Authority For Advance Rulings
ABC, In Re
Sections 9(1)(vii), 44BB, 44D, 90, 115A
Asst. Year 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99
S. Ranganathan, J., Chairman; D.B. Lal & R.L. Meena, Members
No. P/6 of 1995
8th September, 1995
BY THE AUTHORITY :
AB Ltd. was a company incorporated in UK on 2nd June, 1983. Subsequently, it changed its name to âZâ Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the applicant). This change in name was registered with Companies Registration Office UK on 11th Dec., 1984. The applicant entered into three agreements with âXâ (an oil company in India) for rendering consulting services for gas flaring reduction project etc. in December, 1983, May, 1994 and June, 1994. The applicant filed three applications under s. 245Q(1) of the IT Act, 1961 (IT Act) on 9th March, 1995 in respect of the above three agreements.
2.1. It was stated by the applicant in its application that the company is based in UK having no branch, office or any local presence in India and that none of the services provided by the applicant to âXâ had been utilised in India. It was also stated that all work on the contract awarded by the âXâ to the applicant was carried out in England, using applicantâs own staff and consultants and that the company and its staff are subject to the tax jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. On these grounds it was claimed that provisions of s. 9(1)(vi)(b) of the IT Act do not apply, and, therefore, no tax should be levied on the applicant with regard to its contract with âXâ.
2.2.1. The facts and the questions raised in all the three applications are identical, therefore, these were heard together and are being disposed of by this single order for the sake of convenience. For proper appreciation of the arguments the facts relating to these applications are set out below:
2.2.2. The first agreement between the applicant and the âXâ was drawn on 23rd Dec., 1993. The purpose of this agreement was in-depth reservoir management study of the offshore-oil filed on behalf of the âXâ which included (a) reservoir simulation studies, (b) history matching, reservoir performance production and reservoir management, (c) review of âXâ plans, (d) independent assessment of recoverable reserves by generating reservoir simulation models and carrying out well-wise history matching and provide future production for profile etc. (e) assessment and recommendations for oil zones and wells, (f) recommendations regarding reservoir management system, and (g) making development work programme for three reservoirs of offshore oil field.
2.2.3. The methodology was also determined at the stage of the agreement and it was decided that applicant will work in close collaboration with âXâ staff even for the work to be carried out in consultantâs home office. For this, the applicant was required to do the following (a) Simulation studies, (b) Barometric estimates, (c) Fair cost of future oil and gas production profile, (d) Evaluation of reservoir performance etc., (e) Submit comprehensive reports to âXâ covering cost of these aspects, and (f) Hand over the data generated during the study to the âXâ on computer media.
2.2.4. The study was to be completed within 4 months from the date of commencement and the entire job was to be reviewed in three stages. The first review was to be completed in India. The second review meeting was to be held in applicantâs home office and the third review meeting was to be held in India.
2.2.5. The lump sum cost for completion of this work was determined at US $ xxxxxxxxx out of which 1 per cent was to be received in Indian currency. The taxes (corporate and personal) were to be borne by the applicant but the cost of the work in association with the âXâ officers including air fare, boarding and lodging were to be borne by the âXâ.
2.3.1. In May, 1994, another agreement was drawn between the applicant and the âXâ for (a) review of hydrocarbon reserves (b) analysis and review of data, maps, reserves, etc.
2.3.2. This study had commenced in April, 1994, and the agreement was only to regularise the work which had already been undertaken and the draft report was to be submitted by June, 1994. Obviously, therefore, this agreement was drawn after the study had almost been completed. The payment for this was determined at US $ xxxxxxxxx which was to be paid in four instalments. As in the first agreement the taxes and the duties were to be paid by the applicant.
2.3.3. The work relating to the review of the oil fields covered by this contract was to be done in India and in terms of para 9.2 of this agreement the payment was to be made partly in US dollars and partly in Indian rupees. The third agreement was drawn in June, 1994, and the scope of work covered in this agreement was to assist and advise âXâ on methodology of evaluation of the tenders. This job included commercial and legal advice regarding acceptance of the tenders invited by the âXâ from different contractors on the basis of the reports submitted by the applicant in accordance with the earlier two agreements. This job was to be performed primarily in India as frequent consultation with the officers of the âXâ was needed. This “work package” was for a sum of US $ xxxxx for a period of 30 days and a sum of US $ xxxx was to be paid as air tickets from UK to India. Hotel accommodation and the local transport was to be provided by the âXâ in India. A copy of the application was sent to the concerned CIT for records of the case, if any, and his views on the facts made out in the application. He pointed out that âXâ has deducted tax at source @ 30 per cent from the payments made to the applicant considering the payments as royalty and fees for technical services as provided under s. 115A r/w s. 44D. The CIT held the view that this was rightly deducted, because, the payments were for royalties and technical services within the meaning of sub-cls. (vi) and (vii) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9 of IT Act. The applicant has raised the following sets of questions in the three applications: (a) 1st Application relating to consulting services contract with âXâ for estimation of reserves and generation of production profiles of 23 oil and gas fields of âXâ made in May, 1994. The questions posed are: (1) Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, any part of the considerations receivable under the agreement of June, 1994 entered into between the applicant and âXâ (an Indian oil company) is chargeable to tax under the IT Act, 1961? (2) If any part of the income is so taxable, what rate of tax would be attracted to the payment made. (b) 2nd Application in respect of applicantâs contract with âXâ for consulting services for gas flaring reduction process made in December, 1993. The questions posed are : (1) Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, any part of the considerations receivable under the agreement of December, 1993 entered into between the applicant and âXâ (an Indian oil company) is chargeable to tax under the IT Act, 1961? (2) If any part of the income is so taxable, what rate of tax would be attracted to the payment made? (c) 3rd Application in respect of consulting services for bid evaluation and draft for additional development of offshore oil field made in June, 1994. The questions are :
(1) Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, any part of the considerations receivable under the agreement of June, 1994 entered into between the applicant and âXâ (and Indian oil company) is chargeable to tax under the IT Act, 1961?
(2) If any part of the income is so taxable, what rate of tax would be attracted to the payment made in June, 1994.
