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No TDS liability on income received on non-technical services outsourced to foreign company


Last updated: 21 February 2023

Court :
Karnataka High Court

Brief :
The Hon'ble Karnataka High Court in The Director of Income-Tax v. IBM India Private Limited [I.T.A NO. 218 of 2014 dated January 16, 2023] has held that, the pay roll related services by assessee outsourced to its foreign companywould be treated as business income earned by the foreign companyand not a technical service therefore, would not be liable for Tax Deducted at Source ("TDS") under Section 195 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 ("the IT Act"). Further held that, the payments received by foreign company, would be chargeable to tax outside India.

Citation :
I.T.A NO. 218 of 2014 dated January 16, 2023

The Hon'ble Karnataka High Court in The Director of Income-Tax v. IBM India Private Limited [I.T.A NO. 218 of 2014 dated January 16, 2023] has held that, the pay roll related services by assessee outsourced to its foreign companywould be treated as business income earned by the foreign companyand not a technical service therefore, would not be liable for Tax Deducted at Source ("TDS") under Section 195 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 ("the IT Act"). Further held that, the payments received by foreign company, would be chargeable to tax outside India.

Facts

IBM India Private Limited ("the Respondent") is a company engaged in the business of information technology services. IBM USA had entered into a global arrangement with Procter and Gamble ("P&G"), USA for rendering payroll related services to P&G USA, for which IBM India entered into an agreement with P&G India. Further, the payroll related services and certain human resource services to be rendered by IBM India to P&G India was outsourced to IBM Philippines.

Thereafter, an Order-in-Original dated September 14, 2012 ("the OIO") was passed by the Revenue Department ("the Appellant") wherein, it was alleged that the Respondent had made payments to IBM, Philippines for payroll services without deducting tax at source under Section 195 of the IT Act therefore, the Respondent was treated as 'assessee in default' as per Section 201 of the IT Act.

Being aggrieved an appeal was filed before the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals), wherein the OIO was confirmed. Thereafter, an appeal was filed before the ITAT, Bangalore, wherein, vide Order-in-Appeal dated January 24, 2014 ("the OIA"), it was held that the payments made by the Respondent were not chargeable to tax under the India-Philippines Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement ("DTAA") and hence, no tax was required to be deducted.

Hence, this appeal has been filed by the Appellant on the ground that the services rendered by IBM Philippines falls under the category of managerial and consultancy services, which would fall under the category of 'technical services' therefore, as per Explanation 2 to Section 9(1)(vii) of the IT Act, the services being technical in nature and not business profits is deemed to accrue in India under Section 5(2)(b) of the IT Act.

Issues

(1) Whether the pay roll services rendered by IBM Philippines to the Respondent is technical service or constitute business profits?
(2) Whether the term 'Fee and Technical Service' ("FTS") as defined in Section 90 of the IT Act can be considered w.r.t. service provided by IBM Philippines?
(3) Whether the interest under Section 201(1) of the IT Act is leviable on the Respondent?

Held

The Hon'ble Karnataka High Court in I.T.A NO. 218 of 2014 held as under:

  • Observed that, as per Article 7 of India-Philippines DTAA, IBM Philippines would be chargeable to tax in Philippines on the transactions between the Respondent and IBM Philippines.
  • Noted that, IBM Philippines work as a sub-contractor under IBM India and earns profit by rendering service to P&G India and further does not have a permanent establishment in India.
  • Held that, the income in the hands of IBM Philippines from the Respondent is a business income as IBM Philippines was not rendering any technical service. Thus, the payments received by IBM Philippines shall not be liable for TDS under Section 195 of the IT Act.
  • Further, held that the Respondent cannot be termed as 'assessee in default' as per Section 201(1) of the IT Act.

