Every year Budget introduces amendment in various tax laws with the aim of rationalization in the tax regime of the country. Budget 2012 in the same row came out with various amendments in direct and indirect tax laws.
Government has celebrated the attainment of majority (18 years) of Service tax laws introduced in the year 1994 by bringing drastic changes. The changes have tried to justify the “Major” status of service tax laws. GST is supposed to be rolled out next year. Smooth introduction of GST requires changes in the current tax regime and these changes are very much in that direction.
With effect from 1st July 2012, the CBEC has proposed and the Parliament has passed the switch from an ad hoc system of selecting services to tax, to a negative list in view of the impending GST regime. The service sector contributes to over 56% of GDP, but service tax revenues account for less than 1% of GDP, since only 16% of the sector is being taxed despite having a list of almost 120 taxable services. The implementation of a negative list w.e.f. 1.7.2012 removes any non-considered biases caused by the present system which plays favorites by taxing some services and leaving others out of the tax net albeit at the cost of small/ medium / unorganized service providers. Now only the reason for the exemption and whether it ensures equality as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution of India are only issues which could be examined.
This change from “selective” basis to “comprehensive” basis is normally observed when developing countries become developed. The onus of compliance has shifted from the revenue proving a classification and consequent liability to the tax payer proving how exemption is available. Considering the level of education and unorganized sector involved in providing services, this may lead to widespread non compliance and consequent corruption increase. In India we have one of the most cumbersome and complicated law coupled with large scale corruption and therefore in the opinion of the paper setter- this was quite premature.
What is Service?
Section 65B(44) of the Finance Act, 1994 defines the term ‘Service’ for the first time effective from 1st of July, 2012, vide amendment effected by the Finance Act, 2012. Right from the introduction of the service tax in 1994 till 1st July, 2012 what was taxed was the deemed service based on positive list. With the changed taxation structure from the positive list of taxation to the negative list based taxation, the definition of the term ‘service’ assumes great significance. The express definition of ‘service’ states that, service means any activity carried out by a person for another for consideration and includes a declared service. However, the definition is further continued to state what activities are specifically not included in the definition of ‘service’. Accordingly, ‘Service’ does not include –
i. any activity that constitutes merely or exclusively (i) a transfer in title of goods or immovable property, by way of sale, gift or in any other manner or (ii) a transaction in money or actionable claim. [presumably to ensure that disputes applicability of taxes by Centre and State are avoided/ minimized]
ii. any service provided by an employee to an employer in the course of or in relation to his employment.
iii. fees paid to a Court or a Tribunal set up under a law for the time being in force.
Thus it is evident that through the three limbs of exhaustive, inclusive and exclusive features of the definition, there is an attempt to bring about clarity and simplicity in understanding the meaning of service in law terms.
Declared Service- An Analysis
Declared Services – Service has been defined to include declared services. Declared Services are defined under Section 65B (22) of the Finance Act, 1994 to mean any activity carried out by a person for another person for consideration and declared as such under Section 66E of the Finance Act, 1994. It means for a service to come under the category of declared services, it has to satisfy two basic conditions conjunctively
· it must be an activity by one person to another for consideration
· it must be specified(i.e. declared) under section 66E
Need for Declared Service
The definition of service in the first instant is very wide to cover any transaction done for a consideration. However, there exist few activities which would overlap with the other levies of state with a marginal difference, thereby questioning the constitutional validity of the levy under service tax. In some cases there may be a doubt whether that activity could possibly called a service at all. To rest the doubt about the validity of a transaction to be considered as service, the authority has intended to declare such activities to be a service. To give an instance, the first declared service “renting of immovable property service” was challenged as to whether it was a “service” as well as the competence of the Union to levy the tax on a property, which is a subject to state governance. Similarly most of the declared services were challenged. For all events and purposes these transactions shall be deemed to be service.
The following nine activities have been specified in section 66E:
a. renting of immovable property;
b. construction of a complex, building, civil structure or a part thereof, including a complex or building intended for sale to a buyer, wholly or partly, except where the entire consideration is received after issuance of certificate of completion by a competent authority;
c. temporary transfer or permitting the use or enjoyment of any intellectual property right;
d. development, design, programming, customization, adaptation, up gradation, enhancement, implementation of information technology software;
e. agreeing to the obligation to refrain from an act, or to tolerate an act or a situation, or to do an act;
f. transfer of goods by way of hiring, leasing, licensing or any such manner without transfer of right to use such goods;
g. activities in relation to delivery of goods on hire purchase or any system of payment by installments;
h. service portion in execution of a works contract;
i. service portion in an activity wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink (whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as part of the activity.