5.1. The counsel argued on behalf of the applicant that âXâ has erroneously deducted tax @ 30 per cent disregarding the provisions of s. 44BB of the IT Act. He submitted that the provisions of s. 115A do not apply, because, s. 115A has to be r/w s. 44D, which in turn provides for taxation of royalty in pursuance of an agreement. Therefore, only if the applicant had an agreement, of this nature, the provisions of s. 44D would have been applicable. The counsel sought to distinguish between “royalty”, “fees for technical services” and “business of rendering technical service
5.2. He claimed that the applicant was engaged in the business of providing services in connection with prospecting of mineral oil. Therefore, this case is squarely covered by the provisions of s. 44BB of the IT Act and that neither cl. (vi) nor cl. (vii) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9 would be applicable, because cl. (vi) excludes payment in respect of services utilised for the purpose of a business or profession carried on outside India from the purview of the definition of income by way of royalty; and, because the applicant was carrying on the business of rendering services outside India, his case would not be covered by cl. (vi). He claimed that even cl. (vii) would not be applicable for the same reason, because, the payment made to the applicant falls in the same set of exceptions provided in sub-cl. (b) of cl. (vii). Moreover, Expln.2 to cl. (vii) also excludes such payment from taxation under that clause as fees for technical services.
5.3. He further argued that the case of this applicant does not fall within the proviso to sub-s. (1) of s. 44BB, because, none of the ss. 42 or 44D or 115A or 293A apply. According to him s. 42 applies only to the cases where the Central Government has entered into an agreement and that agreement has been laid on the table of the Parliament, which is not the case here. Sec. 44D would also not apply to this case, because, the payment received by the applicant would not be covered by the terms “royalty” or “fees” for technical services. Sec. 115A would also not apply, because, that section is dependent upon s. 44D. Sec. 115A is only a machinery provision for calculation of tax in cases where the income of a foreign company includes royalties or fees for technical services from an Indian concern. He claimed that s. 293A would also not apply because, that section envisages a notification to be issued by the Central Government covering the class of persons specified in sub-s. (2) of that section; and, because such notification was never issued, the provisions of this section would not apply.
5.4. On the basis of the above arguments, he contended that only provisions of s. 44BB would be applicable to the present case, which provided for assessment of income on a deemed basis @ 10 per cent of the aggregate payment to a non-resident engaged in the business of providing services or facilities in the prospecting of mineral oils, and this income under the head “Profits and gains of business or profession” is chargeable at the usual rate of tax at 55 per cent, which means the net rate of taxation on such payments would be 5.5 per cent for asst. yrs. 1994-95 and 1995-96. It is pointed out that at the time when the first instalment of consideration under the agreement of December, 1993 was paid, the rate of income-tax on a foreign company was 65 per cent and tax at source was deducted from the payment of 6.5 per cent, apparently on the basis of s. 44BB, but that now the rate of tax deduction is proposed to be hiked up to 30 per cent, erroneously, according to the applicant.
5.5. The counsel relied on a decision of the Calcutta Bench of the Tribunal in the case of Dy. CIT vs. Schlumberger Seaco Inc. (SSI) (1995) 51 TTJ (Cal) 72 : (1994) 50 ITD 348 (Cal) holding, inter alia, that SSI possessed requisite expertise, experience and technical know-how in conducting wire line services and such expertise or experience was the result of a continuous course of activity in rendering such services to various persons engaged in the extraction of oil all over the world, and, because, it was continuously engaged in the above activity, it must be stated to have engaged itself in such business. In addition, they had also provided personnel to operate wire logging equipment. In such a situation it had to be seen whether the services or facilities are rendered or provided in such a manner as to constitute business. The very fact that s. 44BB(1) also speaks of rendering of services shows that it cannot be stated that merely because the assessee has rendered some technical services, the income arising therefrom must be treated only as “fees from technical services” taxable under s. 115A at the special rates. He submitted that the Tribunal had relied on Circular F. No. 500/6, dt. 22nd Oct., 1990, issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to the effect that the expression “mining” as contemplated by Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vii) includes mining of petroleum and natural gas and this interpretation was based on the opinion of the Attorney General. On this basis he pleaded that the case of the applicant falls within the definition of “mining”. He further submitted that the business of SSI did not fall within the meaning of “fees for technical services”, because, it was rendering services to âXâ in respect of mining of mineral oil, therefore, it got excluded from the purview of Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vii). He claimed that this decision is applicable to the present case as well, because, (a) the applicant was carrying on business of rendering technical services and (b) this business was in the area of mining of mineral oils to be undertaken by the âXâ. Therefore, the consideration received for this business is taxable only under s. 44BB as it does not get excluded by the operation of the proviso to that section.
6.1. The counsel further claimed that where an agreement between the Indian Government and the Government of any other country exists for avoidance of double taxation, then, by virtue of the provisions of cl. (2) of s. 90 of the
IT Act, the applicant being a national of UK would be entitled to claim benefit under the agreement and, therefore, if the IT Department contends that a rate of 30 per cent is applicable in respect of the payment made by the âXâ to the applicant, then the applicant should be assessed in accordance with the provisions of the DTA. He invited reference to the DTA between UK and India notified on 11th Feb., 1994 and submitted that the applicant does not have a permanent establishment (PE) within the meaning of art. 5 of the DTA and that the business profits embedded in the payments made by the âXâ would have been taxable in India under art. 7 of DTA, only if the business was carried on by the enterprise through a PE situated in India. However, he submitted that even if the profit is to be taxed under art. 7 of DTA, deduction for expenses incurred for the purposes of business, including executive and general administrative expenses whether in India or in UK, would have to be allowed. If this is done the rate of taxation would be much lower than the deemed rate of 30 per cent provided in s. 115A r/w s. 44D. He relied upon a decision of the Tribunal, Bombay Bench, in the case of Standard Chartered Bank vs. IAC (1991) 39 ITD 57 (Bom) relating to s. 36(1)(viia) of the IT Act r/w art. 23 of earlier DTA between UK and India. He submitted that the Tribunal had held there that corporations have nationality in accordance with the country of their incorporation. Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of State Trading Corpn. of India Ltd. vs. CTO AIR 1963 SC 1811, the Tribunal observed that nationality and citizenship are distinct as, nationality has reference to the jural relationship which may arise for consideration under international law. The bank was a national of UK but was incorporated in India, therefore, it cannot be subjected to a higher burden of tax than a scheduled commercial bank in India by virtue of art. 23 of the DTA. Accordingly, the Tribunal held that the Bank was entitled to the benefit of s. 36(1)(viia) like any other Indian bank. On this basis he argued that the applicant should also not be subjected to a higher burden of tax than a national of India. According to him if s. 44BB is not applicable to the applicant, it would mean discrimination within the meaning of art. 26 of the present DTA between India and UK.
