Budget 2021- Payment by employer of employee contribution to a fund on or before due date

Clause (24) of section 2 of the Act provides an inclusive definition of the income. Sub-clause (x) to the said clause provide that income to include any sum received by the assessee from his employees as contribution to any provident fund or superannuation fund or any fund set up under the provisions of ESI Act or any other fund for the welfare of such employees.

Section 36 of the Act pertains to the other deductions. Sub-section (1) of the said section provides for various deductions allowed while computing the income under the head “Profits and gains of business or profession“.

Clause (va) of the said sub-section provides for deduction of any sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which the provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 apply, if such sum is credited by the assessee to the employee’s account in the relevant fund or funds on or before the due date. Explanation to the said clause provides that, for the purposes of this clause, “due date‖ to mean the date by which the assessee is required as an employer to credit an employee’s contribution to the employee’s account in the relevant fund under any Act, rule, order or notification issued there-under or under any standing order, award, contract of service or otherwise.

Section 43B specifies the list of deductions that are admissible under the Act only upon their actual payment. Employer’s contribution is covered in clause (b) of section 43B. According to it, if any sum towards employer’s contribution to any provident fund or superannuation fund or gratuity fund or any other fund for the welfare of the employees is actually paid by the assessee on or before the due date for furnishing the return of the income under sub-section (1) of section 139, assessee would be entitled to deduction under section 43B and such deduction would be admissible for the accounting year. This provision does not cover employee contribution referred to in clause (va) of sub-section (1) of section 36 of the Act.

Though section 43B of the Act covers only employer‘s contribution and does not cover employee contribution, some courts have applied the provision of section 43B on employee contribution as well. There is a distinction between employer contribution and employee‘s contribution towards welfare fund. It may be noted that employee‘s contribution towards welfare funds is a mechanism to ensure the compliance by the employers of the labour welfare laws. Hence, it needs to be stressed that the employer‘s contribution towards welfare funds such as ESI and PF needs to be clearly distinguished from the employee‘s contribution towards welfare funds. Employee‘s contribution is employee own money and the employer deposits this contribution on behalf of the employee in fiduciary capacity. By late deposit of employee contribution, the employers get unjustly enriched by keeping the money belonging to the employees. Clause (va) of sub-section (1) of Section 36 of the Act was inserted to the Act vide Finance Act 1987 as a measures of penalizing employers who mis-utilize employee‘s contributions.

Accordingly, in order to provide certainty, it is proposed to –

(i) amend clause (va) of sub-section (1) of section 36 of the Act by inserting another explanation to the said clause to clarify that the provision of section 43B does not apply and deemed to never have been applied for the purposes of determining the “due date” under this clause; and

(ii) amend section 43B of the Act by inserting Explanation 5 to the said section to clarify that the provisions of the said section do not apply and deemed to never have been applied to a sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 applies.

These amendments will take effect from 1st April, 2021 and will accordingly apply to the assessment year 2021-22 and subsequent assessment years.

[Clauses 8 and 9]

Text of the Relevant Clause of the Finance Bill 2021

Clause 8 of the Bill seeks to amend section 36 of the Income-tax Act, relating to other deductions.

Sub-section (1) of the said section provides for allowing of deductions provided for in the clauses thereof for computing the income referred to in section 28 of the said Act. Clause (va) of the said sub-section provides for allowance of deduction for any sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which the provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 apply, if such sum is credited by the assessee to the employee’s account in the relevant fund or funds on or before the due date. Explanation to the said clause provides that for the purposes of this clause, “due date” means the date by which the assessee is required as an employer to credit an employee’s contribution to the employee’s account in the relevant fund under any Act, rule, order or notification issued thereunder or under any standing order, award, contract of service or otherwise.

It is proposed to insert Explanation 2 to clause (va) of sub-section (1) of the said section so as to clarify that the provisions of section 43B shall not apply and shall be deemed never to have been applied for the purposes of determining the “due date” under the said clause.

This amendment will take effect from 1st April, 2021 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2021-2022 and subsequent assessment years.

Clause 9 of the Bill seeks to amend section 43B of the Income-tax Act relating to certain deductions to be only on actual payments.

Clause (b) of the said section provides that any sum payable by the assessee as an employer by way of contribution to any provident fund or superannuation fund or gratuity fund or any other fund for the welfare of employees shall be allowed (irrespective of the previous year in which the liability to pay such sum was incurred by the assessee according to the method of accounting regularly employed by him) only in computing the income referred to in section 28 of that previous year, in which such sum is actually paid by him. Proviso to the said section provides that nothing contained in this section shall apply in relation to any sum which is actually paid by the assessee on or before the due date applicable in his case for furnishing the return of income under sub-section (1) of section 139 in respect of the previous year in which the liability to pay such sum was incurred as aforesaid and the evidence of such payment is furnished by the assessee along with such return.

It is proposed to insert Explanation 5 to the said section so as to clarify that the provisions of that section shall not apply and shall be deemed never to have been applied to a sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which the provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 applies.

This amendment will take effect from 1st April, 2021 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2021-2022 and subsequent assessment years.

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