In the case of UOI Vs. Tata Chemicals Ltd Hon’ble SC held that resident/deductor is entitled not only the refund of tax deposited under Section 195(2) of the Act, but tax has to be refunded with interest from the date of payment of such tax.
Some of the Important Paras of the Hon;ble SC Order are as follows –
The question before SC was, whether the resident/deductor is also entitled to interest on refund of excess deduction or erroneous deduction of tax at source under Section 195 of the Act.
We would begin our discussion by referring to circular No. 790, dated 20.04.2000, issued by the Board. Omitting what is not necessary, the material portion of the circular is extracted:
“6. Refund to the person making payment under Section 195 is being allowed as income does not accrue to the non-resident. The amount paid into the Government account in such cases, is no longer ‘tax’. In view of this, no interest under section 244A is admissible on refunds to be granted in accordance with this Circular or on the refunds already granted in accordance with Circular No. 769.”
What the deductor/ resident primarily contend is that, what has been deposited by him is a tax, may be for and on behalf of non-resident/ foreign company and when the beneficial circular provides for refund of tax to the deductor under certain circumstances, the refund of tax should carry interest.
The circular issued by Central Board of Direct Taxes (“the Board” for short) is binding on the department. Binding nature of the circular is explained by this Court in the case of UCO Bank v. CIT 237 ITR 889, wherein this Court has observed that the circulars issued by the Board in exercise of its powers under Section 119 of the Act would be binding on the income tax authorities even if they deviate from the provisions of the Act, so long as they seek to mitigate the rigour of a particular Section for the benefit of the assessee. Therefore, we cannot be taking exception to the reasoning and conclusion reached by the authorities under the Act. However, the Tribunal and the High Court, have granted interest on the amount of tax deposited by the resident/ deductor from the date of payment on the ground, firstly, the refund of tax is directed by the first appellate authority in the appeal filed by the deductor/ resident under Section 240 of the Act and secondly, the Revenue for having retained the sum by way of tax has to compensate the person who had deposited the tax.
Section 240 of the Act provides for refund of any amount that becomes due to an assessee as a result of an order in appeal or any other proceedings under the Act. The phrase “other proceedings under the Act” is of wide amplitude. This Court has observed, that, the other proceedings under the Act would include orders passed under Section 154 (rectification proceedings), orders passed by the High Court or Supreme Court under Section 260 (in reference), or order passed by the Commissioner in revision applications under Section 263 or in an application under Section 273A.
A “tax refund” is a refund of taxes when the tax liability is less than the tax paid. As per the old section an assessee was entitled for payment of interest on the amount of taxes refunded pursuant to an order passed under the Act, including the order passed in an appeal. In the present fact scenario, the deductor/assessee had paid taxes pursuant to a special order passed by the assessing officer/Income Tax Officer. In the appeal filed against the said order the assessee has succeeded and a direction is issued by the appellate authority to refund the tax paid. The amount paid by the resident/ deductor was retained by the Government till a direction was issued by the appellate authority to refund the same. When the said amount is refunded it should carry interest in the matter of course. As held by the Courts while awarding interest, it is a kind of compensation of use and retention of the money collected unauthorizedly by the Department. When the collection is illegal, there is corresponding obligation on the revenue to refund such amount with interest in as much as they have retained and enjoyed the money deposited. Even the Department has understood the object behind insertion of Section 244A, as that, an assessee is entitled to payment of interest for money remaining with the Government which would be refunded. There is no reason to restrict the same to an assessee only without extending the similar benefit to a resident/ deductor who has deducted tax at source and deposited the same before remitting the amount payable to a non-resident/ foreign company.
Providing for payment of interest in case of refund of amounts paid as tax or deemed tax or advance tax is a method now statutorily adopted by fiscal legislation to ensure that the aforesaid amount of tax which has been duly paid in prescribed time and provisions in that behalf form part of the recovery machinery provided in a taxing Statute. Refund due and payable to the assessee is debt-owed and payable by the Revenue. The Government, therebeing no express statutory provision for payment of interest on the refund of excess amount/tax collected by the Revenue, cannot shrug off its apparent obligation to reimburse the deductors lawful monies with the accrued interest for the period of undue retention of such monies. The State having received the money without right, and having retained and used it, is bound to make the party good, just as an individual would be under like circumstances. The obligation to refund money received and retained without right implies and carries with it the right to interest. Whenever money has been received by a party which ex ae quo et bono ought to be refunded, the right to interest follows, as a matter of course.
In the present case, it is not in doubt that the payment of tax made by resident/ depositor is in excess and the department chooses to refund the excess payment of tax to the depositor. We have held the interest requires to be paid on such refunds. The catechize is from what date interest is payable, since the present case does not fall either under clause (a) or (b) of Section 244A of the Act. In the absence of an express provision as contained in clause (a), it cannot be said that the interest is payable from the 1st of April of the assessment year. Simultaneously, since the said payment is not made pursuant to a notice issued under Section 156 of the Act, Explanation to clause (b) has no application. In such cases, as the opening words of clause (b) specifically referred to “as in any other case”, the interest is payable from the date of payment of tax. The sequel of our discussion is the resident/deductor is entitled not only the refund of tax deposited under Section 195(2) of the Act, but has to be refunded with interest from the date of payment of such tax.
Submitted by – CA Prarthana Jalan