Historically, the Indo-Mauritius tax treaty has exempted capital gains arising to Mauritian investors from sale of shares of Indian companies, from being taxed in India. As a result, many investors used to structure their investments in India through entities incorporated in Mauritius, to claim this treaty benefit. This prompted the Indian tax authorities to renegotiate its tax treaty with Mauritius (and other countries), to, inter alia, acquire the right to tax capital gains arising from sale of shares of Indian companies and to introduce a limitation of benefits (“LOB”) clause, which excluded any shell/conduit company to claim certain benefits under the Indo-Mauritius tax treaty.
Even prior to such amendments, courts have denied the capital gain exemption under the Indo-Mauritius tax treaty to entities that were mere shell companies incorporated in Mauritius for the sole purpose of treaty shopping. Recently, a similar question arose before the Mumbai Income-tax Appellate Authority (“ITAT”) in Blackstone FP, where investments in Indian shares had been made prior to the amendment of the Indo-Mauritius tax treaty.