OECD’s-views-on-factors-impacting-tax-policies-and-determination-of-‘PE’-and-‘POEM’-in-times-of-COVID-19

In our previous blog, we discussed some measures which were suggested by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) to ease the cash flow crunch being faced by taxpayers due to the COVID-19 situation. In continuation with the same, this blog will focus on the key issues highlighted by the OECD, which should be considered by nations while granting these benefits.

In addition to the above, restriction on movement of people due to lockdowns imposed in various countries is also likely to give rise to other issues. The OECD has analysed tax treaty provisions to determine the potential impact of such restrictions on exposure to permanent establishments (“PE”) and the ‘place of effective management’ (“POEM”) of companies. This analysis is also discussed in this blog.
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Indian Tax measures to counter COVID-19 impact - How do they compare with OECD’s suggestions

At a time when economic activities have come to a standstill on account of the lockdown imposed by the government to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, some leeway in tax laws will provide much needed relief to taxpayers. Many countries, including India, have announced various economic relief measures, ranging from financial aid and provision of free/ subsidised food and water to debt repayment deferrals. The idea essentially is to help people cope with the substantial reduction in their cash flows to meet their daily and business needs, especially for businesses with permanent employees whose rights may be protected legally, meeting their working capital requirements for maintaining the supply-chain, transporting goods, meeting their other contractual commitments, including those related to debt and so on. Businessmen have no control over tax payouts since the amount or percentage to be paid is fixed by the government, unless governments provide tax relief to ease cash flows.

In this context, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) has sprung into action to make a compilation of: (i) measures contemplated by tax administrations; (ii) constraints pertaining to those measures; (iii) recommendations to deal with the impact under tax treaties due to travel restrictions and ensuing possible tax exposures, which arise unintentionally and temporarily; and (iv) some recommendations on ‘good to have’ practices by businesses for their business continuity. The stated purpose of the compilation and these guidelines is to assist tax administrations and businesses in formulating their own possible measures. The compilations and guidelines are not recommendations with regard to any particular measures and they recognise that circumstances and considerations will vary for every country.
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Provisions for taxing dividend income, receive yet another upgrade

The Finance Bill, 2020 (the “Bill”) was recently passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower house of the Parliament) on March 23, 2020, with more than 50 amendments to the Bill. The Bill has now received the presidential assent and has become an Act (“Finance Act”).  The new provisions proposed by the Bill, for taxing dividends have also been amended to expand the scope of certain benefits and to provide more clarity surrounding the applicability of these provisions. Through this blog, we would like to discuss changes pertaining to taxation of dividends.

Deduction for dividends received from foreign companies and business trust

As per the erstwhile section 115-O of the Income-tax Act,1961 (“IT Act”), distribution of dividends by a domestic company was subject to an additional income tax, called Dividend Distribution Tax (“DDT”), in the hands of the company at an effective rate of 20.56% (inclusive of the applicable surcharge and cess). Such tax was treated as the final tax on dividends and the dividends were generally exempt from any further incidence of tax in the hands of the investors. Further, in order to reduce the cascading effect of DDT, domestic companies while computing the amount of dividends on which DDT is paid were allowed a deduction for dividends received from its subsidiary (i.e. where the company holds more than 50% of the shareholding of the subsidiary), provided DDT was paid by the subsidiary during the same financial year. Similar deduction was also available on account of dividends received from a foreign company on which tax was payable by the domestic company under section 115BBD of the IT Act, provided the domestic company held at least 26% equity shareholding in the foreign company.
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Dividend Distribution Tax Abolishment - Here’s Something Lost in Translation

The government has said taxes on income received from dividends will now have to be paid by the shareholders instead of the dividend distributing company. The Finance Bill 2020 presented alongside the Union Budget on February 1, 2020 abolished the imposition of Dividend Distribution Tax (“DDT”) w.e.f. FY 2020-21. Over two decades ago, the Finance Act 1997 under Income Tax Act, 1961(“IT Act”), introduced DDT wherein the taxes on dividend were directed to a single point i.e. to be paid by the dividend distributing company and the incidence of tax shifted from the recipient to the payer. Doing away with this practice, the government has once again reverted to the pre DDT days. Present rate of DDT is @15% on gross basis plus surcharge and cess, resulting in net tax rate of 20.56%.
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claim of depreciation of assets and carry forward of expenditure by trusts

In a very recent judgment of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Delhi (ITAT) in DCIT(E) v. Smt. Angoori Devi Educational & Cultural Society (Angoori Devi),[1] two very important questions in relation to the taxation of trusts were discussed:

  1. Whether depreciation can be allowed on assets that were acquired out of contributions received, which were exempt from tax since the said expense was allowed as application of income in the past years under Section 11 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act);
  2. Whether excess expenditure incurred by a trust in an earlier assessment year could be allowed to be set off against the income of the subsequent year, and in the event of delay in filing the return, whether such a carry forward can be disallowed under section 80 of the IT Act.


