CIT vs. De Beers India Minerals Pvt Ltd (Karnataka High Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 11, 2012 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (de_beers_fees_technical_services.pdf)

To “make available” technical knowledge, mere provision of service is not enough; the payer must be enabled to perform the service himself

The assessee, engaged in prospecting and mining for diamonds entered into an agreement with a Netherlands company for conducting air borne survey and providing high resolution geophysical data. The AO held that the consideration was chargeable to tax as “fees for technical services” under Article 12 of the India-Netherlands DTAA and held the assessee liable u/s 195 & 201 for failure to deduct TDS. This was reversed by the CIT (A) & Tribunal on the ground that though the Dutch company had performed services using technical knowledge and expertise, such technical experience etc had not been “made available” to the assessee. On appeal by the department to the High Court, HELD dismissing the appeal:

Article 12(5) of the DTAA defines “fees for technical services” to mean payments in consideration for the rendering of any technical or consultancy services “which make available technical knowledge, experience, etc or consist of the development and transfer of a technical pIan or technical design. To be said to “make available”, the service should be aimed at and result in transmitting technical knowledge etc so that the payer of the service could derive an enduring benefit and utilize the knowledge or know-how on his own in future without the aid of the service provider. In other words, to fit into terminology “making available”, the technical knowledge, skills” etc must remain with the person receiving the service even after the particular contract comes to an end. It is not enough that the services offered are the product of intense technological effort and a lot of technical knowledge and experience of the service provider has gone into it. The technical knowledge or skills of the provider should be imparted to and absorbed by the receiver so that the receiver can deploy similar technology or techniques in the future without depending upon the provider. On facts, while the Dutch company performed the surveys using substantial technical skills, it has not made available the technical expertise in respect of such collection or processing of data to the assessees, which the assessee can apply independently and without assistance and undertake such survey independently. Consequently, the consideration is not assessable as “fees for technical services” (AAR Rulings in Perfetti Van Melle Holding, Shell India & Areva T&D distinguished)

See Also DIT vs. Guy Carpenter & Co Ltd (Delhi High Court) on the same point

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