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Danisco India Private Ltd vs. UOI (Delhi High Court)

COURT:
CORAM: ,
SECTION(S):
GENRE:
CATCH WORDS: ,
COUNSEL:
DATE: February 5, 2018 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: February 20, 2018 (Date of publication)
AY: -
FILE: Click here to download the file in pdf format
CITATION:
S. 206AA TDS: The requirement (pre amendment) that TDS should be deducted at 20% on payments to non-residents even though the income is chargeable to tax at a lower rate under the DTAA is not acceptable because the DTAA has primacy over the Act. S. 206AA (as it existed) has to be read down to mean that where the non-resident payee is resident in a territory with which India has a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, the rate of taxation would be as dictated by the provisions of the treaty

A Writ Petition was filed to challenge Section 206AA of the Income-tax Act (‘the Act’) (introduced by Finance Bill No. 2 of 2009) that directs a levy of 20% in the case of outward remittances in the hands of the payer (hereafter referred to as ‘the deductor’) and is applicable to assessees that are non-residents of India. It was claimed that the impugned provision cannot be sustained having regard to the peculiar facts of this case. The petitioner is an Indian assessee, who, in the normal course of its business remits payments to M/s DuPont Singapore, a non-resident company, located in Singapore. DuPont is not a tax assessee in India. Tax relationship between the two countries is regulated in terms of Indo-Singapore Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA). The relevant provisions of DTAA mandates a cap of 10% upon the recovery of amounts, in respect of tax incidence that occurs in the concerned host country (Article 12).

HELD by the High Court allowing the Petition:

(i) It is quite apparent that the issue urged has been rendered largely academic on account of corrective amendment made by the Parliament-which substituted pre-existing Sub-section (7) with the present Section 206AA (7). The amendment is mitigating to a large extent, the rigors of the pre- existing laws. The law, as it existed, went beyond the provisions of DTAA which in most cases mandates a 10% cap on the rate of tax applicable to the state parties. Section 206AA (prior to its amendment) resulted in a situation, where, over and above the mandated 10%, a recovery of an additional 10%, in the event, the non- resident payee, did not possess PAN.

(ii) In this context, the ITAT in Dy. Director of Income Tax Vs. Serum Institute of India Ltd. (ITA 792/PN/2013, decided on 30.3.2015) discussed this very issue in some detail and stated, as follows:

…………The case of the Revenue is that in the absence of furnishing of PAN, assessee was under an obligation to deduct tax @ 20% following the provisions of section 206AA of the Act. However, assessee had deducted the tax at source at the rates prescribed in the respective DTAAs between India and the relevant country of the non-residents; and, such rate of tax being lower than the rate of 20% mandated by section 206AA of the Act. The CIT(A) has found that the provisions of section 90(2) come to the rescue of the assessee. Section 90(2) provides that the provisions of the DTAAs would override the provisions of the domestic Act in cases where the provisions of DTAAs are more beneficial to the assessee. There cannot be any doubt to the proposition that in case of non-residents, tax liability in India is liable to be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Act or the DTAA between India and the relevant country, whichever is more beneficial to the assessee, having regard to the provisions of section 90(2) of the Act.

In this context, the CIT(A) has correctly observed that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Azadi Bachao Andolan and Others v. UOI, MANU/SC/1219/2003 : (2003) 263 ITR 706 (SC) has upheld the proposition that the provisions made in the DTAAs will prevail over the general provisions contained in the Act to the extent they are beneficial to the assessee. In this context, it would be worthwhile to observe that the DTAAs entered into between India and the other relevant countries in the present context provide for scope of taxation and/or a rate of taxation which was different from the scope/rate prescribed under the Act. For the said reason, assessee deducted the tax at source having regard to the provisions of the respective DTAAs which provided for a beneficial rate of taxation.

It would also be relevant to observe that even the charging section 4 as well as section 5 of the Act which deals with the principle of ascertainment of total income under the Act are also subordinate to the principle enshrined in section 90(2) as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Azadi Bachao Andolan and Others (supra). Thus, in so far as the applicability of the scope/rate of taxation with respect to the impugned payments make to the non-residents is concerned, no fault can be found with the rate of taxation invoked by the assessee based on the DTAAs, which prescribed for a beneficial rate of taxation.

However, the case of the Revenue is that the tax deduction at source was required to be made at 20% in the absence of furnishing of PAN by the recipient non-residents, having regard to section 206AA of the Act. In our considered opinion, it would be quite incorrect to say that though the charging section 4 of the Act and section 5 of the Act dealing with ascertainment of total income are subordinate to the principle enshrined in section 90(2) of the Act but the provisions of Chapter XVII-B governing tax deduction at source are not subordinate to section 90(2) of the Act. Notably, section 206AA of the Act which is the centre of controversy before us is not a charging section but is a part of a procedural provisions dealing with collection and deduction of tax at source.

The provisions of section 195 of the Act which casts a duty on the assessee to deduct tax at source on payments to a non-resident cannot be looked upon as a charging provision. In-fact, in the context of section 195 of the Act also, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of CIT v. Eli Lily & Co., MANU/SC/0487/2009 : (2009) 312 ITR 225 (SC) observed that the provisions of tax withholding i.e. section 195 of the Act would apply only to sums which are otherwise chargeable to tax under the Act. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of GE India Technology Centre Pvt. Ltd. v. CIT,MANU/SC/0688/2010 : (2010) 327 ITR 456 (SC) held that the provisions of DTAAs along with the sections 4, 5, 9, 90 & 91 of the Act are relevant while applying the provisions of tax deduction at source.

Therefore, in view of the aforesaid schematic interpretation of the Act, section 206AA of the Act cannot be understood to override the charging sections 4 and 5 of the Act. Thus, where section 90(2) of the Act provides that DTAAs override domestic law in cases where the provisions of DTAAs are more beneficial to the assessee and the same also overrides the charging sections 4 and 5 of the Act which, in turn, override the DTAAs provisions especially section 206AA of the Act which is the controversy before us. Therefore, in our view, where the tax has been deducted on the strength of the beneficial provisions of section DTAAs, the provisions of section 206AA of the Act cannot be invoked by the Assessing Officer to insist on the tax deduction @ 20%, having regard to the overriding nature of the provisions of section 90(2) of the Act.

The CIT(A), in our view, correctly inferred that section 206AA of the Act does not override the provisions of section 90(2) of the Act and that in the impugned cases of payments made to non-residents, assessee correctly applied the rate of tax prescribed under the DTAAs and not as per section 206AA of the Act because the provisions of the DTAAs was more beneficial. Thus, we hereby affirm the ultimate conclusion of the CIT(A) in deleting the tax demand relatable to difference between 20% and the actual tax rate on which tax was deducted by the assessee in terms of the relevant DTAAs. As a consequence, Revenue fails in its appeals.”

(iii) Having regard to the position of law explained in Azadi Bachao Andolan Vs. Union of India, (2003) 263 ITR 706 (SC) and later followed in numerous decisions that a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement acquires primacy in such cases, where reciprocating states mutually agree upon acceptable principles for tax treatment, the provision in Section 206AA (as it existed) has to be read down to mean that where the deductee i.e the overseas resident business concern conducts its operation from a territory, whose Government has entered into a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with India, the rate of taxation would be as dictated by the provisions of the treaty.

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