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CBDT exempts GIFT City aircraft leasing cos from withholding on dividend distributed inter se  , but is it enough?

Despite India being the third[1] largest domestic aviation market in the world, a majority of the aircrafts in the country (more than 70% approximately) are procured through lease arrangements, with most of them being provided by overseas lessors. Airline companies do not have the financial wherewithal to purchase aircrafts and hence, are forced to take them on lease. However, since the aircraft financing industry is at a nascent stage in India and considering the risks involved, new players are unwilling to enter the business. While leasing aircrafts helps to manage the liquidity position of aircraft operating companies, it comes at a heavy cost and significant financial risks for aircraft operating companies and creates huge trade imbalance for the country.

Continue Reading CBDT exempts GIFT City aircraft leasing cos from withholding on dividend distributed inter se, but is it enough?
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Share subscription above fair market value would be subject to angel tax

The Bombay High Court has recently allowed a writ, challenging a reassessment notice served on the Assessee (by the income tax department) for FY11-12 on share premium issued by it. The assessing officer, however, failed to come up with any reasonable grounds that led him to believe that income had escaped assessment during the relevant FY. 

Section 56(2)(viib) was introduced into the (Indian) Income Tax Act, 1961 (“IT Act”) as an anti-abuse provision with effect from FY12-13, according to which, if a company issues shares at a value higher than its fair market value, then it will have to pay tax (angel tax) on such incremental value. Rule 11UA of the (Indian) Income Tax Rules, 1962 (“IT Rules”) provides mechanism for computing fair market value.

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Salary reimbursement of seconded employees not taxable in the hands of foreign company

The Hon’ble Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (“ITAT”), Delhi has recently held that salary reimbursement of seconded employees paid to the original employer without any profit element is not taxable as fee for technical services.

This case[1] pertains to Ernst and Young LLP, USA (“EY USA”), which is set up in the US. It had sent its employees on secondment (“Seconded Personnel”) to work with various EY member firms in India (“EY India”). During the assessment proceedings, the tax officer held that the cost-to-cost reimbursement of salary of Seconded Personnel is taxable as fee for technical services (“FTS”) as per Article 12 of the India-US Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (“DTAA”) in the hands of EY USA.

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GST

English language and technical proficiency, coupled with the highly skilled workforce that India has to offer, has made the country a darling of most multinational companies (MNCs). For a while now, these MNCs have been outsourcing their routine as well as technical and complex business processes to their subsidiaries or third-party service providers in low-cost and efficient jurisdictions, including India. Indian entities, in turn, offer their expertise in customer care, follow ups for regular payables like credit card, life and healthcare insurance premiums, routine troubleshooting services, assisting internal departments like finance, accounting, human resources departments, etc., as well as supporting various complicated and complex issues like sophisticated high-end research and technology services, analytical and computational support services, etc. The Government has taken several steps to encourage the service sector and has come up with many benefits and incentives. However, there appears to be a new set of challenges that this sector must deal with, arising in the context of Goods and Service Tax (“GST”).

Continue Reading Refund of Unutilised ITC cannot be Denied to Supplier of Subcontracted Services

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Karnataka High Court’s decision on GST levy provides a comfort to highway projects

The concessionaire or contractors/ sub-contractors of the national/ state highways face a possible levy of Goods and Services Tax (“GST”) on their supplies. However, GST is exempted for services when toll is paid to access the roads or bridges.[1] The exemption is also applicable on payment of annuity for access to roads.[2] A contract in relation to highways may deal with several aspects such as construction of a highway, shops, operation of highways, maintenance of highways, collection of toll or separate charges like overhead charges, etc. Further, with different models of highway projects, it becomes essential to analyse the nature of supply, party rendering such supply to determine if any exemption or concessional rate is available.

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Gift of ‘Brand’ to family trust not taxable

Family trusts have become a widely popular tool for not only succession and estate planning, but also for managing assets and investments. If deployed wisely, these trusts can prove to be an effective and tax efficient structuring instrument. However, despite the advantages offered by these family trusts, contributing or settling existing assets into such trusts may pose some challenges, especially on account of certain tax provisions. One such challenge is posed by the provisions of Section 56(2)(x) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1961 (“IT Act”), which seeks to tax a notional income, where certain assets (such as land, securities, work of art, etc.) are transferred or settled/ contributed into a trust for no consideration or for a consideration less than the fair market value of such assets. (exempts transfer or contribution to a trust settled by an individual for the sole benefit of his/ her relatives). Recently, a similar issue came before the Mumbai ITAT, in the case of Balaji Trust[1], where the tax authorities sought to tax the gift of ‘Essar’ brand to a family trust.

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Faceless appeals, CBDT extends faceless assessments to the second level

Conception of new faceless regime

The government had introduced the faceless assessment regime from 2018, thereby eliminating the physical interface between the Assessing Officer (“AO”) and the assessee. Suitable amendments were made in the Income Tax Act, 1961 (“IT Act”), authorising the government to notify a suitable scheme for this purpose, which led to the setting up of a Centralised  Communication  Centre i.e. an internet-based, independent, centralised communication centre for issuance of e-notices to taxpayers, thus doing away with the need for the traditional face to face appearance by an assessee before the designated income tax authority. These preliminary steps finally culminated in the launch of the Faceless Assessment Scheme, 2019.

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Faceless assessment Is this the right cure

The government has over the years strived to modernize the taxation system in our country to remove the discretions and unnecessary harassments experienced by the taxpayers. It has continuously integrated new technologies with the various tax compliances and other proceedings under the IT Act. With continuous planning and efforts, the Indian Revenue Authorities (“IRA”) have enabled electronic filing of several applications and returns under the Income Tax Act, 1961 (“IT Act”) and have even intimated their approvals or objections directly through the e-filing portal.

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International Financial Services Centre

Inauguration of India’s first International Financial Services Centre (“IFSC”) at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (“Gift City”) in Gujarat is a positive development to invigorate our financial sector. If everything that is being attempted to achieve is accomplished, it will mark our entry on the global stage. When IFSC was being set up, our then Finance Minister, Late Mr. Arun Jaitley, had envisioned an IFSC at par with other global financial hubs like London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, etc. An IFSC encourages all major global players to operate in such facility, which in turn would facilitate a two way flow of finance, financial products, financial services, etc.. It would also attract the best talent pool because of access to multiple career opportunities as well as ability to work with the market leaders and world class products. For India, despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, having one of the best talent pools that has created a name for itself in the global scene, having a significantly young population and emerging as one of the most sought after jurisdictions for start-ups, to not have an IFSC of its own and to not offer financial services to businesses across the world, would have been a great travesty.

Continue Reading International Financial Services Centre, an idea whose time has come – Part I: Banking Sector

Taxing Times Ahead for Slump Sale Transactions

Slump sale transactions are a preferred method of transferring a business as a going concern. They are often used for internal restructuring purposes and for sale of a whole or part of a business undertaking to a third party. Several global transactions also comprise of a slump sale element to execute the transfer of the Indian business to the buyer’s affiliate in India. In a slump sale, a business undertaking is transferred by one party to another as a going concern for a lumpsum consideration, without attributing specific values to assets and liabilities. Continue Reading Taxing Times Ahead for Slump Sale Transactions