Despite Retro Law By Finance Act 2012, “Royalty” Not Taxable as DTAA prevails
The assessee, a Mauritius company, made payment to Panamsat, USA, for hire of a “transponder satellite”. The AO held that the said hire charges constituted “royalty” and that the assessee ought to have deducted TDS u/s 195 and that as it had not done so, the amount was to be disallowed u/s 40(a)(ia). Before the Tribunal, the department argued that though as per Asia Satellite 332 ITR 340 (Del), the hire charges were not assessable as “royalty”, this verdict was no longer good law in view of the amendment to s. 9(1)(vi) by the Finance Act 2012 w.r.e.f. 1.4.1976 to provide that such hire charges shall be assessable as “royalty”. HELD by the Tribunal:
(i) In Asia Satellite 332 ITR 340 (Del) it was held that in order to constitute “royalty”, the payer must have the right to control the equipment. A payment for a standard service would not constitute “royalty” merely because equipment was used to render that service. A similar view was taken in Skycell Communications 251 ITR 53 (Mad). In De Beers (Kar) & Guy Carpenter (Del) it was held that to “make available” technical knowledge, mere provisions of service was not enough and the payer had to be enabled to perform services himself. The department’s argument that the amendments by the Finance Act, 2012 changes the position is not acceptable because there is no change in the DTAA between India and USA and the DTAA prevails where it is favourable to the assessee;
(ii) Even otherwise as the payment is made from one non-resident to another non-resident outside India on the basis of contract executed outside India, s. 195 will not apply as held in Vodafone International Holdings B.V. 341 ITR 1 (SC). As s. 195 did not apply, no disallowance can be made u/s 40(a)(i);
(iii) Further, as prior to the insertion of s. 40(a)(ia) in AY 2004-05, payments to a resident did not require TDS, under the non-discrimination clause in the DTAA, the disallowance u/s 40(a)(i) in the case of non-residents cannot be made as held in Herbalife International 101 ITD 450 (Del), Central Bank of India & Millennium Infocom Technologies 21 SOT 152 (Del).