CIT vs. EKL Applicances Ltd (Delhi High Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: April 23, 2012 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (ekl_transfer_pricing_OECD_guidelines.pdf)

Transfer Pricing: TPO cannot examine the necessity of, or rewrite, the transaction

The assessee entered into an agreement pursuant to which it paid brand fee/ royalty to an associated enterprise. The TPO disallowed the payment on the ground that as the assessee was regularly incurring huge losses, the know-how/ brand had not benefited the assessee and so the payment was not justified. This was reversed by the CIT (A) & Tribunal on the ground that as the payment was genuine, the TPO could not question commercial expediency. On appeal by the department, HELD dismissing the appeal:

The “transfer pricing guidelines” laid down by the OECD make it clear that barring exceptional cases, the tax administration cannot disregard the actual transaction or substitute other transactions for them and the examination of a controlled transaction should ordinarily be based on the transaction as it has been actually undertaken and structured by the associated enterprises. The guidelines discourage re-structuring of legitimate business transactions except where (i) the economic substance of a transaction differs from its form and (ii) the form and substance of the transaction are the same but arrangements made in relation to the transaction, viewed in their totality, differ from those which would have been adopted by independent enterprises behaving in a commercially rational manner. The OECD guidelines should be taken as a valid input in judging the action of the TPO because, in a different form, they have been recognized in India’s tax jurisprudence. It is well settled that the revenue cannot dictate to the assessee as to how he should conduct his business and it is not for them to tell the assessee as to what expenditure the assessee can incur (Eastern Investment Ltd 20 ITR 1 (SC), Walchand & Co 65 ITR 381 (SC) followed). Even Rule 10B(1)(a) does not authorise disallowance of expenditure on the ground that it was not necessary or prudent for the assessee to have incurred the same.

Contrast with Deloitte Consulting vs. ITO (included in file) where it was held that the cost of marketing services could be valued at ‘Nil‘ by the TPO

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