Saturday, January 3, 2015

Income tax - Whether benefits of Sec 80IA(4) are available only to a company and


Income tax - Whether benefits of Sec 80IA(4) are available only to a company and not to persons like HUF, firm and Individual - YES, rules ITAT

HYDERABAD, APR 02, 2012: THE issues before the Bench are - Whether benefits of Sec 80IA(4) are available only to a company and not to persons like HUF, firm and Individual and Whether when the assessee deploys its own fund and develops the infrastructure facility before handing over the same to the Govt, the assessee is to be treated as mere contractor and cannot be allowed Sec 80IA(4) benefits. And the verdict goes in favour of the assessee.

Facts of the case

Assessee Company claimed deduction under section 80IA of the Act as the profit and gains were from industrial undertaking engaged in infrastructure development. The same was denied by the lower authorities on the reason that the assessee had not developed any new infrastructure facility as required under section 80IA(4)(i)(b) of the Income-tax Act. According to the Revenue, the assessee had only taken up the renovation and modernisation of the existing net work/infrastructure facilities. It was also observed that as per the agreement, the assessee entered for building or constructing the whole or part of the project for which the entire investments were made by the Government and the assessee was paid `on running bill to bill' basis. Hence, there was no stipulation in any of the contracts that the facility built would be transferred or handed over back to the owner/employer. Being so, such contracts were not eligible for deduction under section 80IA of the Act.

On appeal, the ITAT held that,

++ the word "owned" in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of sub section (4) of Section 80IA of the Act refer to the enterprise. By reading of the section, it is clear that the enterprises carrying on development of infrastructure development should be owned by the company and not that the infrastructure facility should be owned by a company. The provisions are made applicable to the person to whom such enterprise belongs to is explained in sub-clause (a). Therefore, the word "ownership" is attributable only to the enterprise carrying on the business which would mean that only companies are eligible for deduction under section 80IA (4) and not any other person like individual, HUF, Firm etc;

++ we also find that according to sub-clause (a), clause (i) of sub section (4) of Section 80-IA the word "it" denotes the enterprise carrying on the business. The word "it" cannot be related to the infrastructure facility, particularly in view of the fact that infrastructure facility includes Rail system, Highway project, Water treatment system, Irrigation project, a Port, an Airport or an Inland port which cannot be owned by any one. Even otherwise, the word "it" is used to denote an enterprise. Therefore, there is no requirement that the assessee should have been the owner of the infrastructure facility;

++ we find that the Government handed over the possession of the premises of projects to the assessee for the development of infrastructure facility. It is the assessee's responsibility to do all acts till the possession of property is handed over to the Government. The first phase is to take over the existing premises of the projects and thereafter developing the same into infrastructure facility. Secondly, the assessee shall facilitate the people to use the available existing facility even while the process of development is in progress. Any loss to the public caused in the process would be the responsibility of the assessee. The assessee has to develop the infrastructure facility. In the process, all the works are to be executed by the assessee. It may be laying of a drainage system; may be construction of a project; provision of way for the cattle and bullock carts in the village; provision for traffic without any hindrance, the assessee's duty is to develop infrastructure whether it involves construction of a particular item as agreed to in the agreement or not. The agreement is not for a specific work, it is for development of facility as a whole. The assessee is not entrusted with any specific work to be done by the assessee. The material required is to be brought in by the assessee by sticking to the quality and quantity irrespective of the cost of such material. The Government does not provide any material to the assessee. It provides the works in packages and not as a works contract;

++ the assessee utilizes its funds, its expertise, its employees and takes the responsibility of developing the infrastructure facility. The losses suffered either by the Govt. or the people in the process of such development would be that of the assessee. The assessee hands over the developed infrastructure facility to the Government on completion of the development. Thereafter, the assessee has to undertake maintenance of the said infrastructure for a period of 12 to 24 months. During this period, if any damages are occurred it shall be the responsibility of the assessee. Further, during this period, the entire infrastructure shall have to be maintained by the assessee alone without hindrance to the regular traffic. Therefore, it is clear that from an un-developed area, infrastructure is developed and handed over to the Government and as explained by the CBDT vide its Circular dated 18-05-2010, such activity is eligible for deduction under section 80IA (4) of the Act. This cannot be considered as a mere works contract but has to be considered as a development of infrastructure facility. Therefore, the assessee is a developer and not a works contractor as presumed by the Revenue. The circular issued by the Board, relied on by learned counsel for the assessee, clearly indicate that the assessee is eligible for deduction under section 80IA (4) of the Act. The department is not correct in holding that the assessee is a mere contractor of the work and not a developer;

++ we find that the decision relied on by the learned counsel for the assessee in the case of CIT vs. Laxmi civil Engineering works [supra] squarely applicable to the issue under dispute which is in favour of the assessee wherein it was held that mere development of a infrastructure facility is an eligible activity for claiming deduction under section 80IA of the Act after considering the Judgement of the Mumbai High Court in the case of ABG Heavy Engineering [supra]. The case of ABG is not the pure developer whereas, in the present case, the assessee is the pure developer. We also find that Section 80IA of the Act, intended to cover the entities carrying out developing, operating and maintaining the infrastructure facility keeping in mind the present business models and intend to grant the incentives to such entities. The CBDT, on several occasions, clarified that pure developer should also be eligible to claim deduction under section 80IA of the Act, which ultimately culminated into Amendment under section 80IA of the Act, in the Finance Act 2001, to give effect to the aforesaid circulars issued by the CBDT. We also find that, to avoid misuse of the aforesaid amendment, an Explanation was inserted in Section 80IA of the Act, in the Finance Act-2007 and 2009, to clarify that mere works contract would not be eligible for deductions under section 80IA of the Act. But, certainly, the Explanation cannot be read to do away with the eligibility of the developer; otherwise, the parliament would have simply reversed the Amendment made in the Finance Act, 2001. Thus, the aforesaid Explanation was inserted, certainly, to deny the tax holiday to the entities who does only mere works contact or subcontract as distinct from the developer.

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