The counsel reiterated that the payment made by the âXâ to the applicant would not be covered by the definition of “royalties”, and “fees for technical services” even under the provisions of art. 13 of DTA. He claimed that the definition of the term “royalties” in para (3) of art. 13 does not cover the payment received by the applicant, because, it is not a payment received as a consideration for use of any copyright etc. or use of any industrial, commercial or scientific equipment. The payment could have been classified under para 4(c) of art. 13 if it had not been the business of the applicant to render services for imparting technical knowledge, experience, and know- how etc. He wanted to make a fine distinction between making available technical knowledge, experience, know- how, etc., on the one hand and business of imparting technical knowledge, experience, etc., on the other.However, he argued that even if the payment was to be covered by art. 13 of the DTA, the DTA would override the provisions of the IT Act, especially s. 44D r/w s. 115A, and in that case the tax rate would only be 20 per cent for fees for technical services as provided under the DTA, and, therefore, the rate of 30 per cent claimed by the Department is not justified even on this basis.
8. The counsel also relied upon para (1) of art. 26 of the DTA which provides for non-discrimination between the nationals of the two Contracting States in respect of taxation or any requirement connected therewith which is more burdensome than the taxation and connected requirements to which the nationals of the other State in the same circumstances may be subjected. It was argued that the applicant should not be subjected to a tax at the rates of 30 per cent under the IT Act or 20 per cent under the DTA on the gross payments because it would amount to discrimination between the applicant and a similarly placed national of India providing such services, as the latter would be taxed under the normal provisions of the IT Act under the head “Income from business or profession”. It means that an Indian national would be taxed in India at a rate much lower than the presumptive rate of 20 per cent or 30 per cent on the gross payment. It was, therefore, urged that by virtue of the provisions of the non- discrimination clause of the DTA and the provisions of cl. (2) of s. 90 (which provides the applicant the option of being taxed at a rate more advantageous to it), the income of the applicant is liable to be assessed under normal provisions on net basis, i.e., gross receipts minus all eligible expenses incurred for the purposes of business.
9.1. Arguing on behalf of the CIT, the Departmental Representative submitted that the applicant had rendered technical services to the âXâ which included (a) survey of 23 areas in India demarcated by the âXâ for estimation of reserves and generation of production profiles after collecting all essential data in India in close collaboration with âXâ (b) preparation of simulation studies and a comprehensive report on the forecast of oil and gas production upto the year 2015 and hand-over of data so generated to the âXâ on computer media, (c) assistanc and advice to the âXâ on methodology of the tenders invited on the basis of the report prepared by the applicant and suitable modification of the model contract including commercial and legal aspects.
9.2. He pointed out that although three agreements have been entered into between the applicant and the âXâ, these are closely connected and inter-dependent agreements for rendering technical services to âXâ, for a consideration, which is clearly “fees for technical services” received from the âXâ, an Indian concern, in pursuance of the above agreement and, therefore, the payment is fully covered by provisions of s. 44D. Accordingly, the case of the applicant falls under the proviso to s. 44BB which excludes the applicant from operation of that section. He also submitted that the effort of the learned counsel in trying to make a fine distinction between “fees for technical services” and “income from business of providing technical services” is not at all helpful because s. 44D is a special provision for computing income from royalties and fees for technical services in the case of foreign companies by excluding ss. 28 to 44C of IT Act which means but for these special provisions fees for technical services would have been assessable under the head “income from business or profession”.
9.3. He invited our attention to para 26 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Finance Bill, 1976, through which these special provisions of s. 44D were introduced, which explains that such income by way of technical service fees and royalties was being taxed earlier on net basis, i.e., after allowing deduction in respect of cost and expenses incurred for earning the income, but, by virtue of the new provisions of s. 44D, such income in the hands of the foreign companies would now be taxed at flat rates specified in the newly introduced s. 115A w.e.f. asst. yr. 1977-78. Accordingly consequential amendments were also made in ss. 9(1)(vi) and 9(1)(vii). On this basis he pleaded that the intent of legislation was clear that such fees for technical services are to be taxed only under s. 44D r/w s. 115A. He further submitted that the applicantâs case is fully covered by s. 9(1) (vii) because the applicant is receiving income by way of fees for technical services payable by the âXâ, a resident person, in respect of services utilised by âXâ in India. He contradicted the claim of the learned counsel for the applicant that the case of the applicant gets covered by Expln. 2 to s. 9(1) (vii) because the applicant had received the “fees for technical services” as consideration for the rendering of technical and consultancy services including provision of technical services and other personnel for survey etc. On this basis he argued that the rate of 30 per cent provided under s. 115A is applicable to the payments received by the applicant.
10. As regards the applicability of the DTA, he conceded that the provisions of DTA would override the provisions of IT Act whenever there was a difference between the two, but, he claimed that even under the DTA art. 13 would be applicable to the payments received as fees for technical services and that the learned counsel is not correct in arguing that the case of the applicant should be covered under art. 7 of the DTA. He urged that the provisions of art. 13 are special provisions for taxation of royalties and fees for technical services, therefore, if an income is covered by these special provisions, there is no question of considering applicability of art. 7 meant for assessing business profits of an enterprise through a PE. The applicant does not have a PE in India, therefore, art.
7 would not be applicable even otherwise.