It is clarified that they are amply covered by the definition of service but have been declared with a view to remove any ambiguity for the purpose of uniform application of law all over the country.
Renting of Immovable Property [Para(a) of Section 66E]
· It was already taxable. Validity of the levy was upheld by many courts. P&H-Shumbh Steel, Orrisa-Utkal Builders, Gujrat HC-Cinemax, Delhi HC- Home Retail, and Mumbai HC also.
· S.65B: “Renting” means allowing, permitting or granting access, entry, occupation, usage or any such facility, wholly or partly, in an immovable property, with or without the transfer of possession or control of the said immovable property and includes letting, leasing, licensing or other similar arrangements in respect of immovable property.
Renting in negative list (S.66D)
· Services relating to agriculture or agricultural produce by way of renting or leasing vacant land with or without a structure incidental to its use are covered under the negative list vide section 66D(d)(iv). The transaction could be without any sort of the structure, however, in case there is any structure, even that has to be used incidental to agriculture.
· Services by way of renting of residential dwelling for use as residence is also covered under the Negative list vide section 66D(m) of the Act.
Exemption under Notification No. 25/2012-ST dated 20.06.2012
· Renting of precincts of a religious place meant for general public (Para5 of Notification 25/2012)
· Renting of immovable property to an educational institution in respect of such service relating to providing of education (given in Para9 of the said notification)
· Renting of a hotel, inn, guest house, club, campsite or other commercial places meant for residential or lodging purposes, having declared tariff of a unit of accommodation below rupees one thousand per day or equivalent (Para18 of the said Notification)
· Services by way of vehicle parking to general public excluding leasing of space to an entity for providing such parking facility. (Para24 of the said Notification)
Thus, parking charges collected at cinema theatres, malls etc, is exempted from service tax as it falls under services by way of motor vehicle parking to general public.
· Renting for temporary purpose like marriages or other social functions because it includes renting without transfer of possession or control,
· Permitting use of property for vending/dispensing machine
· Allowing erection of tower
· Renting for entertainment or sports
· Renting of theatres by owners to film distributor
Place of property determines taxability
If immovable property is in non taxable territory and is owned by person in taxable territory it shall not be taxable.
Construction of Complex [Para(b) of Section 66E]:
· This entry is mentioned as “Construction of a complex, building, civil structure or a part thereof, including a complex or building intended for sale to a buyer, wholly or partly, except where the entire consideration is received after issuance of certificate of completion by a competent authority”. The expression "construction" includes additions, alterations, replacements or remodeling of any existing civil structure.
· This service intends to cover whole or part of the construction of a complex, which refers to a group of building, construction of independent building, and construction of civil structure. Such construction whether put to use for commerce or industry, whether the same is used for residential purpose, whether for charitable purpose, whether for the public purpose or by Government would be irrelevant for determining the coverage under this declared service. However, there are few exemptions are there in Negative list and in Mega Exemption Notification No.25/2012-ST.
· Importance of the 2nd limb of the entry- This limb plays a vital role in determining the taxability of the activity. The entire activity of the builder/ developer/ promoter would be deemed to be service only if any amount has been received prior to issuance of completion certificate by a Competent Authority. If any amount is received in this behalf after the issuance of completion certificate, then the activity would be a mere transfer of title in immovable property and thereby doesn’t falling under the definition of service. The same was also there in the earlier regime by way of an Explanation to the taxable service definition w.e.f., 01.07.2010.
· "Competent authority" means the Government or any authority authorized to issue completion certificate under any law for the time being in force and in case of non requirement of such certificate from such authority, from any of the following, namely:––
(A) architect registered with the Council of Architecture constituted under the Architects Act, 1972; or
(B) chartered engineer registered with the Institution of Engineers (India); or
(C) licensed surveyor of the respective local body of the city or town or village or development or planning authority;
Service in Negative List U/S-66D
No specific entry pertaining to construction activity.
