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

Taxation of international digital transactions has been a perplexing issue. As per the international tax rules, where an enterprise is a resident in one state with income originating in another state (source country), international tax rules provide that the source country will have the taxing rights over such income only if it is established that the enterprise has a permanent establishment (PE) in the source country. Thus, for the source country to be able to tax profits arising from the digital economy, some physical presence of the non-resident enterprise is required in the source state.

However, today a non-resident can carry out a large amount of internet transactions in the source state without having any significant physical presence there. A website can be launched from anywhere and made available to users anywhere in the world. There is no central point, or physical location, for such a transaction and thus, it may not fall within any country’s jurisdiction for taxation purposes.

This opens up two possibilities: double taxation or non-taxation. The concerned people could be even further creative, and actually set up an online business at a place where none of the founders / promoters are present, thereby making it even more difficult to tax them.

Continue Reading Taxing the Digital Economy: The Rule of ‘Significant Economic Presence’