pri Whether Sachin Tendulkar is an Actor or a Cricketer? The Mind Boggling Tax Dispute: Whether Sachin Tendulkar is an Actor or a Cricketer?

Abhinav Aggarwal

Introduction

The year 2011 was quite special for the little master, as India lifted the World Cup and remarkably filled the only void in the legend’s illustrious career. In a career spanning more than 20 years with literally every record to his credit, there is no iota of doubt that Sachin was indeed the God of cricket. But an another interesting event transpired in 2011, where Sachin himself interestingly pleaded that he was an actor and not a professional cricketer in the case of Sachin R. Tendulkar v. Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax adjudged by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT).

The Dispute

The dispute was largely concentrated on the tax deductions an assessee can avail under Section 80RR of the Income Tax Act, 1995. Sachin Tendulkar had received an amount of Rs. 5,92,31,211 from various advertisements and sponsorships done for ESPN Star Sports, Pepsico and VISA. Subsequently, he claimed deduction amounting to Rs. 1,77,69,363 as these incomes were receipts received in foreign exchange. However, the whole issue to avail this benefit was divided in 2 parts:

i) Whether the assessee was an author, playwright, artist, musician, actor or sportsman?

ii) Whether the income for which tax deduction is claimed is derived by him in the exercise of his profession?

Arguments on Behalf of Sachin Tendulkar

 This may sound puzzling to cricket fans around the world, but Sachin claimed that he was an ‘actor’ and a ‘model’ and this was his business and profession. According to him, he was only a “non professional cricketer” and income received from playing cricket and logo money received from BCCI is an “Income from Other Sources” due to acting being his profession. Furthermore, Sachin clarified that he has been getting tax deduction benefits on acting as long as from year 1997 and thus it should not be stopped even now. Alternatively, Sachin argued that if not an actor, he should be assessed as an “artist” for the simple reason being that he was a “public performer” and wide interpretation should be given to the same.

Observations by the Assessing Officer and CIT

Naturally, both the AO and CIT was unable to accept this argument. The AO with the help of Oxford Dictionary went on to define who a professional cricketer is:

i) He relates and belongs to the cricketing profession;

ii) He is engaged in the activity of playing cricket as a paid job rather than as an amateur. He does not lay cricket only as a hobby. It would be correct to say that playing cricket is the source of his livelihood and is therefore, his profession.

 Thus, Sachin obviously fitted this criterion and the AO went further ahead to remark that “if Sachin is not a cricketer then who is a cricketer?” 

As per the second issue, the AO remarked that sponsorship deals with the companies did not only involved acting but also other activities such as usage of Sachin’s name, public appearances etc. Furthermore, it was remarked that Sachin used to act in these advertisements not because of his acting skills but because of his success and personality as a cricketer which made the public trust the brand. Thus, to avail tax deduction only on the basis of acting was not accepted as it was not his primary or an independent profession and such income was attributable to cricket.

The CIT also upheld the decision given by the AO by observing that whenever he would undertake other activities like T V. commercials and shows for sponsoring products of various companies for which he is paid, it would only amount to subsidiary activities which are not directly relatable to his activity of playing cricket.  By “appearing” in such commercials or events, no element or expertise relating to his profession is being used since the profession of the appellant is only one, i.e. playing cricket and the income derived from other subsidiary activities cannot be considered to be “income derived by him in the exercise of his profession”.

The CIT interestingly also rejected the alternative arguments of Sachin to classify him as an artist by remarking on his acting skills. The CIT observed that “The very fact that the appellant in the advertisement or the commercials attracts the attention of the viewers and even if his performance is most average, the payment is made only on account of is “appearing” and not by virtue of him being an “Actor” or “Artist”. Therefore, it finally adjudged that any subsidiary activities which are not directly related to the specific profession cannot be allowed u/s 80RR of the IT Act.

Decision of ITAT- Sachin is an actor too!

The counsel on behalf of Sachin vehemently argued that even if Sachin is getting advertisements because of his cricketing skills, then also he should be classified as an artist as Section 80RR nowhere envisages the capacity in which an artist performs. Also, it was further argued that a person can indeed have two professions at once i.e. a cricketer and an actor/artist too.

The opposing counsel on the other hand argued that Section 80RR specifically mentions that the phrase “exercise of his profession” and “such income” means that there should be a direct nexus between the two and also the activity carried out exercise of profession should not be a mere single/incidental act but should be the main profession i.e. cricket itself. The counsel further placed reliance on the case of Harsha Bhogle v. Assessing Officer wherein it was held that a presenter or a commentator cannot avail the benefit under Section 80RR as he is not an artist.

It will also be pertinent to mention that the opposing counsel went a bit over line by stating that the assessee (Sachin Tendulkar) suffers from an identity crisis by not being sure that whether he is a cricketer/artist/actor and thus should not be given any tax benefit at all.

Finally, ITAT overturned the decisions of both the AO and CIT and held that Sachin is indeed an artist. The ITAT ruled that there is no doubt that Sachin is a cricketer but when he faces the lights and camera, he has to use his own creativity, imagination and skills similar to an artist. He has his own set of skills and talent while acting in an advertisement. Thus, he was classified as an artist by the ITAT and subsequently given tax deduction benefits by ruling that there is no bar in having more than one profession.

