s Dabur India Ltd are discussed in brief. M/s Dabur India Ltd used to provide its expertise and also permit use of its name “Dabur” to a UAE based entity named M/s Redrock. There was an agreement between both the parties, as per which M/s Redrock has to pay royalty @ 1% to M/s Dabur India Ltd. Subsequently M/s Dabur India Ltd acquired 100% shareholding in M/s Redrock. Consequently M/s Redrock was renamed as M/s Dabur International Ltd. It is pertinent to note that M/s Dabur International Ltd was manufacturing certain items with the support of M/s Dabur India Ltd and it was also manufacturing certain other items without such support. However, it used the brand name of “Dabur” for all its products, i.e, whether the products were produced with or without the support of M/s Dabur India Ltd. However, during the year under consideration, it did not pay the royalty of 1% on the products manufactured without the support of M/s Dabur India Ltd. The TPO determined ALP of royalty @ 1%, as the same rate was paid by erstwhile M/s Redrock. The action of the TPO was upheld by the Tribunal and the Hon’ble Delhi High Court.

49. We notice that the facts prevailing in the case of M/s Dabur India Ltd is totally different from the facts prevailing in the instant case. We have noticed that M/s Dabur International ltd was manufacturing certain goods without the support of M/s Dabur India Ltd, but used the Dabur brand name for those items also. Hence it was a clear case of exploitation of Brand name belonging to M/s Dabur India Ltd. Non-charging of Royalty was sought to be defended by submitting that there was no agreement for collecting royalty. The said contention was rejected by the Tribunal and High Court. On the contrary, in the instant case, the foreign AEs do not manufacture any product, i.e., they only market the finished products exported by the assessee.

50. The product registration/licensing are requirement of statute, without which the said products could not be marketed in those countries. As noticed earlier, such kinds of product registration/license could be obtained by the manufacturer only, in normal circumstances. The traders should have obtained separate license for trading in the drugs/beauty items. Hence, it cannot be said that the traders have exploited the registration/license obtained by the suppliers under the various statutes. Further, the manufacturers and other suppliers of the products sell them at profit and the practice or presumption is that the supplier has determined the selling price by taking into account all relevant costs. The Ld A.R also submitted that the obtaining product registration/license is usually the responsibility of the manufacturer and it is not the trade practice to levy separate charges as royalty over and above the selling price. He also submitted that the assessee has not collected any amount over and above the selling price from export made to non-AEs. We have noticed that the tax authorities have taken the view that the assessee would have collected royalty amount for finished goods exported to unrelated parties. However, the Ld A.R pointed out that the assessee has not collected any amount over and above the selling price either from domestic customers or from non-AEs. Hence, the basic premise of the TPO, which formed the basis for determining ALP of alleged royalty fails here. Accordingly, we are of the view that, in the facts and circumstances of the case, it cannot be taken that the AEs have exploited the product registration/license obtained by the assessee from various Governments. Hence the question of payment of royalty does not arise. Accordingly, we set aside the order passed by AO/TPO on this issue and direct the AO to delete this T.P adjustment.”

7.3 The facts and circumstances, being identical in this year also, we direct the AO to delete the T.P adjustment made by way of royalty.

8. In the result, the appeal filed by the assessee is partly allowed.

Order pronounced in the open court on 2nd Nov, 2020

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