11.1. He drew our attention to para 4(c) of art. 13 which reads as under: “(4) For the purposes of paragraph (2) of this article, and subject to paragraph (5) of this article, the term “fees for technical services” means payments of any kind to any person in consideration for the rendering of any technical or consultancy services (including the provision of services of technical or other personnel) which: (a) are ancillary and subsidiary to the enjoyment of the right, property or information for which a payment described in paragraph (3)(a) of this article is received; or (b) are ancillary and subsidiary to the enjoyment of the property for which payment described in paragraph (3)(b) of this article is received; or (c) make available technical knowledge, experience, skill, know-how or processes, or consist of the development and transfer of a technical plan or technical design”. The Departmental Representative argued that the case of the applicant is fully covered by sub-para (c) because he has made available technical knowledge, experience, skill and know-how which is also to be transferred to the âXâ on computer media in terms of the agreement. Therefore, the payment received by the applicant is liable to be taxed at the rate of 20 per cent of the gross amount under paragraph (2)(a)(i)(bb) of art. 13 of the DTA for the first 5 years for which the DTA has effect. As regards the non-discrimination clause of the DTA, the Departmental Representative pointed out that para (2) of art. 26 is not applicable because the applicant does not have a PE in India. As regards paragraph (1), he submitted that non-discrimination is to be judged by comparing two classes of persons similarly placed and not two individuals or two companies. Under the Indian IT Act, income of every person arising in India is to be taxeunder the procedures and rates provided under the IT Act. But for the DTA the applicant would also have been subjected to tax under the IT Act but it had claimed privilege under s. 90(2) of IT Act and wants to be assessed in accordance with the DTA. Art. 13 of DTA provides a rate of only 20 per cent of the total payment as against the rate of 30 per cent leviable for similar payments covered under s. 44D r/w s. 115A. Thus, discrimination, if any, is in favour of the applicant by virtue of the provisions of DTA.
13.1. As regards the claim of the applicant that his income should be assessed under s. 44BB of the IT Act, the Departmental Representative submitted that s. 44BB does provide a lower rate but by virtue of the proviso to that section, the case of the applicant is not covered at all. Hence, that section cannot be applied artificially in violation of the proviso to that section. He further submitted that even if the income of the applicant is to be assessed as business income by applying the provisions of ss. 28 to 44C the net profit may perhaps work out to 80 per cent (because all expenses in India have been borne by the âXâ) which would be taxable at the rate of 46 per cent (including surcharge) in the case of a domestic company which means an average tax rate of 36.8 per cent on the gross payments which is 16.8 per cent higher than the rate applicable to the applicant by virtue of the provisions of art. 13 of the DTA. Even if the net profit is assumed at 45 per cent of the payments, the average tax payable by a domestic company would be 20.7 per cent on such payments. On this ground also, he argued that there was no discrimination. A perusal of the facts stated in para 2 of this order would make it clear that the main contract was regarding identification of the oil reservoir which was dependent upon a thorough survey of onshore and offshore areas in India. Therefore, the main contract of December, 1993, which also covers the major payment received by the applicant, was carried out in India. The work relating to the second agreement was partly in India and partly in UK. The work relating to the third agreement was also mainly performed in India. Therefore, the source of income arising to the applicant as a result of these three interrelated contracts is in India. On this basis the Departmental Representative argued that all these three agreements should be treated as one and the income arising to the applicant out of these agreements should be taxed in India. Interesting issues emerge out of the arguments of both the parties in this case. The first issue relates to the earlier contention of the applicant that the payments received by it do not come within the jurisdiction of Indian income-tax, but, the learned counsel of the applicant did not argue on this point, conceding that the provisions of IT Act and the DTA apply to the present applicant. No distinction was made by the applicant regarding onshore activities or offshore activities and from a perusal of the contracts under reference in these three applications, it is evident that all the three applications are closely inter- related. All the three are related to the rendering of technical services, to âXâ and, therefore, the payments made under these three agreements have to be considered together for the purpose of taxation in India.
15.1. The learned counsel for the applicant strongly pleaded that this case falls within the ambit of s. 44BB of IT Act, therefore, the payments were taxable only at the rate of 5.5 per cent of the gross payments (deemed profit of
10 per cent on gross payments taxable @ 55 per cent). For a proper appreciation of the argument the relevant provisions of sub-s. (1) of s. 44BB are given below: “Special provision for computing profits and gains in connection with the business of exploration, etc., of mineral oils. 44BB(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in ss. 28 to 41 and ss. 43 and 43A, in the case of an assessee being a non-resident engaged in the business of providing services or facilities in connection with, or supplying plant and machinery on hire used, or to be used, in the prospecting for, or extraction or production of, mineral oils, a sum equal to ten per cent of the aggregate of the amounts specified in sub-s. (2) shall be deemed to be the profits and gains of such business chargeable to tax under the head “profits and gains of business or profession : Provided that this sub-section shall not apply in a case where the provisions of s. 42 or s. 44D or s. 115A or s. 293A apply for the purposes of computing profits or gains or any other income referred to in those sections. (Emphasis, italicised in print, supplied)
15.2.1. The proviso makes it very clear that this sub-section shall not apply where provisions of s. 42, s. 44D, s.
115A or s. 293A apply.
