The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Delhi (ITAT) recently delivered a very significant decision in the case of Nokia Networks O.Y (Assessee)[1] on the issue of its permanent establishment (PE) in India and attribution of income to the PE. The majority of members of the ITAT ruled in favour of the Assessee holding that its Indian subsidiary would not constitute a PE in India, especially in absence of a Service PE clause in the erstwhile India-Finland Tax Treaty (Treaty).

Facts

The Assessee is a resident of Finland and sold GSM equipment manufactured by it to Indian telecom operators, on a principal-to-principal basis. It’s Indian subsidiary, Nokia India Private Limited (NIPL) was either assigned the installation contracts by the Assessee or entered into independent contracts with the customers for installation. NIPL also entered into technical support agreements with customers. NIPL’s income from these activities was taxed in India.

The Assessing Officer (AO) was of the view that NIPL constituted a PE of the Assessee and attributed an additional 30 percent of the profit from the equipment to NIPL. The AO also concluded that 30% of the equipment price pertained to supply of software and sought to tax it as royalty in the hands of the Assessee. On appeal, the ITAT held that NIPL being a virtual projection would form a PE, and attributed to NIPL 20 percent of the Assessee’s profits from the sale of equipment to Indian customers.

Continue Reading Subsidiary is Not a Permanent Establishment but Beware the ‘Virtual Projection’ Risk

The industry has been grappling with uncertainty around anti-profiteering provisions since its introduction. While the Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation and rules were available in the public domain long before the effective date of July 01, 2017, the rules relating to anti-profiteering were made public only on June 28, 2017.

To everyone’s disappointment these rules failed to bring transparency and clarity to the implementation of anti-profiteering provisions; they merely chalked out the administrative hierarchy and framework of the authorities dealing with anti-profiteering complaints.

Subsequently, the Finance Ministry has made various statements promising clear guidelines on the manner of computation of commensurate benefit to be passed on to customers. However, till date nothing has been notified on this front.
Continue Reading Anti-Profiteering Orders – A Right Step Forward?

The Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) contains several special beneficial provisions that allow for deductions in order to promote certain activities. One such provision is Section 10A of the IT Act, which seeks to promote and boost new business undertakings situated in free trade zones by providing suitable deductions. It provides for a 100 percent deduction of profits and gains derived by undertakings engaged in export of articles or computer software. The deduction is available for ten assessment years from the year in which the entity commences operations. These profits are to be determined based on the ratio of export turnover to the total turnover of the undertaking.

Over the years, there have been several disputes over the manner in which this ratio is to be determined. This is largely because while the term ‘export turnover’ has been defined under Section 10A of the IT Act, “total turnover” has not. In other words, there is no explicit provision that allows the taxpayer to exclude amounts from total turnover in case such amounts have already been excluded from export turnover.

In the recent case of CIT v HCL Technologies Limited[1], the Supreme Court of India dealt with this issue and provided much needed clarity on the subject.

Continue Reading Expenses Excluded from Export Turnover, also to be Excluded from Total Turnover

Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs) are recognised globally as one of the most popular instruments of stock-based compensation. SARs are alternatives adopted for implementing equity-based compensation plans like an employee stock option or employee stock purchase. SARs can be structured as either ‘equity settled’ or ‘cash settled’. As a concept, SARs contemplate passing on of appreciation in the value of a certain number of equity shares to employees.

The Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) did not have any specific provision to tax such income; specific provisions were introduced in 1999 to provide for taxation of benefits provided by an employer to its employees under share benefit rewards. From 1999 onwards, Section 17(2) of the IT Act specifies the payments that come within the ambit of ‘salary’ and ‘perquisites’, and covers benefits available to employees therefrom.

For the period prior to 1999, the issue of taxability of amounts received from various employee benefit programmes, including amounts received from the redemption of SARs, was always under dispute. The special bench of the Mumbai Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in the case of Sumit Bhattacharya[1] held that the amount received on redemption of SARs should be taxable as salary because it was an employment related benefit, in the nature of deferred wages, bonuses or incentives received as a fruit of employment. However, the issue remained inconclusive and litigious. The Supreme Court (SC) appears to have settled this issue in the case of Bharat V. Patel[2], wherein it has been held that the amount received on account of SARs redemption prior to amendment to section 17(2) would not be taxed as salaries.

Continue Reading SC Holds that Income from SARs is Taxed as Capital Gains Only

Taxation of international digital transactions has been a perplexing issue. As per the international tax rules, where an enterprise is a resident in one state with income originating in another state (source country), international tax rules provide that the source country will have the taxing rights over such income only if it is established that the enterprise has a permanent establishment (PE) in the source country. Thus, for the source country to be able to tax profits arising from the digital economy, some physical presence of the non-resident enterprise is required in the source state.

However, today a non-resident can carry out a large amount of internet transactions in the source state without having any significant physical presence there. A website can be launched from anywhere and made available to users anywhere in the world. There is no central point, or physical location, for such a transaction and thus, it may not fall within any country’s jurisdiction for taxation purposes.

This opens up two possibilities: double taxation or non-taxation. The concerned people could be even further creative, and actually set up an online business at a place where none of the founders / promoters are present, thereby making it even more difficult to tax them.

Continue Reading Taxing the Digital Economy: The Rule of ‘Significant Economic Presence’

This is the fourth post in the our new blog series on the Budget 2018. Following our earlier posts (here, herehere and here) on the impact of the Budget on the Direct, Indirect Tax regimes and the Healthcare sector, this piece focuses on the amendments to the advance ruling system under the Customs Act. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


The Finance Act, 2017 consolidated the Authority for Advance Rulings (AAR) for customs law and direct taxes, to promote the ease of doing business in India. In continuation to that, as well as the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), the Union Budget 2018 (Budget) proposes various amendments to the Customs Act, 1962 (Customs Act). Such amendments not only include enhancement in the scope of the advance ruling system in India, but also entail revamping of its procedural aspects.

