CIT vs. Kotak Securities Ltd (Supreme Court)

DATE: March 29, 2016 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: March 31, 2016 (Date of publication)
AY: 2005-06
FILE: Click here to download the file in pdf format
S. 9(1)(vii)/ 40(a)(ia)/ 194J: “Technical services” & “Managerial and Consultancy service” denotes services that cater to special & exclusive needs of the consumer/user. A "facility", even if termed as a service, which is available to all users, does not come within the ambit of “technical services” in Explanation 2 of s. 9(1)(vii)

The High Court of Bombay (Commissioner of Income-tax vs. Kotak Securities Ltd 340 ITR 333) held that the transaction charges paid by a member of the Bombay Stock Exchange to transact business of sale and purchase of shares amounts to payment of a fee for ‘technical services’ rendered by the Bombay Stock Exchange. Therefore under the provisions of Section 194J of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (for short “the Act”), on such payments TDS was deductible at source. The said deductions not having been made by the appellant – assessee, the entire amount paid to the Bombay Stock Exchange on account of transaction charges was not deducted in computing the income chargeable under the head “profits and gains of business or profession” of the appellant – assessee for the Assessment Year in question i.e. 2005-2006. This is on account of the provisions of Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act. Notwithstanding the above, the Bombay High Court held that in view of the apparent understanding of both the assessee and the Revenue with regard to the liability to deduct TDS on transaction charges paid to the Bombay Stock Exchange right from the year 1995 i.e. coming into effect of Section 194J till the Assessment Year in question, benefit, in the facts of the case, should be granted to the assessee and the disallowance made by the Assessing Officer under Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act must be held to be not correct. The assessee and the department filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. HELD by the Supreme Court reversing the finding of the High Court with regard to the character of the payment being “fees for technical services”:

(i) “Managerial and consultancy services” and, therefore, necessarily “technical services”, would obviously involve services rendered by human efforts. This has been the consistent view taken by the courts including this Court in Bharti Cellular Ltd. (supra). However, it cannot be lost sight of that modern day scientific and technological developments may tend to blur the specific human element in an otherwise fully automated process by which such services may be provided. The search for a more effective basis, therefore, must be made.

(ii) The services made available by the Stock Exchange would go to show that apart from facilities of a faceless screen based transaction, a constant upgradation of the services made available and surveillance of the essential parameters connected with the trade including those of a particular/ single transaction that would lead credence to its authenticity is provided for by the Stock Exchange. All such services, fully automated, are available to all members of the stock exchange in respect of every transaction that is entered into. There is nothing special, exclusive or customised service that is rendered by the Stock Exchange. “Technical services” like “Managerial and Consultancy service” would denote seeking of services to cater to the special needs of the consumer/user as may be felt necessary and the making of the same available by the service provider. It is the above feature that would distinguish/identify a service provided from a facility offered. While the former is special and exclusive to the seeker of the service, the latter, even if termed as a service, is available to all and would therefore stand out in distinction to the former. The service provided by the Stock Exchange for which transaction charges are paid fails to satisfy the aforesaid test of specialized, exclusive and individual requirement of the user or consumer who may approach the service provider for such assistance/service. It is only service of the above kind that, according to us, should come within the ambit of the expression “technical services” appearing in Explanation 2 of Section 9(1)(vii) of the Act. In the absence of the above distinguishing feature, service, though rendered, would be mere in the nature of a facility offered or available which would not be covered by the aforesaid provision of the Act.

(iii) There is yet another aspect of the matter which, in our considered view, would require a specific notice. The service made available by the Bombay Stock Exchange [BSE Online Trading (BOLT) System] for which the charges in question had been paid by the appellant – assessee are common services that every member of the Stock Exchange is necessarily required to avail of to carry out trading in securities in the Stock Exchange. The view taken by the High Court that a member of the Stock Exchange has an option of trading through an alternative mode is not correct. A member who wants to conduct his daily business in the Stock Exchange has no option but to avail of such services. Each and every transaction by a member involves the use of the services provided by the Stock Exchange for which a member is compulsorily required to pay an additional charge (based on the transaction value) over and above the charges for the membership in the Stock Exchange. The above features of the services provided by the Stock Exchange would make the same a kind of a facility provided by the Stock Exchange for transacting business rather than a technical service provided to one or a section of the members of the Stock Exchange to deal with special situations faced by such a member(s) or the special needs of such member(s) in the conduct of business in the Stock Exchange. In other words, there is no exclusivity to the services rendered by the Stock Exchange and each and every member has to necessarily avail of such services in the normal course of trading in securities in the Stock Exchange. Such services, therefore, would undoubtedly be appropriate to be termed as facilities provided by the Stock Exchange on payment and does not amount to “technical services” provided by the Stock Exchange, not being services specifically sought for by the user or the consumer. It is the aforesaid latter feature of a service rendered which is the essential hallmark of the expression “technical services” as appearing in Explanation 2 to Section 9(1)(vii) of the Act.

(iv) For the aforesaid reasons, we hold that the view taken by the Bombay High court that the transaction charges paid to the Bombay Stock Exchange by its members are for ‘technical services’ rendered is not an appropriate view. Such charges, really, are in the nature of payments made for facilities provided by the Stock Exchange. No TDS on such payments would, therefore, be deductible under Section 194J of the Act.

(v) In view of above conclusions, it will not be necessary for us to examine the correctness of the view taken by the Bombay High Court with regard to the issue of the disallowance under Section 40(a)(ia) of the Act. All the appeals, therefore, shall stand disposed in the light of our views and observations as indicated above.

4 comments on “CIT vs. Kotak Securities Ltd (Supreme Court)
  1. Common services cannot certainly qualify as technical services, though the technique of internet is generally available is common in nature is the correct view of the bench.

  2. there is a limit to revenue to grab taxes; if it !

  3. i wonder how high courts failed to appreciate the depth, if high courts function so hollow public trust on high courts would just dwindle, sorry high court benches.

  4. B D Bhide says:

    If a leading state’s High Court errs & Supreme Court reverses High Court’s judgment then, it shows need for having separate bench at High Court while deciding tax law related issues. This is because, the tax laws are not static & require on regular basis updating knowledge on day to day basis. Just imagine, how other assessees must have suffered during intervening period in pending appellate/ during assessment proceedings because of erroneous decision of B’bay High Court earlier! Income Tax Department must have mercilessly pressed for recovery of tax demand by following ratio of jurisdictional High Court’s decision in Maharashtra State (which may not be incorrect though, fact survives that the High Court failed to recognize the difference between “Technical Service” & “Technology Driven Service”).

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