15.2.2. Secs. 42 and 293A have no relevance to the context of the issue in the present case. Sec. 115A(b) has relevance but it will apply only in the cases where agreement under which the royalties and technical fees are received is either approved by the Central Government or is in accordance with the industrial policy of the Government on the matter to which it relates. On behalf of the Department it is stated that the approval of the Central Government to the agreement herein is indispensable and should, in fact, have been obtained. There is noinformation on this issue before the Authority. It is, however, contended by the applicant that, quite apart from the need for approval under s. 115A, that provision is not applicable to cases like the present where the receipts are in the nature of business income squarely governed by s. 44BB but is applicable only to cases of royalty and technical fees arising otherwise than in the course of a business. It is also contended that the receipts in the present case do not fall within the definition of âroyaltyâ and fees for technical services in Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vi) and (vii). Indeed, this is also the basis on which the provisions of s. 44D are said to be inapplicable to the present case. These two provisions may, therefore, be now considered. Sec. 44D is a substantive section, making a special provision for computing the income by way of royalties and technical service fee, in the case of foreigncompanies. Clause (b) of s. 115A provides the machinery for taxation of such royalties and technical services. The relevant provisions of these sections are given below. “Special provisions for computing income by way of royalties, etc., in the case of foreign companies. 44D. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in ss. 28 to 44C, in the case of an assessee, being a foreign company,â (a) the deductions admissible under the said sections in computing the income by way of royalty or fees for technical services received from Government or an Indian concern in pursuance of an agreement made by the foreign company with Government or with the Indian concern before the 1st day of April, 1976, shall not exceed in the aggregate twenty per cent of the gross amount of such royalty or fees as reduced by so much of the gross amount of such royalty as consists of lump sum consideration for the transfer outside India of, or the imparting of information outside India in respect of, any data, documentation, drawing or specification relating to any patent, invention, model, design, secret formula or process or trade mark or similar property; (b) no deduction in respect of any expenditure or allowance shall be allowed under any of the said sections in computing the income by way of royalty or fees for technical services received from Government or an Indian concern in pursuance of an agreement made by the foreign company with Government or with the Indian concern after the 31st day of March, 1976. Explanation : For the purposes of this sectionâ (a) “fees for technical services” shall have the same meaning as in Expln. 2 to cl. (vii) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9; (b) “foreign company” shall have the same meaning as in s. 80B; (c) “royalty” shall have the same meaning as in Expln. 2 to cl. (vi) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9; (d) royalty received from Government or an Indian concern in pursuance of an agreement made by a foreign company with Government or with the Indian concern after the 31st day of March, 1976, shall be deemed to have been received in pursuance of an agreement made before the 1st day of April, 1976, if such agreement is deemed, for the purposes of the proviso to cl. (vi) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9, to have been made before the 1st day of April, 1976.” “Tax on dividends, royalties and technical service fees in the case of foreign companies. 115A. (1) Where the total income ofâ (a) a non-resident (not being a company) or of a foreign company, includes any income by way ofâ (i) dividends; or (ii) interest received from Government or an Indian concern on monies borrowed or debt incurred by Government or the Indian concern in foreign currency; or (iii) income received in respect of units, purchased in foreign currency, or a mutual fund specified under cl. (23D) of s. 10 or of the Unit Trust of India, the income-tax payable shall be aggregate ofâ (A) the amount of income- tax calculated on the amount of income by way of dividends, if any, included in the total income, at the rate of twenty per cent; (B) the amount of income-tax calculated on the amount of income by way of interest referred to in cl. (ii), if any, included in the total income, at the rate of twenty per cent; (C) the amount of income-tax calculated on the income in respect of units referred to in cl. (iii), if any, included in the total income, at the rate of twenty per cent; and (D) the amount of income-tax with which he or it would have been chargeable had his or its total income been reduced by the amount of income referred to in cl. (i), cl. (ii) and cl. (iii); (b) a foreign company, includes any income by way of royalty or fees for technical services received from Government or an Indian concern in pursuance of an agreement made by the foreign company with Government or the Indian concern after the 31st day of March, 1976, and where such agreement is with an Indian concern, the agreement is approved by the Central Government or where it relates to a matter included in the industrial policy, for the time being in force, of the Government of India, the agreement is in accordance with that policy, then, subject to the provisions of sub-ss. (1A) and (2), the income-tax payable shall be the aggregate ofâ (A) the amount of income tax calculated on the income by way of royalty, if any, included in the total income, at the rate of thirty per cent; (B) the amount of income tax calculated on the income by way of fees for technical services, if any, included in the total income, at the rate of thirty per cent; and (C) the amount of income tax with which it would have been chargeable had its total income been reduced by the amount of income by way of royalty and fees for technical services. Explanation : For the purposes of this section,â (a) “fees for technical services” shall have the same meaning as in Expln. 2 to cl. (vii) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9; (b) “foreign currency” shall have the same meaning as in the Expln. below item (g) of sub-cl. (iv) of cl. (15) of s. 10; (c) “royalty” shall have the same meaning as in Expln2 to cl. (vi) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9; (d) “Unit Trust of India” means the Unit Trust of India established under the Unit
Trust of India Act, 1963 (52 of 1963).”
15.3. A perusal of these provisions would make it clear that these are special provisions which have to be read together, for computing and taxing income by way of royalties and fees for technical services in the case of foreign companies. Sec. 44D starts with an overriding expression “notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in ss. 28 to 44Câ¦.”. This means that s. 44D has application in respect of royalties and technical fees in the course of a business and that its special provisions take precedence over ss. 28 to 44C and override these provisions. That means s. 44BB is also superseded in respect of computation of income by way of royalties or fees for technical services received from an Indian concern (âXâ in this case). The proviso to s. 44BB excluding the application of that section to cases covered by s. 44D is consistent with and complementary to this. This double safeguard provided by statute shows that s. 44D includes within its purview also royalties and technical service fees arising in the course of business. It is clarified in the Explanation (a) that “fees for technical services” shall have the same meaning as in Expln. 2 to cl. (vii) of sub-s. (1) of s. 9. A short point is made by the counsel that the receipts in the present case are neither royalties nor fees for technical services falling under s. 44D. He says they do not at all come under the definition of royalty and are excluded from the definition of fees for technical services because they relate to mining. This contention cannot be accepted. It may be that the description of the term âroyaltyâ in s. 9(1)(vi) but they are clearly covered by the expression âfees for technical servicesâ as defined in s. 9(1)(vii). The agreement of the applicant with âXâ does not include any consideration for any mining or like project undertaken by the applicant though it does stipulate consideration for the rendering of technical or consultancy services in return to the extraction or exploration of mineral oils by âXâ.
The learned counsel for the applicant wanted to make a fine distinction between fees for technical services and income from business of providing technical services. It is, therefore, essential to have a look at the definition of this expression in the aforesaid Expln. 2 to cl. (vii) of s. 9(1). “Explanation 2 : For the purposes of this clause, “fees for technical services” means any consideration (including any lump sum consideration) for the rendering of any managerial, technical or consultancy services (including the provision of services of technical or other personnel) but does not include consideration for any construction, assembly, mining or like project undertaken by the recipient or consideration which would be income of the recipient chargeable under the head “Salaries”.”
