In a recent tax dispute, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) of Pune delivered a crucial judgment. This judgment pertains to the SKF India Employee Co-Operative Credit Society Limited’s appeal against the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax (PCIT), Pune, for the assessment year 2018-2019. The case centers around the claim of the Co-Operative Society on interest received from Co-Op. Banks as a deduction under section 80P(2) of the I. T. Act, 1961.
The tribunal heard both parties, and the details of the case emerged in the course of the hearing. It was evident that the appeal didn’t necessitate an in-depth exploration of the factual matrix. The PCIT had termed the Assessing Officer’s regular assessment as erroneous, which allegedly caused prejudice to the interest of the revenue. This occurred because the officer had allowed the section 80P deduction claim representing interest derived from deposits made in various cooperative banks.
Following a series of arguments and considerations, the tribunal found merit in the assessee’s argument. The tribunal’s order relied on a recent ruling (Lokmangal Nagri Sahakari Path Sanstha Maryadit, Solapur vs. PCIT-4, Pune in ITA.No.231/PUN./2022 decided on 29.11.2022). Consequently, the tribunal overturned the PCIT’s revision directions and restored the Assessing Officer’s regular assessment.
The case presented a compelling scenario where the interest income derived from cooperative banks and other institutions by cooperative societies can be claimed as a deduction under the Income Tax Act. The judgment reflects the ITAT’s support for cooperative societies in financial disputes.
FULL TEXT OF THE ORDER OF ITAT PUNE
This assessee’s appeal for assessment year 2018-2019, arises against the PCIT, Pune-3, Pune’s Din and Order No. ITBA/REV/F/REV5/2022-23/1049356908(1), dated 02.02.2023, involving proceedings u/s. 143(3) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (in short “the Act”).
Heard both the parties. Case file perused.
2. It emerges during the course of hearing that the assessee’s instant appeal hardly requires us to delve into the relevant factual matrix at length. This is for the precise reason that the learned PCIT’s impugned revision directions herein term the Assessing Officer’s regular assessment dated 21.01.2021 in issue as an erroneous one causing prejudice to interest of the revenue to the extent he had allowed its section 80P deduction claim of Rs.2,03,97,846/- representing interest derived from deposits made in various cooperative other banks during the course of scrutiny.
3. Both the learned representatives vehemently reiterated their respective stands. The Revenue more particularly supported the learned PCIT’s revision directions in light of hon’ble Karnataka high court’s decision in Tumkur Merchants Souharda Credit Cooperative Ltd. Vs. ITO (2015) 230 Taxman 309 (Kar.) that such an interest income derived from deposits made in cooperative societies does not deserve any deduction u/s.80P(2)(a)(i) r.w.s.80P(2)(d) of the Act.
4. We have given our thoughtful consideration to vehement rival stands and find merit in assessee’s arguments in light of this tribunal’s recent order in Lokmangal Nagri Sahakari Path Sanstha Maryadit, Solapur vs. PCIT-4, Pune in ITA.No.231/PUN./2022 decided on 29.11.2022 as follows :
“3. Briefly, the facts of the case are as under :
The appellant is a cooperative society formed under the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, 1960. It is engaged in the business of accepting deposits from members and providing credit facilities to its members. The original Return of Income for the assessment year 2017-18 was filed on 18.10.2017 disclosing total income of Rs.3,11,740/-. Subsequently, the assessee revised the return of income declaring Rs.Nil income after claiming deduction of Rs.6,32,86,382/- under the provisions of section 80P of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (‘the Act’). Against the said return of income, the assessment was completed by the Assessing Officer accepting the returned income vide order dated 19.11.2019 passed u/s 143(3) of the Act.