Exemption under Notification No. 25/2012-ST dated 20.06.2012
· Para 12 of the Notification provides exemption for the Services provided to the Government, a local authority or a governmental authority by way of construction, erection, commissioning, installation, completion, fitting out, repair, maintenance, renovation, or alteration of -
(a) civil structure or any other original works meant predominantly for use other than for commerce, industry, or any other business or profession;
(b) a historical monument, archaeological site or remains of national importance, archaeological excavation, or antiquity specified under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958);
(c) a structure meant predominantly for use as (i) an educational, (ii) a clinical, or (iii) an art or cultural establishment;
(d) canal, dam or other irrigation works;
(e) pipeline, conduit or plant for (i) water supply (ii) water treatment, or (iii) sewerage treatment or disposal; or
(f) a residential complex predominantly meant for self-use or the use of their employees or other persons specified in the Explanation 1 to clause 44 of section 65 B of the said Act;
· Para 13 of the Notification provides exemption for Services provided by way of construction, erection, commissioning, installation, completion, fitting out, repair, maintenance, renovation, or alteration of,-
a) road, bridge, tunnel, or terminal for road transportation for use by general public;
b) a civil structure or any other original works pertaining to a scheme under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission or Rajiv Awaas Yojana;
c)building owned by an entity registered under section 12 AA of the Income tax Act, 1961(43 of 1961) and meant predominantly for religious use by general public;
d) pollution control or effluent treatment plant, except located as a part of a factory; or
e) a structure meant for funeral, burial or cremation of deceased;
· Further Para 14 exempts Services by way of construction, erection, commissioning, or installation of original works pertaining to,-
a) an airport, port or railways, including monorail or metro;
b) single residential unit otherwise than as a part of a residential complex;
c) low-cost houses up to a carpet area of 60 square metres per house in a housing project approved by competent authority empowered under the ‘Scheme of Affordable Housing in Partnership’ framed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India;
d) post-harvest storage infrastructure for agricultural produce including a cold storages for such purposes; or
e) mechanized food grain handling system, machinery or equipment for units processing agricultural produce as food stuff excluding alcoholic beverages;
Construction Contract not coupled with transfer of property
Construction Contract coupled with transfer of property in goods
Construction contract intended for sale which includes value of land as well
As per section 67 of the Act.
As per Rule 2A of the Service Tax (Determination of value) Rules, 2006.
Option given in Notification No.26/2012-ST for abatement of 75%(with condition)
Temporary transfer or permitting the use or enjoyment of any intellectual property right [Para(c) of Section 66E]
Intellectual Property right (IPR) is the most valued intangible asset to any organisation. ‘Intellectual property right’ has not been defined in the Act. The phrase has to be understood as it is understood in normal trade parlance as per which intellectual property right includes the following –
- Any other similar right to an intangible property
Temporary transfer or permitting the use or enjoyment of a copyright covered under clause (a) or (b) of sub-section (1) of section 13 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, relating to original literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works or cinematograph films is exempt (Para15 of Not. 25/2012)
Development etc of IT software (Para(d) of Section 66E)
Declared services also includes: Development, design, programming, customization, adaptation, up-gradation, enhancement, implementation of information technology software.
Issues which may arise here are addressed below:
· Online development of software is also covered in declared service
· Consultation on IT software is also declared service
· It is a settled position of law that pre-packaged software or canned software or shrink wrapped software is goods. (Supreme Court judgment in case of Tata Consultancy Services vs State of Andhra Pradesh [2002(178) ELT 22(SC) refers]. Thus pre-packaged software is not a service.
· To determine whether providing license to use a software is a service or sale of goods it would need to be seen whether the license to use packaged software tantamount to ‘transfer of right to use goods’.
· ‘Transfer of right to use goods’ is deemed to be a sale under Article 366(29A) of the Constitution of India and transfer of goods by way of hiring, leasing, licensing or any such manner without transfer of right to use such goods is a declared service.
No specific entry in Negative List and in Mega Exemption Notification
Non Compete Fee [Para(e) of Section 66E]:
The essential elements to be covered under this declared service are:
· the obligation to refrain from an act,
· or to tolerate an act or a situation,
· or to do an act.
This was not taxable earlier. As it is observed, no effort is required to earn. You just have to restrain or tolerate a situation. This is not an activity, still taxable because specifically covered by declared service.
Transfer of goods by way of hiring, leasing, licensing or in any such manner without transfer of right to use such goods (Para(f) of Section 66E):
In the above instance, transfer of rights to use goods is a well recognized constitutional and legal concept. Every transfer of goods on lease, license or hiring basis does not result in transfer of right to use goods. ‘Transfer of right of goods’ involves transfer of possession and effective control over such goods.
The test laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Vs. Union of India [2006 (2)STR 161 SC] to determine whether a transaction involves transfer of right to use goods, which has been followed by the Supreme Court and various High Courts as follows :
· There must be goods available for delivery
· There must be a consensus ad idem as to the identity of the goods
· The transferee should have legal right to use the goods – consequently all legal consequences of such use including any permissions or licenses required therefore should be available to the transferee
· For the period during which the transferee has such legal right, it has to be to the exclusion of the transferor – this is the necessary condition of the plain language of the statute, viz, a ‘transfer of right to use’ and not merely a license to use the goods
· Having transferred, the owner cannot again transfer the same right to others.
