Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal
Services provided by a Common Effluent Treatment Plant Operator for treatment of effluent is exempt from Service Tax. Vide Notification No. 6/2015-ST dated 1.3.2015, this exemption entry has been inserted w.e.f. 1.4.2015 in mega exemption Notification No. 25/2012-ST dated 20.06.2012.
Prior to this exemption, services provided by an association of dyeing units in relation to common effluent treatment plants was exempted from Service Tax vide Notification No. 42/2011-ST dated 25.7.2011. The scope of the exemption had been expanded and the amended notification had been given retrospective effect from 16.06.2005 by Finance Act, 2012 vide section 145 of the Finance Act, 2012, providing for validation of exemption given to clubs or association including co-operative societies in relation to projects, i.e., common facility set up for treatment and recycling of effluents and solid wastes, with financial assistance from the Central Government or State Government.
For exemption, following three conditions should be satisfied –
(a) Services should be provided by operator of plant,
(b) Plant should be common effluent treatment plant, and
(c) Services should be of/in relation to/by way of effluent treatment.
Literally, ‘effluent’ means a liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea (example, industrial effluent). According to Water Law, ‘effluent’ means liquid wastes typically discharged into a body of water, e.g., liquid discharged from a waste water treatment plant into a body of water, which is subject to various quality criteria.
‘To treat’ means to behave towards or deal with in a certain way; apply a process or a substance to (something) to protect or preserve it or to give it particular properties. ‘Treatment’ is the use of chemical, physical or biological agent to preserve or give particular properties to something (e.g., treatment of hazardous waste).
‘Plant’ is a place where an industrial or manufacturing process take place. In Income Tax Act, 1961, ‘plant’ includes ships, vehicles books, scientific apparatus and surgical equipments used for the purpose of business or profession but does not include tea bushes or live stock.
‘Plant’ means the fixtures, machinery, tools, apparatus, appliances etc., necessary to carry on any trade or mechanical business, or any mechanical operation or process.
Webster defines the word ‘plant’ to be ‘the fixtures and tools necessary to carry on any trade or mechanical business.’ The word is defined by Worcester to be ‘the machinery, apparatus or fixtures by which a business is carried on’. The word is not equivalent to the word ‘undertaking’, which is defined by Webster as ‘any business, work or project which a person engages in or attempts to perform; enterprise’.
The word ‘plant’ is too broad for delimitation of its import. Any structure which is used in the business either as the seat of the business or the location where the business is carried on can be said to be plant in the sense that it is one of the means of carrying on the business. [S.P. Jaiswal Estates (P) Ltd. v. CIT, AIR 1997 SC 2155. (Income-tax Act, 1961)].
In Green Environment Services Co-op Society Ltd. v. Union of India (2015) 37 STR 961 (Gujarat), where common effluent treatment services were provided to its members through a co-operative society, it was held that levy of Service Tax on such services is unconstitutional as it pertain to services provided by a society to its members. [Sports Club of Gujarat Ltd. v. Union of India (2013) 31 STR 645 (Gujarat) relied upon].
In Common Effluent Treatment Plant v. CST, Mumbai-II (2014) 47 GST 176; 48 Taxmann. com 142 (Cestat, Mumbai), assessee association was maintaining a common effluent treatment plant and was charging some amount from the member industries. It was held that vide section 145 of Finance Act, 2012, services provided by clubs or association in relation to common facilities set up for treatment and recycling effluent and solid waste, with financial assistance from central and/or state government is given retrospective exemption w.e.f. 16.6.2005 and as such, effluent treatment services were not liable to Service Tax.