16.2.1. According to this Explanation “fees for technical services” means any consideration for the rendering of any technical or consultancy services etc. In our view, therefore, the Explanation does not leave any scope for making a distinction between fees for technical services and income from business of providing technical services, in so far as the taxability under s. 44D is concerned. If special provisions like ss. 44BB and 44D had not been included in the IT Act, such rendering of technical services would have been taxable only as business income under the provisions of ss. 28 to 44C.
16.2.2. It was sought to be made out that the above interpretation will render s. 44BB altogether redundant. This is not correct for s. 44BB will continue to apply to several types of cases in relation to the prospecting for or extraction or production of mineral oils. It is possible to conceive of services or facilities provided in this connection the consideration for which may not amount to âroyaltyâ or âfees for technical servicesâ within the scope of the definition in s. 9(1)(vi) and (vii) of the Act. Consideration for the supply of plant and machinery on hire referred to in s. 44B will not be in the nature of âroyaltyâ. Consideration for any construction, assembly, mining or like project is excluded from the compass of the definition of âfees for technical servicesâ within the meaning of Expln. to s. 9(1)(vii). There is, therefore, a wide range of income falling under s. 44BB which will not fall within s. 44D. The exclusion of royalty and fees for technical services from the scope of s. 44BB will not, therefore, render s. 44BB otiose or redundant, as suggested. On the other hand, the proviso in s. 44BB will be meaningless if royalty and technical service fees arising out of a business cannot at all fall within the purview of s.
44D. The entire scheme of the Actâs. 9(1)(vi) and (vii), s. 44D, s. 115Aâclearly shows that the underlying idea is to give special tax treatment to income by way of royalties and fees by way of technical services of foreign companies in two ways: by prescribing a flat rate lower than the general rate of tax on the other income by taxing the gross amount of receipts of this nature without providing for any deductions therefrom, a mode of taxation evolved after a good deal of thought and discussions between nations where double taxation is involved. The mode of taxation and relief provided in the DTA, also shows that royalties and fees for technical services artaxed on a basis different from business except where they arise in the course of a business with a PE in India. Sec. 44BB and s. 44D have thus both to be given effect to and the only way of doing it is by restricting s. 44BB to income that does not fall within the scope of s. 44D; it is this that is made clear by the proviso to s. 44BB(1) which specifically excludes any profits and gains of business or other income falling under s. 44D from the purview of s. 44BB.
16.3. The decision of the Tribunal in the case of Dy. CIT vs. SSI (supra) has been relied upon by the learned counsel in support of the above argument. It has no doubt been generally observed by the Tribunal in para 7 of that Order that while introducing Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vii) the legislature had in mind only those non-residents who did not carry on any business as such in India, but were merely in receipt of income by way of fees for technical services. “Royalty” and “fees for technical services” are classes of income which may fall to be assessed under the head “business” or under the head “income from other sources” and there is nothing in Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vi) and (vii) to exclude receipts of this description in the hands of a recipient as âbusiness incomeâ. It is not correct, therefore, to conclude that these definitions will not apply to non-residents who are having businesses in India. That apart, this is not a case where the applicant has a business in India: though it is carrying on a business, it has no branch office of PE in India to which these receipts can be related. Further, in the case before the Tribunal, the Bench excluded SSI from the operation of s. 44D and Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vii) because that case fell within the exception provided towards the end of that Explanation; and, because, SSI had conducted wire-logging services to âXâ with the help of wire-logging equipments and tools and had also provided personnel to operate the same. The income of SSI consisted of a monthly rental charge for the equipments and tools and monthly charges for the crew. Since the payments there did not thus fall within Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vii), s. 44D had no application and the provisions of s. 44BB were, consequently, attracted. On the contrary, in the present case the applicant has only surveyed the area earmarked by the âXâ, has given the technical designs and know-how to enable âXâ to perform the mining jobs itself. On its own showing the applicant has not done any job of mining, nor has it provided any equipment or crew therefor. The facts of this case are, therefore, different and, in any view of the matter, the applicant does not get excluded by the last clause of Expln. 2 to s. 9(1)(vii). Therefore, the first clause of that Explanation will govern the definition of “fees for technical services”, by virtue of which the consideration received for such services would fall within the definition of s. 9(1)(vii) and the applicability of s. 44D cannot be in doubt.
In view of the above position of law, we do not agree with the submission of the learned counsel of the applicant that the payments made by the âXâ to the applicant in terms of the three agreements would be taxable under s.
44BB of the Act and we agree with the contention of Departmental Representative that by virtue of the proviso to s. 44BB, the case of the applicant gets covered by provisions of s. 44D and s. 115A. However, since fees for technical services are covered under art. 13 of the DTA and the rate of tax prescribed in the DTA is 20 per cent as against 30 per cent prescribed under s. 115A of the IT Act, the applicant is entitled to the option available to him under sub-s. (2) of s. 90 of the IT Act as the provisions of the DTA between India and UK are beneficial to it.