Transfer of goods by way of hiring, leasing, licensing or any such manner vs. transfer of right to use such goods:
· Transfer of goods by way of hiring, leasing, licensing or any such manner without transfer of right to use such goods is declared service under section 66F.
· A car is given on hire by a person to a company along with a driver on payment of charges on per month/ mileage basis – Right to use is not transferred as the car owner retains the permissions and licenses relating to the cab. Therefore possession and effective control remains with the owner. The service is therefore covered in the declared list entry.
· Hiring of bank lockers – The transaction does not involve the right to use goods as possession of the lockers is not transferred to the hirer even though the contents of the locker would be in the possession of the hirer. (State Bank of India and Others vs. State of Andhra Pradesh 1988 (70) STC 0215)
· Hiring out of vehicles where it is the responsibility of the owner to abide by all the laws relating to motor vehicles – No transfer of right to use goods as effective control and possession is not transferred (Allahabad High Court judgement in Ahuja Goods Agency Vs. State of UP)
· Hiring of audio visual equipment where risk is of the owner - No transfer of right to use goods as effective control and possession is not transferred.
Hiring of Motor Vehicle and means of transportation –Not. 25/2012
Para22 of the exemption notification exempts Services by way of giving on hire -
(a) to a state transport undertaking, a motor vehicle meant to carry more than twelve passengers;
(b) to a goods transport agency, a means of transportation of goods to a goods transport agency, a means of transportation of goods.
Forklift is supplied on hire to a GTA for loading and unloading of goods in a truck. Whether exemption is available? Exemption is available when “a means of transportation of goods” is supplied. It means a vehicle usable in actual transportation of goods. Forklift cannot be used in actual transportation of goods. Accordingly, exemption benefit is not available.
Delivery of goods on hire-purchase or any system of payment by instalments [Para(g) of Section 66E]:
Section 2 of the Hire Purchase Act, 1972 defines a ‘hire purchase agreement’ as an agreement under which goods are let out on hire and under which the hirer has the option to purchase them in accordance with the terms of the agreement and included an agreement under which –
i. Possession of goods is delivered by the owner thereof to a person on condition that such person pays the agreed amount in periodical installments, and
ii. The property in the goods is to pass to such person on the payment of the last of such installments, and
iii. Such person has a right to terminate the agreement at any time before the property so passes;
Key ingredients of the deemed sale category of ‘delivery of goods on hire-purchase or any system of payment by installments’, therefore are
· Transfer of possession (and not just of custody)
· The hirer has the option or obligation to purchase the goods in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
Difference between a normal hiring agreement and a hire-purchase agreement:
In a mere hiring agreement the hirer has no option to purchase the goods hired and the risks and rewards incidental to ownership of goods remain with the owner and are not transferred to the hirer. In a hire-purchase agreement the hirer has an option or an obligation to purchase goods.
· Delivery of goods on hire-purchase or any system of payment by installments is covered in the definition of deemed sale and hence not taxable as service.
· At the same time it is declared service under section 66E.
· Hence the question arises what part of this service is taxable.
· It has been held by the Supreme Court in the case of Association of Leasing & Financial Service Companies Vs. UOI [2010 (20) STR 417 SC] that in equipment leasing/ hire purchase agreements there are two different and distinct transactions, viz., the financing transaction and the equipment leasing/ hire purchase transaction and it is the financing transaction, consideration for which was represented by way of interest or other charges like lease management fee, processing fee, documentation charges and administrative fees, which is chargeable to service tax. Therefore, such financial services that accompany a hire-purchase agreement fall in the ambit of this entry of declared services.
· In terms of the exemption notification relating to such activities, service tax is leviable only on 10% of the amount representing interest. No exemption is available in respect of other charges.
Works Contract [Para(h) of Section 66E]:
· It is worthy to note that the phrase used is ‘works contract’ and not work contract. ‘Works’ has a defined and accepted legal meaning. As per Black’s Law dictionary ‘work’ means ‘buildings or structures on land’.
· Works contract has been defined in section 65B of the Act as a contract wherein transfer of property in goods involved in the execution of such contract is leviable to tax as sale of goods and such contract is for the purpose of carrying out construction, erection, commissioning, installation, completion, fitting out, maintenance, repair, renovation, alteration of any movable or immovable property or for carrying out any other similar activity or a part thereof in relation to any movable or immovable property. (‘building or structure on land’ substituted by immovable property). The definition of works contract was earlier given as an explanation to Section 65(105)(zzzza) which is amended to fit into the new scheme of declared services.