Therefore, someone rightly said, there is nothing impossible for Sachin Tendulkar to do, albeit, both on and off the field!

More Under Income Tax

73 Comments

  1. Jk joshi says:

    Sachin was a cricketer until he retired. So he should be treated as a professional till that time and after that his profession changed to actor or commentator or some other profession. So, he can claim tax concession, if any, on that. During his cricketing life however, he has to pay as a sportsman and as income from other sources for his extra income. I think even Sachin Tendulkar will agree to pay income tax on this basis.

  2. S. M. Sheth says:

    It’s highly unfortunate to know about this. A very logical argument, apart the known fact that Sachin IS A CRICKETER, there remains a very simple question to be asked him.

    Was he getting advertisement money before he started playing cricket OR he started getting advertising etc after he persormed well in cricket??

    The obvious answer would be the second one!

    His argument would be correct if he received any such income after he left the cricket world gir GOOD, completely for ever..
    .

  3. Thinker says:

    Isn’t there a fundamental question here that actors don’t pay taxes no matter what their income. Maybe it is not about Sachin but more around the flaw in tax laws.

  4. LT COL P I Ravindranath says:

    Shakespeare had said in poem All World Is A Stage and We humans are only Actors.In that case we are all actors should not pay taxes ITAT please revisit your decision as any body and everybody will knock the doors of Supreme Court.

  5. Mukesh says:

    This was in 2011 and how he pays taxes is his privilege and between him and ITO. I would do it too if I was on billboards and TV commercials and my promotional income was higher than my match fees. No controversy for me.

  6. Sujata Kapadia says:

    Was he awarded tha highest civilian honour of being bestowed with ‘Bharat Ratna’ for his acting prowess? If not then he should gracefully return the honour

  7. Vinish Garg says:

    So, an actor scored 15000 runs in test cricket? I remember an advertisement that I saw in 1990s where Shah Rukh Khan was playing a cricket shot, and so SRK is a cricketer?

  8. Sridhar says:

    Very controversial and debatable ruling of ITAT . It would have been apt to assess if such income from product endorsements were similarly claimed deduction u/s 80RR in his capacity as Artist when Sachin was still playing cricket and deriving income as a cricketer .

  9. S Mukherjee says:

    IT returns must be submitted irrespective of stature by all citizens those who fall under the bracket . We must respect and abide by the ITR rules

  10. Sanajubaba says:

    Taxation should be equal for everyone whether he is salaried or any kind of person working as an actor or player or industrialist or businessman. You have to pay tax no other thought.

  11. V Sudarshan says:

    Shakespeare said that life is a stage and we all are actors playing our part.

    Cricketer Tendulkar must have been advised by his tax consultants or, maybe he was always the best actor around. But who said that a cricketer shouldn’t be an actor?

    In this case, what matters is if he qualifies within the limited definition under the Income Tax Act to be eligible for the tax deduction. Law doesn’t follow public sentiments or emotions, it has its nuances.

  12. V Sudarshan says:

    Shakespeare said that life is a stage and we all are actors playing our part.

    Cricketer Tendulkar must have been advised by his tax consultants or. maybe he was always the best actor around. But who said that a cricketer shouldn’t be an actor?

    In this case, what matters is if he qualifies within the limited definition under the Income Tax Act to be eligible for the tax deduction. Law doesn’t follow public sentiments or emotions, it has its nuances.

  13. Anil says:

    Looks like that CIT has ‘acted’ as a cricket (Sachin) fan in the case. Even he should get the tag of an artist . I am sure this has helped many cricketers to be artists . Law is indeed blind.

  14. Shri says:

    Knowlege of tax is important and maybe got paid more than what he got in cricket for the ads , we know sports is not that paying not as much as media
    He has not shun his identity he has given true Income😊
    How people react is amazing and sad

  15. Galande says:

    There should be some limit upto which the actor can claim tax free income and beyond that limit he should be taxed as a professional as the acting is his / her profession. It is ridiculous to allow actors to allow crores of rupees income when salaried persons are taxed beyond salaried income mere 2.5 lakhs.

  16. Dharmendra Gupta says:

    Cricket is also an art, we felt miserable when Tendulkar failed and were happy when we drove the ball to boundaries. We were all entertained by him when he was on the field for over two decades. The oppossion ITO should ask himself this question first !

  17. Atul says:

    Why cant we have flat Tax Structure instead of these provisions which are always bound to be misused.
    Money matters just for everyone else as is for Sir SRT.

  18. Subrata says:

    As a salaried individual who suffers TDS on Salary Income at a flat rate of 30%, I am pained to see the antics of the counsels to prove that Day is indeed Night.

    SRT is no stranger to income tax controversies. Remember the Ferrari gifted to him by Schumacher and his immediate application for exemption.

  19. Dr mahantappa hulageri says:

    CA/auditors give ideas of saving tax to everyone.Just because SRT is a famous personality, people debate on him. Problem is in the rules of IT.But at the end nobody wants to give tax when there’s chance of saving.