4. Subsequently, on examination of the assessment order, the ld. PCIT formed an opinion that failure the Assessing Officer to examine the taxability of interest earned on the investments made with the cooperative banks, as the same constitutes business income, rendered the assessment order erroneous. Accordingly, the ld. PCIT issued a show cause notice dated 08.03.2022 u/s 263 calling upon the appellant society to explain as to why the assessment order dated 19.11.2019 should not be treated as erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of the revenue. In response to the show cause notice, the appellant filed a detailed submission stating that the interest income earned by the cooperative bank on the investments made with the other cooperative bank is eligible for deduction under the provisions of section 80P(2)(a)(i) as well as under the provisions of section 80P(2)(d) placing reliance on the following decisions :
(i) Gurumauli Nagari Sahkari Pat Sanstha vs. PCIT order dated 13.01.2022 (Pune – Trib.).
(ii) Tumkur Merchants Souharda Credit Cooperative Ltd. vs. ITO 230 Taxman 309 (Kar – HC).
(iii) Sureshdada Jain Nagari Sahakari Patsanstha Maryadit (ITA No.713/PUN/2016).
(iv) Nasik Road Nagri Sahakari Patsanstha (ITA No.1700/PUN/2017 order dated 27.12.2021).
(v) ITO vs. Shri Laxmi Narayan Nagari Sahakari Pathsanstha (ITA No.2827/PUN/2016 order dated 19.09.2018).
(vi) Sant Motiram Maharaj Patsanstha Ltd. vs. ITO, 120 taxmann.com 10.
5. It is further submitted that the Assessing Officer had allowed the claim of exemption after due application of mind on the issue in appeal and, therefore, the Explanation 2 to section 263 cannot be invoked. However, the ld. PCIT on due consideration of explanation filed by the appellant held that the failure of the Assessing Officer to examine the issue rendered the assessment erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of the revenue. Accordingly, ld. PCIT set aside the assessment order with a direction to examine the assessee’s claim of deduction u/s 80P(2)(a)(i) as well as interest of Rs.19,88,77,712/- u/s 80P(2)(d) after affording reasonable opportunity of being heard to the appellant.
6. Being aggrieved, the appellant is in appeal before us in the present appeal.
7. The ld. AR submits that the issue of eligibility of income earned on the investment made with the cooperative bank was examined by the Co-ordinate Bench of this Tribunal in the case of M/s. Jan Kalyan Nagri Sahakari Pat. Limited Sanstha in ITA No.825/PUN/2019 for A.Y. 2014-15 order dated 26.08.2022. The ld. AR submits that the issue is covered in favour of the appellant. In support of this proposition, ld. AR relied on the following judicial precedents :-
(i) Nashik Road Nagari Sahkari Patsanstha Limited vs. ITO (ITA No.1700/PUN/2017 dated 27.12.2021).
(ii) Rena Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Ltd. vs. Pr.CIT (ITA No.1249/PUN/2018 dated 07.01.2022).
(iii) Shri Chandraprabhu Urban Co-operative Credit Society Ltd. vs. ITO (ITA No.61 & 62/PAN/2018 dated 10.05.2022).
8. Thus, it was contended that when the issue was stands covered and decided in favour of the assessee, then it cannot be said that the assessment order is erroneous as well as prejudicial to the interests of the revenue.
9. On the other hand, ld. CIT-DR placing reliance on the order of the ld. PCIT submits that failure of the Assessing Officer to examine the taxable income earned on the investments from cooperative bank rendered assessment order erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of the revenue. Therefore, he submits that the ld. PCIT was justified in exercising the power of revision u/s 263 of the Act.