The expression “fees for technical services” has also been defined in para 4 of art. 13 of the DTA which has already been reproduced in para 11.1 of this order. Clause (c) of para 4 fully covers the type of technical service rendered by the applicant to the âXâ, therefore, the payment received by the applicant for this service is “fees for technical services” within the meaning of para (4) of art. 13. Art. 13 provides that such fees may be taxed in India at the rate of 20 per cent of the gross amount of such fees during the first five years for which the DTA has effect. The DTA under reference became operative from 26th Oct., 1993, therefore, the fees received or receivable by the applicant on account of these three agreements will be taxable at the rate of 20 per cent for asst. yrs. 1994-95 to
We are unable to accept the contention of the learned counsel for the applicant that applicantâs case is covered by art. 7 of the DTA, though, that article is applicable to profits of an enterprise which carries on business through a PE in India, the suggestion apparently being that the business profit, arising otherwise than through a PE are not taxable at all. It is an accepted fact that the applicant does not have a PE in India, therefore, this article would not be applicable. But this does not allow the applicantâs profits escape taxation, because, as pointed out by Departmental Representative, art. 13 makes special provision for taxation of royalties and fees for technical services. It is an accepted norm in interpretation of DTAâs, as indeed of all documents, that special provisions takprecedence over general provisions like that of art. 7 unless specifically excluded and, therefore, the payments received are taxable in accordance with art. 13 of the DTA. Moreover, the language of art. 13 itself is quite clear on this. Royalties and technical fees fall under art. 13 of the DTA except where they arise in the course of a business which has a PE here or where they are relatable to independent personal services. Only in these eventualities will these receipts attract art. 7 or art. 15 as the case may be. It has been specifically so provided in art. 13 (6). In the present case the second part of the above exception has no relevance. The first part also has no application since the applicant has no PE here. It is, therefore, not possible to accept the applicantâs contention that the royalties and technical fees should be assessed, if at all, under art. 7 as business income. This is one more reason for not considering s. 44BB as applicable to the instant case for the provisions of the DTA will not only be relevant but will also govern the mode of taxability of a particular class or income. In other words, royalty and technical fees have to be assessed in the manner set out in art. 13, unless it can be taken out of such treatment on the terms of s. 13(6) or s. 44D of the Act is clearly excluded.
The counsel relied considerably on the provisions of art. 26 of the DTA and used it, practically as what may be described as his trump card, for contending that whatever may be the statutory or other provision applicable in this case, the applicant cannot be taxed at more than 55 per cent of the net income of the applicant from the contract computed as in the case of any other resident assessee on like income by virtue of the non-discrimination clause. He, however, stated that he was prepared to waive this argument if the tax rate is kept at 5.5 per cent of the gross receipts under s. 44B without going into further niceties and details of the DTA. The impact of art. 26 of the DTA, therefore, requires to be considered in some detail. It is not considered necessary to set out here the provisions of art. 26 as the DTA in extenso is published at pp. 235 to 267 of the Statutes section of (1994) 206 ITR.
18.2.1. The object of art. 26 is to ensure that no discrimination ensures as between nationals of two countries which have entered into a DTA. The counsel as already mentioned, placed reliance on a decision of the Bombay Bench of the Tribunal in the case of Standard Chartered Bank (supra) holding the said bank to be entitled to the exemption provided under s. 36(1)(viia) of the IT Act on behalf of art. 26 of the DTA between India & UK of
1981, a predecessor to the agreement of 1994 presently under consideration. We do not find ourselves in agreement with the learned counsel regarding applicability of the decision in the case of Standard Chartered Bank cited by him, for one thing because the facts of that case were different. The Indian branch of the bank was a PE in India within the meaning of art. 5 of the DTA and this brought into operation para 2 of art. 26. The question whether the bank was a UK national which could avail of the benefit of para 1 of art. 26 was not very material. On the other hand, the applicant here does not have a PE in India. Accordingly, provisions of para 2 of art. 26 would not at all be applicable to this case and the applicant has to restrict its claim to para 1 of art. 26.
18.2.2. Coming to para 1 of art. 26 we find that it provides for non-discrimination between nationals of the two contracting states. The question for consideration that arises is whether the applicant can be called a ânationalâ of the UK. The DTA does not have a definition of the term ânationalâ. The only reference to ânationalâ is contained in paragraphs 2(c) and 2(d) of art. 4 dealing with fiscal domicile and these relate only to individuals.
18.2.3. It is not relevant for our present purpose to consider the correctness or otherwise of the Tribunal in the case cited that s. 36(1)(viia) of the Act meted out discriminatory treatment to non-nationals, for that exemption was also not available to other “nationals” such as non-scheduled Indian banks, as well as scheduled Indian banks engaged in operations outside India. Be that as it may, the decision no doubt lends support to the contention of the counsel that the applicant should be treated as a UK national. The Tribunal in treating the Standard Chartered Bank as a national of UK relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of State Trading Corporation of India (supra). The question before the Supreme Court in that case was whether the corporation could be considered to be a âcitizenâ of India for purposes of art. 19 of the Constitution and the Constitution Bench answered this question in the negative. The arguments on behalf of the petitioner started with the citation of a rule of English law “that a company or incorporated corporation has a nationality and the nationality is determined by the law of the country in which it is corporated” and this rule was sought to be extended to the concept of citizenship as well but this attempt did not succeed as the Court was of the view that the two concepts were totally different. Though the Court cited the rule of English law as to ânationalityâ and made some observations regarding this concept, it was not seized directly with the determination of the principles to determine the nationality of a company. The judgment of Hidayatullah J. (as he then was) refers to the various principles on the basis of whichnationality of a company could be determined in paras 50 to 56 and observes in para 57 : “Which corporation should be regarded as possessing Indian nationality is a question to be answered when it arises. Whether the provisions of the Companies Act dealing with foreign companies furnish any assistance in this behalf must also be left unanswered. It is sufficient to say that even if it is established that a corporation possesses Indian nationality this has not the result which is contended for namely that all or any of the citizenship rights arise”. Shah, J. (as he then was) also refers to the English rule on the issue as a starting point (para 90) and then proceeds to point out that this did not conclude the issue of citizenship. It is not possible, particularly in view of Hidayatullah CJâs observation cited above, to regard the decision as conclusively establishing that a corporation should be treated as a national of the country under the laws of which it is incorporated.
18.2.4. The expression ânationalâ is easily understood in its application to individuals but there are difficulties in applying this term to other types of associations and companies. In defining the nationality of a company, one can have regard, as pointed out by the Supreme Court, either to the law which governs it or to the origin of the capital with which the company was formed or the nationality of all the individuals comprising it or only of the persons controlling it. Different states have adopted to different attitudes in this regard. As Oppenheim points out (âInternational Lawâ Lauterpacht Edn., p. 642): “The nationality of corporations is mainly a matter of private international law and considerations of public policy have a decisive influence upon the attitude of every state in regard to it”.
