High Court Of Karnataka
Gowri Shankar Finance Ltd. vs. CIT
Sections 32(1), 43(1)
Asst. Year 1991-92
Ashok Bhan & A.V. Sreenivasa Reddy, JJ.
ITRC No. 24 of 1996
27th November, 2000
G. Sarangan for S. Partha Sarathi & N.C. Ravikrishnan, for the Applicant : E.R. Indra Kumar, for the Respondent
ASHOK BHAN, J.:
Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal, Bangalore Bench (for short, âthe Tribunalâ), has referred the following three questions of law under s. 256(1) of the IT Act, 1961 (for short âthe Actâ), at the instance of the assessee to this Court for its opinion along with the statement of case. It arises from the order of the Tribunal in ITA No.457/B/94, dt. 12th Sept., 1994.
“1. Whether, on the facts and circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in holding that the applicant was not entitled to the claim of depreciation on the consumer durables which were leased by the applicant to various customers ?
Whether, on the facts and circumstances, the Tribunal was right in concluding that there was no âactual costâ incurred by the applicant as defined under s. 43(1) of the Act to justify the claim of depreciation ?
Whether the Tribunal was right in interpreting the lease rent received as a recovery of cost of materials leased to hold that the actual cost in the hands of the applicant as ânilâ ?”
The assessee is a non-banking company engaged in the business of hire-purchase and lease. For the asst. yr. 1991-92, the assessee filed its return of income declaring a total loss of Rs. 1,47,596. The return was processed under s. 143(1)(a) of the IT Act, 1961 (for short, âthe Actâ), on 28th Jan., 1992. Later on, notices under ss. 143(2) and 142(1) were issued and thereafter the assessment was framed by the assessing authority. The assessee has two types of business that is hirepurchase of vehicles and of leasing of consumer durables. We are referring to the facts regarding leasing business only as none of the questions pertain to hire-purchase business of the assessee. Assessee claimed depreciation under s. 32 of the Act on the consumer durables/goods leased on the plea that the assets were owned by the assessee and were used by it in its business of leasing. The assessing authority, however, denied depreciation to the assessee on the said assets by holding that the assessee was neither the owner of the assets nor assets were to put to any commercial use by it. Assessee was getting the vouchers and other purchase documents made out in its name. It was also found that the assessee was arranging transaction of its leasing business in a way as if the legal ownership vests with it. But, however, it never came to possess the assets in reality.
The assets were not shown in the schedule annexed to the balance sheet of the assessee. It was also found that the assessee had never declared the âscrap value of assetsâ during their lifetime even though their written down value had become zero. The assets on which the depreciation was claimed were consumer durables like TV, VCR, refrigerators and scooters, etc., and therefore, there was no question of those assets being put to any commercial use by the assessee. On these findings the assessing authority concluded that the transactions entered into by the assessee with its customers were in fact not leasing transactions inasmuch as the goods were never returned to the assessee at the end of the lease period. The AO, therefore, declined to allow depreciation on the assets. Assessee being aggrieved against the order of the assessing authority filed appeal before the CIT(A). CIT(A) concurred with the view taken by the assessing authority and dismissed the appeal. Aggrieved by the order of the CIT(A) the assessee filed further appeal before the Tribunal which was also dismissed. It was found by the Tribunal that the leasing business of the assessee was of such a nature that the assessee nominally purchased the consumer durables and immediately handed them over to its customers. It is the customers themselves who chose the consumer durables and also arranged for their purchase. The assessee provided finance for purchasing the goods. In the books of the assessee, the customers become indebted to the entire cost of goods along with interest or so-called âlease rentâ payable thereon. The agreements are drawn up in such a manner that the assessee would remain the owner of the goods till the full payments are made. But the arrangements were made in such a manner that in the case of a good customer sticking to the terms of the agreement, the entire amount including the lease rent would get paid up before the expiry of the lease period. The ownership of the goods thereafter would pass on from the assessee to the customers and they would not be required to return the goods to the assessee. On these findings the Tribunal dismissed the appeals. Thereafter on an application made by the assessee under s. 256(1) of the Act, the Tribunal has referred the three questions of law already reproduced in the earlier part of the judgment to this Court for its opinion along with the statement of case.
