Multinational enterprises often outsource back-office support operations to their captive subsidiaries in India. Additionally, foreign parent companies second their employees to provide guidance to the Indian subsidiary in the provision of back-office functions. A contentious question has for some time arisen, however. Should such arrangements constitute a fixed place Permanent Establishment (PE), a service PE or a Dependant Agent PE (DAPE) for the foreign company in India?
In the 2007 case of Morgan Stanley[i], the Supreme Court (SC), while dealing with the issue of PE, held that back office functions performed by the Indian subsidiary were preparatory and auxiliary in nature and, therefore, did not constitute a fixed place PE. The SC also held that if the foreign company had deputed its employees to the Indian company to render stewardship services, then no service PE would be constituted in India.
In contrast, however, in the case of Centrica Offshore[ii] in 2014, the Delhi High Court (Del HC), held that if the terms of employment of the employees seconded to India continued to be controlled by the foreign company, it would be regarded as having constituted a service PE in India.
In the ensuing paragraphs, we discuss the recent decision of the SC in the instant case of e-Funds Corporation and its implications for resolving this long-standing issue.