|CORAM:||Navin Sinha J, Ranjan Gogoi J|
|CATCH WORDS:||actual payment, Excise Duty, Personal Ledger Account, PLA|
|DATE:||November 24, 2017 (Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||November 25, 2017 (Date of publication)|
|FILE:||Click here to download the file in pdf format|
|S. 43B: Advance deposit of central excise duty in the Personal Ledger Account (PLA) constitutes actual payment of duty within the meaning of s. 43B and the assessee is entitled to the benefit of deduction of the said amount|
The Supreme Court had to consider the following question of law:
“Whether the assessee is entitled to claim deduction under Section 43B of the Income Tax Act, 1961 in respect of the excise duty paid in advance in the Personal Ledger Account (“PLA” for short)?”
HELD by the Supreme Court:
(i) Notwithstanding the acceptance by the Revenue of the practice adopted by the assessee-Modipon Ltd. in all the assessment years except for the ones under dispute as enumerated above and the absence of any challenge to the decisions of the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts, the present challenge would still be entertainable so long as it discloses a substantial question of law or an issue impacting public interest or the same has the potential of recurrence in future. The Revenue cannot be shut out from the present proceedings merely because of its acceptance of the practice of accounting adopted by the assessee or its acceptance of the decision of the two High Courts in question. An adjudication of the question(s) arising cannot be refused 10 merely on the above basis. We will, therefore, have to proceed to answer the merits of the challenge made by the Revenue in the present appeals.
(ii) Deposit of Central Excise Duty in the PLA is a statutory requirement. The Central Excise Rules, 1944, specify a distinct procedure for payment of excise duty leviable on manufactured goods. It is a procedure designed to bring in orderly conduct in the matter of levy and collection of excise duty when both manufacture and clearances are a continuous process. Debits against the advance deposit in the PLA have to be made of amounts of excise duty payable on excisable goods cleared during the previous fortnight. The deposit once made is adjusted against the duty payable on removal and the balance is kept in the account for future clearances/removal. No withdrawal from the account is permissible except on an application to be filed before the Commissioner who is required to record reasons for permitting an assessee to withdraw any amount from the PLA. Sub-rules (3), (4), (5) and (6) of Rule 173G indicates a strict and vigorous scrutiny to be exercised by the central excise authorities with regard to manufacture and removal of excisable goods by an assessee. The self removal scheme and payment of duty under the Act and the Rules clearly shows that upon deposit in the PLA the amount of such deposit stands credited to the Revenue with the assessee having no domain over the amount(s) deposited.
(iii) In C.I.T. vs. Pandavapura Sahakara Sakkare Karkhane Ltd.7 and C.I.T. vs. Nizam Sugar Factory Ltd. 253 ITR 68 (AP) cited at the Bar, the High Courts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh 198 ITR 690 (Kar.) respectively had occasion to consider as to whether the amounts credited to the Molasses Storage Fund out of the sale proceeds of molasses received by the assessee constitute taxable income of the assessee. Under the scheme, the assessee had no control over the amounts deposited in the fund and the assessee was also not entitled to withdraw any amount therefrom without the approval of the authorities. Further the amount deposited could be utilized only for the purpose specified. In those circumstances, the High Court held and in our view correctly, that the deposits made, though a part of the sale proceeds of the assessee, did not constitute taxable income at the hands of the assessee. We do not see why the same analogy would not be applicable to the case in hand.
(iv) The Delhi High Court in the appeals arising from the orders passed by it has also taken the view that the purpose of introduction of Section 43B of the Central Excise Act was to plug a loophole in the statute which permitted deductions on an accrual basis without the requisite obligation to deposit the tax with the State. Resultantly, on the basis of mere book entries an assessee was entitled to claim deduction without actually paying the tax to the State. Having regard to the object behind the enactment of Section 43B and the preceding discussions, it would be consistent to hold that the legislative intent would be achieved by giving benefit of deduction to an assessee upon advance deposit of central excise duty notwithstanding the fact that adjustments from such deposit are made on subsequent clearances/removal effected from time to time.
(v) The above discussions, coupled with the peculiar features of the case, noticed above i.e. consistent practice followed by the assessee and accepted by the Revenue; the decisions of the two High Courts in favour of the assessee which have attained finality in law; and no contrary view of any other High Court being brought to our notice, should lead us to the conclusion that the High Courts were justified in taking the view that the advance deposit of central excise duty constitutes actual payment of duty within the meaning of Section 43B of the Central Excise Act and, therefore, the assessee is entitled to the benefit of deduction of the said amount.