It is to dispose of this difficulty that para 2 of art. 24 of the OECD convention and model UN Convention specially define “nationals” to include legal persons deriving their status from the laws in force in a Contracting State. A similar provision has also been engrafted in the DTAs between India and some countries such as Belgium, GDR, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Libya, Malaysia, Singapore. The treaty with USA confines it to âindividualsâ. A third set of agreements, like the one with UK above left the term undefined. In the absence of a definition, it is not easy to say which of the criteria earlier referred to should be applied. We have therefore, to interpret the expression in the context of other provisions of DTA itself. Firstly, while para 1 of art. 26 deals with nationals, para 2 deals with enterprises and a rule of non-discrimination against them is enunciated but is restricted only to enterprises having a permanent establishment in India. If the expression ânationalsâ included companies and other associations as well, the special provision regarding enterprises in para 2 would not have been necessary at all. Secondly, it is significant that art. 4 of the DTA defining the fiscal domicile for purposes of the agreement refers to nationality only with reference to individuals, vide paras 2(c) and (d) of that article. In the light of these features of the present agreement, it is legitimate to construe the DTA as prohibiting discrimination, (a) in the case of individuals and (b) in the cases of enterprises (other than individuals) only where they have their permanent establishment in India and not otherwise.
18.2.5. The applicant is a company incorporated in the UK. It would be a person resident in the UK and its business would be an enterprise of the UK carried on by a resident of the UK. Such a person can invoke art. 26 only if it has a PE in India. But, as stated earlier, since the applicant does not have a PE in India, it cannot claim to come under paragraph 2 of art. 26, which is the only relevant provision against non-discrimination for a âpersonâ, who is not an individual.
18.3. Even assuming for purposes of argument that the applicant is a UK national, the allegation that there is any discrimination under the Act against the applicant because of its nationality either under s. 44BB or 44D or 115A is based on misconception. The system of taxation in India does not make a distinction between nationalities of taxpayers. Therefore, the requirements connected with taxation are not more burdensome for a foreign national than the requirements to which any Indian national may be subjected. However, there is a distinction between a person resident in India as defined in s. 6 of the IT Act and a person who is a non-resident. A foreign national may be a resident and an Indian national may be non-resident. It is not known whether the applicant is a national of UK because the statement of facts and the arguments did not elaborate on this point. However, for the purposes of paragraph 1 of art. 26, a comparison has to be made between persons similarly placed in respect of nationality and residence. The applicant is a company incorporated in the UK, therefore, its case has to be compared with a non- resident company which is owned and managed by Indian nationals. Under the IT Act, both these companies will be treated similarly and would be subjected to the same rate of taxation and the same requirements. To elaborate, s. 44BB and s. 115A(1) deal with non-resident assessees. Such persons may be Indian or foreign nationals but thconcessional treatment under these sections will be available to both. Likewise s. 44D and s. 115A(1) and (2) deal with foreign companies which again may be run by Indian or foreign nationals. For instance, even if the appellant had been a company formed by Indian nationals and registered outside India, the provisions of s. 44D and s. 115A(2) would operate against it in the same manner. We, therefore, do not find any substance in the charge of discrimination under para 1 of art. 26.
18.4. Reference can also be made to another angle to the applicantâs charge of discrimination: The applicantâs contention, based on the assumption that s. 44D and s. 115A are applicable only to foreign nationals, is that such a person will be called upon to pay tax at 30 per cent or 20 per cent where the DTA specifies a smaller rate as in the present case, on the total amount paid as royalties or technical fees, while such receipts will be business income in the hands of an Indian company taxable at the rate of 46 per cent (including surcharge) but only on the net amount after deduction of expenses incurred for earning the income. It is, however, difficult to assert that this differentiation is necessarily discriminatory against the foreign national. In respect of royalties, it is very difficult to predict the proportion of deductible expenses. It could vary from practically negligible amounts to substantial amounts. While dealing with the topic in arriving at DTAs there is an allegation, at least in some cases where technology is supplied by developed countries, that the expenditure they had incurred for acquiring the technology already stands recouped (See Srinivasan: Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement 1994, para 2.97). This may not be always true but the percentage of permissible deductions is so variable from person to person that one mode of taxation could be advantageous in some cases and the other in other situation(s). As pointed out by the Departmental Representative, it is not conceivable that the margin of profit of such a highly qualified consultant in the sophisticated and highly remunerative area of oil exploration could be insignificant. Even if all the expenses for the earning of the receipts are deducted, the net profit of the applicant (as a business enterprise) can be reasonably worked out at 80 per cent of the total receipts. If this is taxed at 46 per cent, the average rate of tax on the net income would be 36.8 per cent much higher than the rate of 20 per cent applied in the applicantâs case. Even if we assume a net profit of only 45 per cent on the payments received, the tax rate will work out to
20.7 per cent. In this context much store cannot be placed on the rate of 10 per cent referred to in s. 44BB is intended to be a concessional ad hoc rate and which concerns more complicated business activities in the field than a mere reapint (sic) in of royalties and fees on the technology or expertise readily available with the applicant the benefits of which are passed on to the party. It cannot, therefore, be postulated that there is discrimination per se against a non-national in regard to the taxation of income by way of royalty or technical fees.
18.5. In view of the foregoing discussions, we find that there is no discrimination against the applicant with regard to taxation of the fees for technical services received from the âXâ, if the same is taxed in under art. 13 of the DTA. In fact, in the circumstances of this case, only art. 13 is applicable and no other provision of the DTA can be invoked.
The Ruling of the Authority on the two questions identically set out in the three applications is as follows: On the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the considerations receivable under the agreements entered into between the applicant and the âXâ is chargeable to tax under the IT Act, 1961.
The considerations receivable under the aforesaid agreements are taxable as fees for technical services under art. 13 of the Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income and capital gains with United Kingdom of Great Britain at the rate of twenty per cent of the gross amount of such fees for technical services for asst. yrs. 1994-95 and 1995-96. If the considerations are received in subsequent years as well then these also would be taxable at the rate of twenty per cent upto asst. yr. 1998-99.
[Citation : 234 ITR 371]