M/s. G.V.P.R Eng. Ltd Vs ACIT (Hyderabad ITAT)
The assessee claimed deduction under section 80IA of the Act for these assessment years as the profit and gains is from industrial undertaking engaged in infrastructure development. According to the revenue, the assessee had only taken up the renovation and modernization of the existing net work/infrastructure facilities. It is also observed that as per agreement, the assessee entered for building or constructing the whole or part of the project for which the entire investments were made by the Government and the assessee was paid ‘on running bill to bill’ basis. Hence, there was no stipulation in any of the contracts that the facility built would be transferred or handed over back to the owner/employer. Being so, such contracts are not eligible for deduction under section 80IA of the Act.
On Appeal Assessee submitted that S. 80IA(4)(i) by the Finance Act, 2001 with effect from 1-4-2002 which was amended as follows:-
“(i) developing or (ii) operating and maintaining or (iii) developing, operating and maintaining a new infrastructure substituted (i) developing (maintaining or operating or (iii) developing, maintaining and operating.” and drew our attention to the Circular No.14 of 2001 – Explanatory Notes on provisions relating to Direct Taxes.
Assessee submitted that as per the amendment the enterprises engaged in developing or operating and maintaining or developing, operating and maintaining such infrastructure are entitled to a tax holiday. Earlier there was no word ‘or’ between the word developing, (ii) maintaining and operating or (iii) developing, maintaining and operating, on entering into an agreement with Government would be eligible for deduction under section 801A of the Act.
So it is clear that tax holiday is available not only for the combined activity of ‘development, operation and maintenance’ of the infrastructure development but also for the individual activity of either ‘development’ or ‘operation and maintenance’ of the infrastructure development . Hence, tax holiday is available if any one of the three specified activities is carried out.
Further, also submitted that the irrigation agreements entered with the State Government and not part of the work. The site has been handed over to the assessee for carrying on the work as per the requirements of the Government and also operating system for a certain period mentioned therein and completed the project at the end of the above said period and as such the assessee is a developer and also operating the system for a certain period. Accordingly, entitled for deduction under section 80IA of the Act.
The Ld. DR submitted that the meaning of the word “developer” and the eligibility of the business to claim deduction meant for ‘development of infrastructural facilities’ within the meaning of section 80IA has to be seen in the context of the genesis and legislative history of the section as held by the Supreme Court in the case of CIT vs. N.C. Buddhiraja (204 ITR 412,433) the provision as introduced by the Finance Act, 1991 as amended by Finance Act, 1996, Finance Act, 1999, Finance Act, 2001, up to Finance Act 2007 and Finance Act, 2009 brings out the objectives of the statute and expectations of the law-makers in bringing the enactment. The statutory provisions as would be apparent from the Circulars and Explanatory Notes referred to herein-above seek to incorporate a quid pro quo between introduction of investment and entrepreneurial resources from the private sector and a tax deduction from the government to enable recoupment of expenditure incurred. The BOT/BOOT models seek to augment infrastructural assets in addition to governmental spending and not simply feed on government expenditure. The deduction under section 80IA is, therefore, available to the former, and not to the latter forms of business.
The deduction claimed under section 80IA of the Act as prescribed in sub-section (1) is “in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this section….” in sub section (2), it is stated that the deduction is available for the specified number of years “brining from the year in which the undertaking or the enterprise develops and begins to operate any infrastructure facility or starts providing telecommunication services or…” it is clear therefore that the deduction is inextricably connected to the commencement of operations of the infrastructure facility. It is immediately apparent that the facility has to be conceived of in its totality because part of the infrastructure facility has not existence independent of the whole. A certain number of kilometers of a highway or irrigation canal has no existence by itself, and is incapable of becoming operational without reference to the rest of the project, of which it is only a part.
The only lawful entitlement of the assessee was to be paid for the measurement of work completed at rates agreed upon. The partial and sectional nature of the proposed work is immediately clear from this notice and it is also apparent from this that the section of the road proposed for improvement has no independent existence capable of satisfying the requirement of section 80 IA (2). Therefore, this project is incapable of commencement of operations by itself, or to qualify the larger infrastructure facility of which it is a part.
The DR submitted that the contractor was granted mobilization advance as well as interest-free advance for machinery purchase, should be required them and it would be readily apparent from the agreement that there is no element of entrepreneurial initiative or financial participation of the contractor in this kind of a project. The successful bidder merely executes a Government contract and gets paid for it at mutually agreed rates and the nature of responsibilities assumed under the other contracts as per agreements included in the paper book are similar.