10. We heard the rival submissions and perused the material on record. The issue in the present appeal relates to the validity of assumption of jurisdiction u/s 263 by the ld. PCIT. The Parliament had conferred the power of revision on the Commissioner of Income Tax u/s 263 of the Act in case the assessment order passed is erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of revenue. In order to invoke the power of revision, the above two conditions are required to be satisfied cumulatively. References in this regard can be made to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Malabar Industrial Co. Ltd. vs. CIT, 243 ITR 83 (SC) and in the case of CIT vs. Max India Ltd., 295 ITR 282 (SC). The error in the assessment order should be one that it is not debatable or plausible view. In a case where the Assessing Officer examined the claim, took one of the plausible views, the assessment order cannot be termed as an “erroneous”. In the present case, we find that admittedly the interest income was earned from the cooperative banks, the cooperative bank is also a specie of cooperative society, therefore, the interest income earned by the cooperative society from the cooperative banks qualifies for deduction u/s 80(P)(2)(d) of the Act. Such interest also qualifies for exemption u/s 80P(2)(a)(i) as held by the Co-ordinate Bench of Pune Tribunal in the case of Nashik Road Nagari Sahkari Patsanstha Limited (supra) wherein the Tribunal held as under :-
“9. We heard the rival submissions and perused the material on record. Admittedly, the appellant is a Cooperative society formed under the provisions of Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act,1960 with the objective of accepting deposits and lending money to its members. The money which is not immediately required for the purpose of lending to the members is deposited with Bank of Baroda in the form of Fixed Deposit. The question is whether the interest so earned qualifies for exemption u/s. 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act. The AO as well as the CIT(A) were of the opinion that the interest earned from third parties or non-members does not quality for exemption u/s.80P. It is an admitted position that the interest so earned should be taxed as ‘income from other sources’ There is a cleavage of judicial opinion among several High Courts on the issue of eligibility of this kind of income for exemption u/s. 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act. The Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court in the case of CIT vs. Punjab State Cooperative Federation of Housing Building Societies Ltd. 11 taxmann.com 448, the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court in the case of State Bank of India Vs. CIT 389 ITR 578 (Guj.), the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Mantola Co-operative Thrift & Credit Society Ltd. Vs. CIT 50 taxmann.com 278, the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court in the case of CIT Vs. Punjab State Cooperative Agricultural Development Bank Ltd. 389 ITR 68 and the Hon’ble Kolkata High Court in the case of CIT Vs. Southern Eastern Employees Cooperative Credit Society Ltd. 390 ITR 524 took a view that the income arising on the surplus invested in short term deposits and securities cannot be attributed to the activities of the society and, therefore, not eligible for exemption u/s.80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act. However, the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court in the case of Tumkur Merchants Souharda Credit Cooperative Ltd. Vs. ITO (2015) 230 taxmann 309 (Kar.) and the Hon’ble Telangana and Hon’ble Andhra Pradesh High Court in the case of Vaveru Co-operative Rural Bank Ltd. v CIT [(2017) 396 ITR took a view that such interest income is attributable to the activities of the society and, therefore, eligible for exemption u/s.80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act. The Coordinate Bench of Pune Benches in the case of M/s. Ratnatray Gramin Bigar Sheti Sah. Pat Sanstha Maryadit Vs. ITO (ITA Nos.559/560/PUN/2018, dated 11-122018) has taken view in favour of the assessee following the judgment of Hon’ble Karnataka High Court in the case of Tumkur Merchants Souharda Credit Cooperative Ltd. (supra). Respectfully following the decision of the Coordinate Bench, we hold that the interest income earned on the investment of surplus money with banks is also eligible for exemption u/s.80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act. Thus, the grounds of appeal No. 1 & 2 stands allowed.”
11. Thus, we find that the issue which is subject matter of revision is covered in favour of the assessee by judicial precedents. Therefore, it cannot be said that the assessment order is erroneous or prejudicial to the interests of the revenue. Therefore, we are of the considered opinion that the order of revision passed by the ld. PCIT u/s 263 of the Act cannot be sustained in the eyes of law.
Hence, the grounds of appeal raised by the assessee stand allowed.”
5. Learned CIT-DR could also not dispute that the hon’ble jurisdictional high court’s latest decision  149 taxmann.com 94 (Bom.) Mumbai Postal Employees Co.Op Credit Society Ltd., vs. ITO has already rejected the Revenue’s identical stand in initiating sec.148 proceedings for the purpose of assessing similar interest income derived from cooperative banks and other institutions.
6. We adopt the foregoing detailed discussion mutatis mutandis to accept the assessee’s arguments. Learned PCIT’s revision directions in issue stand reversed. The Assessing Officer’s corresponding regular assessment dated 21.01.2021 is restored as the necessary corollary. Ordered accordingly.
This assessee’s appeal is allowed in above terms. Order pronounced in the open Court on 01.05.2023.