Friday, March 26, 2010

SC: In favor of Revenue : Interest earned by co-operative credit society ... not eligible for deduction u/s. section 80P

Interest earned by co-operative credit society on surplus funds invested in short-term deposits with banks and in govt. securities not eligible for deduction u/s. section 80P

The words "the whole of the amount of profits and gains of business" in section 80P(2)(a) emphasise that the income in respect of which deduction is sought must constitute the operational income and not the other income which accrues to the Society.

CASE LAW DETAILS
Decided by:, SUPREME COURT OF INDIA, In The case of: The Totgars' Cooperative Sale Society Ltd. v. Income tax officer, Appeal No.:, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1622 OF 2010, Decided on: FEBRUARY 8, 2010

RELEVANT PARAGRAPH

At the outset, an important circumstance needs to be highlighted. In the present case, the interest held not eligible for deduction under Section 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act is not the interest received from the members for providing credit facilities to them. What is sought to be taxed under Section 56 of the Act is the interest income arising on the surplus invested in short-term deposits and securities which surplus was not required for business purposes. Assessee(s) markets the produce of its members whose sale proceeds at times were retained by it. In this case, we are concerned with the tax treatment of such amount. Since the fund created by such retention was not required immediately for business purposes, it was invested in specified securities.

The question, before us, is – whether interest on such deposits/securities , which strictly speaking accrues to the members' account, could be taxed as business income under Section 28 of the Act? In our view, such interest income would come in the category of "Income from other sources", hence, such interest income would be taxable under Section 56 of the Act, as rightly held by the Assessing Officer. In this connection, we may analyze Section 80P of the Act. This section comes in Chapter VI-A, which, in turn, deals with "Deductions in respect of certain Incomes". The Headnote to Section 80P indicates that the said section deals with deductions in respect of income of Cooperative Societies. Section 80P(1), inter alia, states that where the gross total income of a cooperative Society includes any income from one or more specified activities, then such income shall be deducted from the gross total income in computing the total taxable income of the assessee-Society. An income, which is attributable to any of the specified activities in Section 80P(2) of the Act, would be eligible for deduction. The word "income" has been defined under Section 2(24)(i) of the Act to include profits and gains. This sub-section is an inclusive provision. The Parliament has included specifically "business profits" into the definition of the word "income". Therefore, we are required to give a precise meaning to the words "profits and gains of business" mentioned in Section 80P(2) of the Act. In the present case, as stated above, assessee-Society regularly invests funds not immediately required for business purposes. Interest on such investments, therefore, cannot fall within the meaning of the expression "profits and gains of business". Such interest income cannot be said also to be attributable to the activities of the society, namely, carrying on the business of providing credit facilities to its members or marketing of the agricultural produce of its members. When the assessee-Society provides credit facilities to its members, it earns interest income. As stated above, in this case, interest held as ineligible for deduction under Section 80P(2)(a)(i) is not in respect of interest received from members. In this case, we are only concerned with interest which accrues on funds not required immediately by the assessee(s) for its business purposes and which have been only invested in specified securities as "investment" . Further, as stated above, assessee(s) markets the agricultural produce of its members. It retains the sale proceeds in many cases. It is this "retained amount" which was payable to its members, from whom produce was bought, which was invested in short-term deposits/securities . Such an amount, which was retained by the assessee-Society, was a liability and it was shown in the balance-sheet on the liability-side. Therefore, to that extent, such interest income cannot be said to be attributable either to the activity mentioned in Section 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act or in Section 80P(2)(a)(iii) of the Act. Therefore, looking to the facts and circumstances of this case, we are of the view that the Assessing Officer was right in taxing the interest income, indicated above, under Section 56 of the Act. An alternative submission was advanced by the assessee(s) stating that, if interest income in question is held to be covered by Section 56 of the Act, even then, the assessee-Society is entitled to the benefit of Section 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act in respect of such interest income. We find no merit in this submission. Section 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Act cannot be placed at par with Explanation (baa) to Section 80HHC, Section 80HHD(3) and Section 80HHE(5) of the Act. Each of the said sections has to be interpreted in the context of its subject-matter. For example, Section 80HHC of the Act, at the relevant time, dealt with deduction in respect of profits retained for export business. The scope of Section 80HHC is, therefore, different from the scope of Section 80P of the Act, which deals with deduction in respect of income of cooperative Societies. Even Explanation (baa) to Section 80HHC was added to restrict the deduction in respect of profits retained for export business. The words used in Explanation (baa) to Section 80HHC, therefore, cannot be compared with the words used in Section 80P of the Act which grants deduction in respect of "the whole of the amount of profits and gains of business". A number of judgements were cited on behalf of the assessee(s) in support of its contention that the source was irrelevant while construing the provisions of Section 80P of the Act. We find no merit because all the judgements cited were cases relating to Cooperative Banks and assessee-Society is not carrying on Banking business. We are confining this judgement to the facts of the present case. To say that the source of income is not relevant for deciding the applicability of Section 80P of the Act would not be correct because we need to give weightage to the words "the whole of the amount of profits and gains of business" attributable to one of the activities specified in Section 80P(2)(a) of the Act. An important point needs to be mentioned. The words "the whole of the amount of profits and gains of business" emphasise that the income in respect of which deduction is sought must constitute the operational income and not the other income which accrues to the Society. In this particular case, the evidence shows that the assessee- Society earns interest on funds which are not required for business purposes at the given point of time. Therefore, on the facts and circumstances of this case, in our view, such interest income falls in the category of "Other Income" which has been rightly taxed by the Department under Section 56 of the Act.
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