6. Question No. 1 : Counsel for the assessee argued that an assessee is entitled to depreciation under s. 32 of the Act on tangible assets like building, machinery, plant or furniture and intangible assets like know-how, patents, copyrights, trade marks, licences, etc., if he owns the assets and uses them for the purpose of business/profession. For this he has placed reliance on the judgment of this Court in CIT vs. Shaan Finance (P) Ltd. (1993) 109 CTR (Kar) 209 : (1993) 199 ITR 409 (Kar) : TC 28R.222 which was later on affirmed by the Supreme Court in CIT vs. Shaan Finance (P) Ltd. (1998) 146 CTR (SC) 110 : (1998) 231 ITR 308 (SC) : TC S28.2876. The assessee being engaged in the business of leasing out/letting out of his articles, remains the owner of the assets and uses them for its business and, therefore, would be entitled to the depreciation claimed under s. 32 of the Act. We do not find merit in the submission of the counsel for the assessee on the given facts and circumstances of the case.Ordinarily, the lessor is not entitled to claim depreciation on the assets leased by him because, in that case, the leased out asset is used for the purpose of business/profession of the lessee and not that of the lessor. But if an assessee is engaged in the letting out of his assets then he would be entitled to the depreciation in respect thereof as he remains the owner of assets as well as uses them for his business, the business being letting out the assets. In the present case on the findings recorded (which have not been challenged) we find that the transaction entered into by the appellant were in fact not lease transaction entered into by the appellant were in fact not lease transaction but sale of goods on instalment basis. It is the customers, who themselves chose the consumer durables and arranged for their purchase. The assessee provided the finance and in the books of the assessee the customer became indebted to the extent of the entire cost of the goods along with interest or so-called âlease rentâ payable thereon. The arrangements are made in such a way that if a customer sticks to the terms of the agreement, then, the entire amount including the lease rent gets paid up before the expiry of the period of lease and the ownership of the goods passes on from the assessee to the customer automatically. The customers are not required to return the goods to the assessee. It is like selling goods by way of equated instalments. The contention of the assessee remains the legal owner of the goods and he is engaged in the leasing business and, therefore, entitled to the depreciation on the assets leased out would not hold good in the present case as consumer durables are actually stock-in-trade in the business of the assessee on which there is no provision for allowance of depreciation.
The judgments on which the reliance is placed by the counsel for the assessee are of no assistance to him as in those cases the Courts were considering as to whether the assessee is entitled to investment allowance in respect of machinery owned by the assessee to third parties who use the machinery for manufacture of articles or things. It was proved by the assessee that the machinery owned by it had actually been leased out to a third party and on these facts it was held that the assessee would be entitled to the investment allowance under s. 32A. Whereas in the case before us the finding recorded is that the assessee neither actually owned the assets nor did it use it for its business. The transaction entered into by the assessee was for sale of the consumer durables by way ofinstalments. It is the assessee who chose and purchased the goods. The assessee had paid for the goods on behalf of the customer. Simultaneously, it debited the sale price to the account of the consumer and recovered the money due to it in instalments which included the cost of the assets as well as the interest on the money advanced by theassessee for the purchase of the goods. By the time the final instalment got paid, the principal as well as interest get wiped out and the consumer becomes the owner of the goods. The goods never come back to the assessee for leasing them to any other person. Though the transaction was termed as a lease deed in fact that was in the nature of hire- purchase/instalment scheme. The goods have to be considered as assets payable thereon. The assessee incurs expenditure on the cost of the goods at the time of purchase of the same. But immediately thereafter the assessee debits the respective customer in respect of the said entire cost. The cost of the goods incurred by the assessee thus becomes recoupable by it from its customers. Had the assessee been leasing out the goods then after the expiry of lease period the leased goods would be returned to the assessee for further leasing. As pointed out earlier the consumer becomes the owner of the goods before the expiry of the lease period as he pays the purchase price of the goods along with interest by way of instalment. The assessee has not even declared the scope value of the goods at any time during the lifetime of the goods or when the written down value becomes zero. In these circumstances we are of the opinion that the Tribunal was right in holding that the assessee would not be entitled to claim depreciation on the goods which were stated to have been leased out by him to the authorised customers. Question No. 1 is answered in the affirmative i.e. against the assessee and in favour of the Revenue. Questions 2 and 3 : Questions 2 and 3 are interlinked and interdependent on each other and, therefore, are taken up together. Immediately after incurring the expenditure on the cost of the goods, the assessee debits the respective customer in respect of the entire cost in his books and the costs of goods incurred by the assessee become recoupable by it from its customers. The assessee follows mercantile system of accountancy. The assessee gets reimbursed by the customer in respect of the cost of the goods incurred by it although the actual payment may take some time under the deferred payment scheme. Actual cost as defined under s. 43(1) means the actual cost of the assets to the assessee reduced by that portion of the cost thereof, if any, as has been met directly or indirectly by any other person or authority. As the assessee in his books of accounts debits the cost of the goods in the account of the customer and the customer becomes indebted to the extent of entire cost along with interest, the actual cost of the assets in the hands of the assessee becomes nil immediately on purchase of the goods. It goes without saying that depreciation cannot be allowed on assets for which the actual cost is nil. Question Nos. 2 and 3 are also answered in the affirmative against the assessee and in favour of the Revenue. The questions stand answered accordingly. No costs.
[Citation : 248 ITR 713]