  20. Shreesh Kashyap says:

    Reading this my regard and admiration for Sachin has certainly come down. For the god gilded talent he had, he of course became the greatest cricketer, but his earnings were in tens of crores if not hundreds as in current times. If he would more taxes to the govt it would helped in nation building and he would not have become any poorer. He would had a little money him but would not have dented his lifestyle or his status.

  21. Mukta Sharma says:

    Not a cricket fan myself nor anything against the person in question but the bottom line is that one with resources and wherewithal manages to get away with anything in India.

  22. P Kurian Chandy says:

    I see nothing wrong. Sachin is an artist. If a grey area in tax laws allow him to pay less tax why not.
    I don’t think either sachin or the AO or CIT was wrong. And i think only the jealous should judge.
    ITAT interpreted it. Now matter rests

  23. Krishnamohan says:

    Income tax purview is to consider sources of income and apply relevant sections. If he earns by playing cricket or acting in commercial, accordingly benefits of tax exemption or reliefs should be allowed. Both Sachin and his tax planners are absolutely perfect in their interpretation. Kudos.

  24. SHIRISH PHADKAR says:

    Those commenting negativity on Sachin getting so much money are ignorent about the many charities he is doing without bragging about it. Am Sure he will make good use of this saved amount. Govt getting this money could be used by politicians to dole it out liberally as if it’s coming from their own pockets

  25. Vijai Sastry says:

    Too broad a spctrum to offer tax concession is unfair. The claim should be based on what benefit the society at large derived from the claim. Surely, games, acting and advertising are no entertainment. Poor feeding, educating those not related or BPL or paying hospital bills could be considered for tax exception. Otherwise, there must be a uniform tarrif. Charity is an ego trip to both authorities and the rich! If not why this tassel?

  26. Sanjeev says:

    Missing Actor!!
    2014 Bharat Ratna (contributions in the field of Sports/Cricket)
    2008 Padma Vibhushan (field Sports)
    1999 Padma Shree (field Sports)

  27. Manoj Jain says:

    Incredible India !!!
    Anything is possible in India
    At times he self declared out, inspite not declared by Empire, that was his spirit, I am confident still he will pay tax and come out SELF clean inspite of Order in his Favour from ITAT.
    He is God of Cricket and will remain so in the eyes of 130 crores Indians also.

  28. Saurabh says:

    Income from Advertisement and promotion of products are from acting. What’s wrong with that. What he earns from cricket for matches is as a cricketer. But outside the field of cricket he is an actor . Nothing wrong with that.

  29. Sarosh Shroff says:

    If this is true, then it can be classified as a form of sickness. A mere human, elevated to the stature of God is not expected to stoop so low.

  30. Jigar Soni says:

    Big Fan of Sachin, but it’s unfortunate that role models like him with ample wealth have problem paying taxes for the the very county which gave you so much!

  31. Prasad Krishnan says:

    The income tax act should consider this just argument and allow the 80RR deduction for commentators and shorts persons. Nothing wrong in seeking rebate. All those who complain first will have to check their backyard and see if they do not claim any deduction and since they are earning they should not seek any deduction. If they do then they can point a finger at others.. SRT and Harsha are right. The tribunal is right in giving the benefit.

  32. RAVI SWAMINATHAN says:

    Sachin was awarded Bharat Ratna for his acting skills I believe!!!Money matters a lot to everyone.
    That’s why I always say not to go overboard and kerp these guys in the altar.Let these guys be paid only if they perform and fees to be proportionate to their field performance.

  33. Kishore says:

    Loop holes can be taken anyway….govt righteously deduct tax at source from salaried employees but when it comes to big people …. what not… al loop holes are applicable to them

  34. Viplav Deshpande says:

    Its amazing how this article slanders Sachin left right & centre.

    He is a 12th fail guy who stopped studying 33 years ago. He has only played, focused on and understood cricket since then. Nothing else whatsoever. His on field behaviour at the mostbrying times proves how dignified & morally upright the man is.

    These questions should be asked of his CA & Fin Planners.

  35. Ganesh says:

    It is his auditor or CA who have pushed him to shame. Also our tax structure! These tax consultants advise us to cheat the govt. It was not necessary in this case as Sachin is innocent in taxation law. But he shud have realised his stature and made clear. Because of advisers celebrities get doomed. Hope post such things about politicians also! Truth shud prevail but no guts when politicos and high bureaucrats are involved. Headline shud have been written as misguided Sachin.!

  36. Venkatesh says:

    Amazing I too love seeing SRT as cricketer only not a Actor asking for rebate in tax deduction which in turn helps for good usage by Govt yo help those in need !!!

  37. Anil says:

    Everyone likes SRT, and believe he is the God of cricket. And now everyone believes that you can evade taxes, by any means – even by relegating your main profession, the one that brought you all the fame and money, to a second level. Remember the customs duty case on the imported car

  38. Jatin Kothari says:

    I was, am and will be a huge fan of SRT . I am keen to know the truth on this matter and hope someone clarifies it for the millions around the world who have watched SRT over the last 3 decades

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