On these facts, having regard to the responsibilities assumed under the agreement, the assessee cannot be seen as a developer, instead he plays the role of an executor/contractor .
The provisions of Section 80IA (4) of the Act when introduced afresh by the Finance Act, 1999, the provisions under section 80IA (4A) of the Act were deleted from the Act. The deduction available for any enterprise earlier under section 80IA (4A) are also made available under Section 80IA (4) itself. Further, the very fact that the legislature mentioned the words (i) “developing” or (ii) “operating and maintaining” or (iii) “developing, operating and maintaining” clearly indicates that any enterprise which carried on any of these three activities would become eligible for deduction.
Where an assessee incurred expenditure for purchase of materials himself and executes the development work i.e., carries out the civil construction work, he will be eligible for tax benefit under section 80 IA of the Act. In contrast to this, a assessee, who enters into a contract with another person including Government or an undertaking or enterprise referred to in Section 80 IA of the Act, for executing works contract, will not be eligible for the tax benefit under section 80 IA of the Act. We find that the word “owned” in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of sub section (4) of Section 80IA of the Act refer to the enterprise. By reading of the section, it is clears that the enterprises carrying on development of infrastructure development should be owned by the company and not that the infrastructure facility should be owned by a company. The provisions are made applicable to the person to whom such enterprise belongs to is explained in sub-clause (a). Therefore, the word “ownership” is attributable only to the enterprise carrying on the business which would mean that only companies are eligible for deduction under section 80IA (4) and not any other person like individual, HUF, Firm etc.
Whether the assessee is a developer or mere works contractor is purely depends on the nature of the work undertaken by the assessee. Each of the work undertaken has to be analyzed and a conclusion has to be drawn about the nature of the work undertaken by the assessee. The agreement entered into with the Government or the Government body may be a mere works contract or for development of infrastructure. It is to be seen from the agreements entered into by the assessee with the Government. We find that the Government handed over the possession of the premises of projects to the assessee for the development of infrastructure facility. It is the assessee’s responsibility to do all acts till the possession of property is handed over to the Government. The first phase is to take over the existing premises of the projects and thereafter developing the same into infrastructure facility. Secondly, the assessee shall facilitate the people to use the available existing facility even while the process of development is in progress. Any loss to the public caused in the process would be the responsibility of the assessee. The assessee has to develop the infrastructure facility. In the process, all the works are to be executed by the assessee. It may be laying of a drainage system; may be construction of a project; provision of way for the cattle and bullock carts in the village; provision for traffic without any hindrance, the assessee’s duty is to develop infrastructure whether it involves construction of a particular item as agreed to in the agreement or not. The agreement is not for a specific work, it is for development of facility as a whole. The assessee is not entrusted with any specific work to be done by the assessee. The material required is to be brought in by the assessee by sticking to the quality and quantity irrespective of the cost of such material. The Government does not provide any material to the assessee. It provides the works in packages and not as a works contract. The assessee utilizes its funds, its expertise, its employees and takes the responsibility of developing the infrastructure facility. The losses suffered either by the Govt. or the people in the process of such development would be that of the assessee. The assessee hands over the developed infrastructure facility to the Government on completion of the development. the entire infrastructure shall have to be maintained by the assessee alone without hindrance to the regular traffic. Therefore, it is clear that from an un-developed area, infrastructure is developed and handed over to the Government and as explained by the CBDT vide its Circular dated 18-05-2010, such activity is eligible for deduction under section 80IA (4) of the Act. This cannot be considered as a mere works contract but has to be considered as a development of infrastructure facility. Therefore, the assessee is a developer and not a works contractor as presumed by the Revenue. The circular issued by the Board, relied on by learned counsel for the assessee, clearly indicate that the assessee is eligible for deduction under section 80IA (4) of the Act. The department is not correct in holding that the assessee is a mere contractor of the work and not a developer.
Every agreement entered into is a contract. The word “contractor” is used to denote the person who enters into such contract. Even a person who enters into a contract for development of infrastructure facility is a contractor. Therefore, the contractor and the developer cannot be viewed differently. Every contractor may not be a developer but every developer developing infrastructure facility on behalf of the Government is a contractor.
“the persons who merely execute the civil construction work or any other work contract has been encouraged by giving tax benefits. Thus the provisions of section 80IA shall not apply to a person who executes a works contract entered into with the undertaking or enterprise referred to in the section but where a person makes the investment and himself executes the development work, he carries out the civil construction work, he will be eligible for the tax benefit under section 80IA.”