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Revenue Recognition Policy of Telecom Companies Attains Finality

The Indian telecommunications sector has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years due to the significant increase in the subscriber base, with an increasing percentage of them looking for pre-paid connections. The sector now reaches out to every nook and corner of the country. What is even more praiseworthy is the fact that this has been achieved at very low cost and consumers have also prospered from availing such services at one of the lowest charge-out rates.

The above was possible because Indian telecommunication players were able to come up with extremely innovative invoicing options and accordingly also adopted very different revenue recognition mechanisms. As most of the growth was seen in the pre-paid section, the revenue recognition methodology adopted by the industry was also subject to a vigorous amount of scrutiny by the tax authorities and there has been a significant amount of litigation on account of the same. The controversy primarily arose because the contracts entered into by the telecom companies with prepaid customers were large in numbers and got modified frequently.
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ITAT on the Taxability of Transfer of Know-how Under Development

Research and development (R&D) in all fields is a costly affair, but more so in bio-technology, where molecules are first evolved, developed and then subjected to arduous and expensive clinical trials. Till such time that the molecule reaches the final stage, it is simply work-in-progress (WIP), even though the idea and formulation are valuable.

Further development of the WIP is even more expensive and needs an even larger source of funding. To brave cash crunches and the inherent risk of uncertainty in R&D, a common and relevant modus operandi for many WIP technologies is to transfer such WIP into another group company or a joint venture company. Such transfer is intended to facilitate further fine-tuning of the WIP until eligible for commercial exploitation, through licensing, manufacturing, production or processing.
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 Are the Assets or monies distributed to retiring partners taxable

Disputes involving whether capital gains taxes are leviable on sums/assets paid to retiring partners has been a subject matter of litigation for several decades now. In order to bring clarity, the legislature introduced a new provision (i.e. section 45(4)) into the Income tax Act, 1961 (IT Act), which provided that capital gains tax should be levied in the hands of the partnership firm at the time of distribution of assets. This seems, however, to have further complicated the situation.

Bangalore Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in the case of Savitri Kudur[1] and the Madras High Court (HC) in the case of National Company[2] have delivered noteworthy decisions recently. The Bangalore ITAT held that the cash consideration paid to the retiring partner on the basis of the amount lying in his/her capital account would not be subject to capital gains tax under the IT Act by relying on the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) in the case of Mohanbhai Pamabhai[3]. The Madras HC, on the other hand, held that even the allotment of immovable properties to the retiring partners would not be subject to capital gains tax by relying on the same SC decision in the case of the Mohanbhai Pamabhai (supra).
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dual residence tax for Non Residential Indians NRIs

The concept of dual residence crucially affects taxation of non-resident Indians and individuals who travel frequently between India and other countries. India follows a residence-based taxation system for residents, i.e., an Indian resident is taxed on his global income. A non-resident is taxed on income which is sourced or accrued or received in India.

However, the confusion arises when an individual leaves the country and starts residing in another country under the laws of which he also becomes a resident in that other country in that year. Thus, the individual may become a ‘dual resident’ for tax purposes. Taxation of dual residents is resolved either under local laws or when there is a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) executed between the two jurisdictions of which they are residents, through application of the tie breaker clause in the DTAA.
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cbdt direct tax

In the Chamber of Tax consultants & ors v. CBDT and Union of India)[1], the Hon’ble Bombay High Court (HC) set aside a portion of the Central Board of Direct Taxes’ (CBDT) action plan that sought to incentivise commissioners of income tax (Appeals) (CIT(A)) whose orders have led to enhanced tax demand from the tax payers. The HC noted that the proviso to the section 119 of the Income tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) specifically prohibits it from issuing any such directions to make a specific assessment or dispose a case in a particular manner.

Facts

Sometime back, the CBDT issued a Central Action Plan for the financial year 2018-19 (CAP) inter alia for the purposes of setting out targets for tax collection, fixing timelines for disposal of cases by income tax authorities and for awarding certain reward points for such disposals. However, since the said CAP proposed to incentivise CIT(A)s who were passing orders favouring the Government, it raised a huge issue and there were widespread protests against such a move.
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