Relevant Provisions

Section 195 of the IT Act

"Other sums

(1) Any person responsible for paying to a non-resident, not being a company, or to a foreign company, any interest (not being interest referred to in section 194LB or section 194LC)or section 194LD or any other sum chargeable under the provisions of this Act (not being income chargeable under the head "Salaries" shall, at the time of credit of such income to the account of the payee or at the time of payment thereof in cash or by the issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode, whichever is earlier, deduct income-tax thereon at the rates in force :

Provided that in the case of interest payable by the Government or a public sector bank within the meaning of clause (23D) of section 10 or a public financial institution within the meaning of that clause, deduction of tax shall be made only at the time of payment thereof in cash or by the issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode :

Explanation.1-For the purposes of this section, where any interest or other sum as aforesaid is credited to any account, whether called "Interest payable account" or "Suspense account" or by any other name, in the books of account of the person liable to pay such income, such crediting shall be deemed to be credit of such income to the account of the payee and the provisions of this section shall apply accordingly.

Explanation 2.-For the removal of doubts, it is hereby clarified that the obligation to comply with sub-section (1) and to make deduction thereunder applies and shall be deemed to have always applied and extends and shall be deemed to have always extended to all persons, resident or non-resident, whether or not the non-resident person has-

(i) a residence or place of business or business connection in India; or
(ii) any other presence in any manner whatsoever in India.

(2) Where the person responsible for paying any such sum chargeable under this Act (other than salary) to a non-resident considers that the whole of such sum would not be income chargeable in the case of the recipient, he may make an application in such form and manner to the Assessing Officer, to determine in such manner, as may be prescribed, the appropriate proportion of such sum so chargeable, and upon such determination, tax shall be deducted under sub-section (1) only on that proportion of the sum which is so chargeable.

(3) Subject to rules made under sub-section (5), any person entitled to receive any interest or other sum on which income-tax has to be deducted under sub-section (1) may make an application in the prescribed form to the Assessing Officer for the grant of a certificate authorising him to receive such interest or other sum without deduction of tax under that sub-section, and where any such certificate is granted, every person responsible for paying such interest or other sum to the person to whom such certificate is granted shall, so long as the certificate is in force, make payment of such interest or other sum without deducting tax thereon under sub-section (1).

(4) A certificate granted under sub-section (3) shall remain in force till the expiry of the period specified therein or, if it is cancelled by the Assessing Officers before the expiry of such period, till such cancellation.

(5) The Board may, having regard to the convenience of assessees and the interests of revenue, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules specifying the cases in which, and the circumstances under which, an application may be made for the grant of a certificate under sub-section (3) and the conditions subject to which such certificate may be granted and providing for all other matters connected therewith.

(6) The person responsible for paying to a non-resident, not being a company, or to a foreign company, any sum, whether or not chargeable under the provisions of this Act, shall furnish the information relating to payment of such sum, in such form and manner, as may be prescribed.

(7) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) and sub-section (2), the Board may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify a class of persons or cases, where the person responsible for paying to a non-resident, not being a company, or to a foreign company, any sum, whether or not chargeable under the provisions of this Act, shall make an application in such form and manner to the Assessing Officer, to determine in such manner, as may be prescribed, the appropriate proportion of sum chargeable, and upon such determination, tax shall be deducted under sub-section (1) on that proportion of the sum which is so chargeable."

Section 201(1) of the IT Act

"Consequences of failure to deduct or pay-

(1) Where any person, including the principal officer of a company-

(a) who is required to deduct any sum in accordance with the provisions of this Act; or

(b) referred to in sub-section (1A) of section 192, being an employer,
does not deduct, or does not pay, or after so deducting fails to pay, the whole or any part of the tax, as required by or under this Act, then, such person, shall, without prejudice to any other consequences which he may incur, be deemed to be an assessee in default in respect of such tax:

Provided that any person, including the principal officer of a company, who fails to deduct the whole or any part of the tax in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter on the sum paid to a payee or on the sum credited to the account of a payee shall not be deemed to be an assessee in default in respect of such tax if such payee-

(i) has furnished his return of income under section 139;
(ii) has taken into account such sum for computing income in such return of income; and
(iii) has paid the tax due on the income declared by him in such return of income,

and the person furnishes a certificate to this effect from an accountant in such form as may be prescribed:

Provided further that no penalty shall be charged under section 221 from such person, unless the Assessing Officer is satisfied that such person, without good and sufficient reasons, has failed to deduct and pay such tax."

 
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Bimal Jain
Published in Income Tax
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