CIT vs. Glaxo Smithkline (Asia) (Supreme Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: November 10, 2010 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (glaxo_smithkline_transfer_pricing.pdf)

Q of S. 40A (2) not examined as exercise is “revenue-neutral”. Transfer Pricing Provisions should be extended to domestic transactions to “reduce litigation”

The assessee did not have any employee other than a company secretary and all administrative services relating to marketing, finance, HR etc were provided by Glaxo Smith Kline Consumer Healthcare Ltd (“GSKCH”) pursuant to an agreement under which the assessee agreed to reimburse the costs incurred by GSKCH for providing the various services plus 5%. The costs towards services provided to the assessee were allocated on the basis suggested by a firm of CAs. The AO disallowed a part of the charges reimbursed on the ground that they were excessive and not for business purposes which was upheld by the CIT (A). However, the Tribunal deleted the disallowance on the ground that there was provision to disallow expenditure on the ground that it was excessive or unreasonable unless the case of the assessee fell within the scope of s. 40A (2). It was held that as it was not the case of the Department that s. 40A (2) was attracted, the disallowance could not be made (see 290 ITR 35 (Del) for facts). The department challenged the deletion. HELD dismissing the SLP:

(i) The Authorities below have recorded a concurrent finding that the said two Companies are not related Companies under s. 40A (2). As far as this SLP is concerned, no interference is called for as the entire exercise is a revenue neutral exercise. Hence, the SLP stands dismissed. For other years, the authorities must examine whether there is any loss of revenue. If the Authorities find that the exercise is a revenue neutral exercise, then the matter may be decided accordingly;

(ii) The larger issue is whether Transfer Pricing Regulations should be limited to cross-border transactions or whether the Transfer Pricing Regulations be extended to domestic transactions. In domestic transactions, the under-invoicing of sales and over-invoicing of expenses ordinarily will be revenue neutral in nature, except in two circumstances having tax arbitrage such as where one of the related entities is (i) loss making or (ii) liable to pay tax at a lower rate and the profits are shifted to such entity;

(iii) Complications arise in cases where the fair market value is required to be assigned to transactions between related parties u/s 40A(2). The CBDT should examine whether Transfer Pricing Regulations can be applied to domestic transactions between related parties u/s 40A(2) by making amendments to the Act. The AO can be empowered to make adjustments to the income declared by the assessee having regard to the fair market value of the transactions between the related parties and can apply any of the generally accepted methods of determination of arm’s length price, including the methods provided under Transfer Pricing Regulations. The law can also be amended to make it compulsory for the taxpayer to maintain Books of Accounts and other documents on the lines prescribed in Rule 10D and obtain an audit report from his CA that proper documents are maintained;

(iv) Though the Court normally does not make recommendations or suggestions, in order to reduce litigation occurring in complicated matters, the question of extending Transfer Pricing regulations to domestic transactions require expeditious consideration by the Ministry of Finance and the CBDT may also consider issuing appropriate instructions in that regard.

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