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Sedco Forex International Inc vs. CIT (Supreme Court)

COURT:
CORAM: ,
SECTION(S): , ,
GENRE:
CATCH WORDS: , ,
COUNSEL: , , ,
DATE: October 30, 2017 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: November 1, 2017 (Date of publication)
AY: -
FILE: Click here to download the file in pdf format
CITATION:
S. 44BB: Amounts received as “mobilisation fee” on account of provision of services and facilities in connection with the extraction etc. of mineral oil in India attracts s. 44BB and have to be assessed as business profits. S. 44BB has to be read in conjunction with ss. 5 and 9 of the Act. Ss. 5 and 9 cannot be read in isolation. The argument that the mobilisation fee is “reimbursement of expenses” and so not assessable as income is not acceptable because it is a fixed amount paid which may be less or more than the expenses incurred. Incurring of expenses, therefore, would be immaterial. Also, the contract was indivisible

(i) Section 44BB starts with non-obstante clause, and the formula contained therein for computation of income is to be applied irrespective of the provisions of Sections 28 to 41 and Sections 43 and 43A of the Act. It is not in dispute that assessees were assessed under the said provision which is applicable in the instant case. For assessment under this provision, a sum equal to 10% of the aggregate of the amounts specified in sub-section (2) shall be deemed to be the profits and gains of such business chargeable to tax under the head ‘profits and gains of the business or profession’. Sub-section (2) mentions two kinds of amounts which shall be deemed as profits and gains of the business chargeable to tax in India. Sub-clause (a) thereof relates to amount paid or payable to the assessee or any person on his behalf on account of provision of services and facilities in connection with, or supply of plant and machinery on hire used, or to be used in the prospecting for, or extraction or production of, mineral oils in India. Thus, all amounts pertaining to the aforesaid activity which are received on account of provisions of services and facilities in connection with the said facility are treated as profits and gains of the business. This clause clarifies that the amount so paid shall be taxable whether these are received in India or outside India. Clause (b) deals with amount received or deemed to be received in India in connection with such services and facilities as stipulated therein. Thus, whereas clause (a) mentions the amount which is paid or payable, clause (b) deals with the amounts which are received or deemed to be received in India. In respect of amount paid or payable under clause (a) of sub-section (2), it is immaterial whether these are paid in India or outside India. On the other hand, amount received or deemed to be received have to be in India.

(ii) From the bare reading of the clauses, amount paid under the aforesaid contracts as mobilisation fee on account of provision of services and facilities in connection with the extraction etc. of mineral oil in India and against the supply of plant and machinery on hire used for such extraction, clause (a) stands attracted. Thus, this provision contained in Section 44BB has to be read in conjunction with Sections 5 and 9 of the Act and Sections 5 and 9 of the Act cannot be read in isolation. The aforesaid amount paid to the assessees as mobilisation fee is treated as profits and gains of business and, therefore, it would be “income” as per Section 5. This provision also treats this income as earned in India, fictionally, thereby satisfying the test of Section 9 of the Act as well.

(iii) The Tribunal has rightly commented that Section 44BB of the Act is a special provision for computing profits and gains in connection with the business of exploration of mineral oils. Its purpose was explained by the Department vide its Circular No. 495 dated September 22, 1987, namely, to simplify the computation of taxable income as number of complications were involved for those engaged in the business of providing services and facilities in connection with, or supply of plant and machinery on hire used or to be used in the prospecting for, or extraction or production of, mineral etc. Instead of going into the nitigrities of such computation as per the normal provisions contained in Sections 28 to 41 and Sections 43 and 43A of the Act, the Legislature has simplified the procedure by providing that tax shall be paid @10% of the ‘aggregate of the amounts specified in sub-section (2)’ and those amounts are ‘deemed to be the profits and gains of such business chargeable to tax…’. It is a matter of record that when income is computed under the head ‘profits and gains of business or profession’, rate of tax payable on the said income is much higher. However, the Legislature provided a simple formula, namely, treating the amounts paid or payable (whether in or out of India) and amount received or deemed to be received in India as mentioned in sub-section (2) of Section 44BB as the deemed profits and gains. Thereafter, on such deemed profits and gains (treating the same as income), a concessional flat rate of 10% is charged to tax. In these circumstances, the AO is supposed to apply the provisions of Section 44BB of the Act, in order to find out as to whether a particular amount is deemed income or not. When it is found that the amount paid or payable (whether in or out of India), or amount received or deemed to be received in India is covered by sub-section (2) of Section 44BB of the Act, by fiction created under Section 44BB of the Act, it becomes ‘income’ under Sections 5 and 9 of the Act as well.

(iv) It is stated at the cost of repetition that, in the instant case, the amount which is paid to the assessees is towards mobilisation fee. It does not mention that the same is for reimbursement of expenses. In fact, it is a fixed amount paid which may be less or more than the expenses incurred. Incurring of expenses, therefore, would be immaterial. It is also to be borne in mind that the contract in question was indivisible. Having regard to these facts in the present case as per which the case of the assessees get covered under the aforesaid provisions, we do not find any merit in any of the contentions raised by the assessees. Therefore, the ultimate conclusion drawn by the AO, which is upheld by all other Authorities is correct, though some of the observations of the High Court may not be entirely correct which have been straightened by us in the above discussion. For our aforesaid reasons, we uphold the conclusion. Resultantly, all the appeals of the assessees are dismissed.

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