The assessee, an Indian company remitted mobilisation & demobilisation charges of Rs. 8.65 crs by way of reimbursement to its parent company, a company based in Netherlands. The assessee applied to the AO u/s 195 (2) for a Nil withholding rate though the AO held that tax had to be deducted at 11%.
The assessee deducted tax on sums aggregating Rs. 6.98 crs. In the assessment order the AO took the view that as the assessee had failed to deduct tax at source u/s 195, the expenditure had to be disallowed u/s 40(a)(i). This was upheld by the CIT (A) and the Tribunal (effectively on the balance amount). The Tribunal followed the judgement of the Supreme Court in Transmission Corporation of AP 239 ITR 387 and held that the assessee was duty bound to deduct tax u/s 195 (1) and could not escape liability without obtaining a certificate u/s 195 (2). The Tribunal held that the assessee was not entitled to “step into the shoes of the AO” and examine “whether the receipt was income in the hands of the recipient or not”. On appeal by the assessee, HELD reversing the judgement of the Tribunal:
(i) The observations of the Supreme Court in Transmission Corporation of AP 239 ITR 387 have to be read in the context of the question before the Court i.e. whether tax was deductible on the gross trading receipts or only on the “pure income profits”. The Court was not concerned with a case where the receipt was not chargeable to tax in the hands of the recipient at all. On the other hand the observations of the Court make it clear that the liability to deduct tax at source arises only when the sum payable to the non-resident is chargeable to tax;
(ii) Even the plain language of s. 195 shows that the tax at source is to be deducted on the “sum chargeable under the provisions of the Act”. One can, therefore, reasonably say that the obligation to deduct tax at source is attracted only when the payment is chargeable to tax in India;
(iii) The determination by the AO under s.195(2) of the Act is tentative in nature. In case it is ultimately found in the assessment proceedings relating to the recipient that he was not liable to pay any tax on the sums received, the assessee cannot be treated in “default” inasmuch as s. 195(1) of the Act casts an obligation to deduct the tax at source on the sum ‘chargeable under the provisions of this Act’;
(iii) As regards Samsung Electronics 185 Taxman 313 (Kar), the context was different. The assessees wanted to show in their own assessment proceedings that the amount paid by them was not asses sable to tax at the hands of recipient. No doubt, they would be precluded to do so. However, when in the assessment proceedings relating to recipient itself, it is opined by the income tax authorities that the tax is not payable at all on the amounts so received, provision of s. 195 would not be attracted. “Even otherwise, because of the analysis of what Transmission Corporation of AP decides, we, with due respect, are not in agreement with some of the observations made in the aforesaid judgement of the Karnataka High Court”.