Beneficial ownership requirement not in-built in Capital Gains Article

Background

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[1]. Recently, a similar question arose before the Mumbai Income-tax Appellate Authority (“ITAT”) in Blackstone FP,[2] where investments in Indian shares had been made prior to the amendment of the Indo-Mauritius tax treaty.

Continue Reading Beneficial ownership requirement not in-built in Capital Gains Article

Determining Tax Implications on Hiring Foreign Employees from Related Foreign Entities

Multinational companies (“MNCs”), with a view to utilise available skill within the MNC group, often depute employees from a foreign entity to another entity of the same group. During the period of deputation, such employees often retain their employment with the original parent entity, typically to enjoy continued social security benefits. Employees under such arrangements (“Secondment Agreements”) are referred to as, inter alia, ‘seconded employees.’

Continue Reading Your Employee or Mine? – Determining Tax Implications on Hiring Foreign Employees from Related Foreign Entities

IT Act

Background

The Income Tax Act, 1961 (“IT Act”) confers various powers on the Income Tax Department (“ITD”) to curb the menace of laundering of unaccounted money. One such power-bestowing provision is Section 68 of the IT Act, which is often resorted to by the ITD when large amounts of unaccounted funds are invested in companies at a significant premium. This provision puts the onus on the taxpayer, i.e., the investee company, to satisfactorily explain the source of those funds and produce details to evidence the identity, genuineness and creditworthiness of the shareholders as well as the source of the shareholders’ fund.

Continue Reading Is regulatory compliance sufficient to discharge onus u/s 68 of the IT Act?

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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Tax motivated transaction IPSO Facto may not be regarded as Sham

In today’s economy, a business entity cannot undermine the impact of taxation on its growth and development trajectory, which is why tax planning is considered to be the most pivotal part of financial planning. While the line between tax planning and tax evasion is very thin, the Supreme Court, on various occasions, has differentiated between the two concepts and has repeatedly held that minimisation of tax liability through legitimate tax planning is not illegal.[1]

Continue Reading Tax motivated transaction ipso facto may not be regarded as sham

In its recent ruling[1], the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Bench at Delhi (ITAT) has reiterated the well-established principles, including (i) validity of Trusts; (iii) use of Trusts to hold treasury shares[2]; and (iii) the taxation of its income as a representative of the beneficiary/beneficiaries under the provisions of sections 160-166 of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act). The ITAT further upheld the principle that trustees are to be assessed as ‘representative assessee’ in the same and like manner as beneficiaries and therefore, creation of a Trust is not a tax evasion device as the Trust will have the same tax liability and exemptions accruing to the beneficiary.

Continue Reading Trust is Trustworthy, not a Device to Evade Tax: ITAT Delhi

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.


Continue Reading Delhi ITAT clarifies the issues around claim of depreciation of assets and carry forward of expenditure by trusts

Taxpayer’s Choice for Valuation of Shares at Premium Upheld

The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in the case of M/s. Rameshwaram Strong Glass (P) Ltd. v The Income Tax Officer[1] has upheld the right of the company issuing shares to choose the valuation methodology under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) read with the rules framed thereunder (Tax Law) for the purposes of determining the ‘fair market value’ (FMV) of such shares at premium.
Continue Reading Taxpayer’s Choice for Valuation of Shares at Premium Upheld

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

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