Scope of AAR

The regulatory environment is proposed to be made more conducive by enlarging the ambit of the eligible persons entitled to make an application for advance ruling. Presently, only a joint venture in India, a non-resident person setting up a joint venture in collaboration with a non-resident/ resident, a wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign company, or certain other notified persons (i.e. PSU’s, resident companies and firms, residents importing from Singapore) can apply for an advance ruling.

The amendments proposed in the Budget would allow any person holding a valid Importer-Exporter Code, exporting any goods to India, or having a justifiable cause to the satisfaction of the AAR, to make an application for advance ruling. The said proposal grants wide discretionary powers to the proposed AAR to be constituted under the Customs Act (Customs AAR) to entertain any applicant having a justifiable cause to its satisfaction. This potentially extends the said facility to all persons, including foreign individuals, looking to independently set up business in India or export to India. Additionally, in line with the intent of ensuring the ease of doing of business in India, the proposals include amendments to allow foreign persons intending to export goods to India to be represented by an authorised Indian resident for advance ruling purposes. Interestingly, it is also proposed that the ambit of Customs law be expanded to include persons out of India. This would facilitate the effective regulation of import-export transactions undertaken by foreign suppliers.

Continue Reading Authority for Advance Rulings under Customs Law: A Metamorphosis

This is the third post in the our new blog series on the Budget 2018. Following our earlier posts (here, here and here) on the impact of the Budget on the Direct and Indirect Tax regimes, this piece focuses on the initiatives proposed under this Budget in the Healthcare sector. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


A healthcare focused Budget. Universal healthcare on the anvil.

“India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy”…. Mr. Arun Jaitley, Hon’ble Finance Minister of India in his budget speech of February 1, 2018.

One of the key constituents of the Union Budget for the year 2018-2019 is healthcare. With the Budget envisaging a boost to the healthcare insurance, service provider and pharmaceutical sector, share prices of some key pharmaceutical companies showed a spike during the speech.

The Hon’ble Finance Minister announced two new initiatives under the “Ayushman Bharat Programme“:

Continue Reading First Impressions of the Budget 2018 – Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences

This is the second post in the our new blog series on the Budget 2018. Following our two-part post (here and here) on the impact of the Budget on the Direct Tax regime, this piece focuses on the amendments proposed under this Budget in the Indirect Tax space. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


With the Indian economy recovering from a transitional slump post the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of July 01, 2017, the Union Budget 2018 (Budget), tabled in the Lok Sabha on February 01, 2018, reinforces the commitment of Central Government to its “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives.

Though the Budget does not propose any significant changes in GST legislation, it recommends changes on the customs front, with a clear intent to vitalise the domestic manufacturing sector, while maintaining investor interest. The key amendments proposed to customs law are detailed below:

  • Customs

Tariff – For the first time in over a decade and a half, the government has increased customs duty rates ostensibly with a view to boost domestic manufacturing in terms of the “Make in India” initiative. The sectors impacted are electronics, automobile, medical devices, packaged food, cosmetics, textile, etc. The duty hike on mobile phones, smart watches, perfumes, fruit juices, television parts such as printed circuit boards and cabinets, cosmetics, silk fabrics, etc. is expected to create a push for suppliers to manufacture or source components in these sectors, locally.

Continue Reading First Impressions of the Budget 2018 – Indirect Tax

Published here is Part II, the concluding section, of our blog piece on the key amendments proposed under Budget 2018 to the Income Tax Act. You can view Part I here. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


  • Amendments in Relation to Income Computation Disclosure Standards (ICDS): Recently, the Delhi High Court had held that some provisions of the ICDS are unconstitutional for want of legislative backing and their variance from applicable judicial precedents. In order to provide a requisite legislative framework for ICDS, the Budget now proposes to make various amendments in the provisions of the IT Act, pertaining to the deduction of marked to market losses computed in accordance with ICDS, for treating the gains or losses, computed in accordance with ICDS, as income or loss and to provide for a method of valuations in cases of inventory, goods, services and securities, etc.
  • Facilitating Measures for Companies under Insolvency Proceedings:
    • Relief from MAT: The Budget proposes to provide MAT relief for companies whose application for a corporate insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) has been admitted by the Adjudicating Authority. Accordingly, the aggregate amount of unabsorbed depreciation and loss brought forward shall be allowed to be reduced from the book profit to determine MAT.
    • Benefit of carry forward and set off of losses: The provisions of section 79 of the IT Act relating to carry forward and set off losses would not apply to companies whose resolution plan has been approved under the IBC.

Continue Reading First Impressions of the Budget 2018: Income Tax Act – Part II

This is the first post in the our new blog series on the Budget 2018. This is a two-part piece on the amendments proposed under this Budget to the Income Tax Act; published here is Part I. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


On 1st February, 2018, the Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley presented the last full-year Union Budget before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It was delivered against a backdrop of economic slowdown caused by demonetisation in November, 2016 and the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislations. The Budget focuses on strengthening agriculture and the rural economy, providing social security benefits and infrastructure creation.

The Finance Minister stated that the Indian economy is reviving and predicted that its Gross Domestic Product will rise to 7-7.5% in 2018-19, and that India is expected to become one of the world’s fastest and largest economies.

In the paragraphs below, we present a snapshot of some of the proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) presented in this Budget:

Continue Reading First Impressions of the Budget 2018: Income Tax Act – Part I