· In terms of Article 366(29A) of the Constitution of India, transfer of property in goods involved in execution of works contract is deemed to be a sale of such goods.
· It is a well settled position of law, declared by the Supreme Court in BSNL’s case [2006 (2) STR 161 SC], that a works contract can be segregated into a contract of sale of goods and contract of provision of service.
· This declared list entry has been incorporated to capture this position of law in simple terms under section 66E.
Scope of Works Contract
· The basic requirement is that the activity should be subject to sales tax. However, definition of works contract under service tax and CST/ State VAT is quite different.
· Buildings and structures on land means not only buildings or structures attached to earth but also things permanently fastened to a building or structure attached to earth.
· Pipeline or conduit are structures on land contracts for construction of such structure would be covered under works contract
· Contracts for erection commissioning or installation of plant, machinery, equipment or structures, whether prefabricated or otherwise be treated as a works contract if
-Transfer of property in goods is involved in such a contract; and
- The machinery equipment structures are attached or embedded to earth after erection commissioning or installation
· contracts for painting of a building, repair of a building, renovation of a building, wall tiling, flooring be covered under ‘works contract’
· Pure labour contracts are not works contracts
Valuation in Works Contract
Broadly, there are two methods for valuation
(a) Calculate value of service and pay service tax
i) Value of service = Gross amount – value of property in goods
ii) If not (i) value of service shall be
For execution of original works => 40% of total amount shall be value
For maintenance or repair or reconditioning or restoration or servicing of any goods => 70% of total amount shall be value
For other works contracts => 60% of total amount shall be value
(b) Composition scheme i.e. service tax shall be percentage of total value of works contract including value of free material supplied by customer. But as of now, the negative list based taxation has not notified the effectiveness of composition scheme.
In either case, CENVAT credit cannot be availed of excise duty paid on goods, the property of which is transferred to customer. Thus, CENVAT credit cannot be availed on excise duty paid on building material like cement, steel, tiles, fittings, etc. Cenvat Credit available for goods for which property is not transferred subject to reversal under Rule 6 of Cenvat Credit Rules. [expected to be re examined prior to 1.7.2012 and changes put in place to take the concept of seamless credit further.]
Exemption for Works Contracts - Notification 25/2012
· Para12 of Not. 25/2012: Services provided to the Government or local authority or government authority by way of construction, erection, commissioning, installation, completion, fitting out, repair, maintenance, renovation, or alteration of-
(a) a civil structure or any other original works meant predominantly for a non-industrial or non-commercial use;
(b) a historical monument, archaeological site or remains of national importance, archaeological excavation, or antiquity specified under Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958);
(c) a structure meant predominantly for use as (i) an educational, (ii) a clinical, or (iii) an art or cultural establishment;
(d) canal, dam or other irrigation works;
(e) pipeline, conduit or plant for (i) drinking water supply (ii) water treatment (iii) sewerage treatment or disposal; or
(f) a residential complex predominantly meant for self-use or the use of their employees or other persons specified in the Explanation 1 to clause 44 of section 65 B of the said Finance Act;
· Para13 of Not. 25/2012: Services provided by way of construction, erection, commissioning, installation, completion, fitting out, repair, maintenance, renovation, or alteration of,-
(a) road, bridge, tunnel, or terminal for road transportation for use by general public;
(b) civil structure or any other original works pertaining to a scheme under JNURM or Rajiv Awaas Yojana
(c)building owned by an entity registered under section 12 AA of the Income tax Act, 1961(43 of 1961) and meant predominantly for religious use by general public;
(c) pollution control or effluent treatment plant, except located as a part of a factory; or a structure meant for funeral, burial or cremation of deceased.
· Para14 of Not. 25/2012: Services by way of construction, erection, commissioning or installation of original works pertaining to,-
(a) airport, port or railways, including monorail or metro;
(b) single residential unit otherwise as a part of a residential complex;
(c) low- cost houses up to a carpet area of 60 square meters per house in a housing project approved by competent authority empowered under the ‘Scheme of Affordable Housing in Partnership’ framed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India;
(d) post- harvest storage infrastructure for agricultural produce including a cold storages for such purposes; or
(e) mechanized food grain handling system, machinery or equipment for units processing agricultural produce as food stuff excluding alcoholic beverages;
Reverse Charge mechanism applied for works contract
· Where service provider is-
Individual or HUF or proprietary firm or partnership firm, registered or not or AOP
· And service recipient is company under Companies Act or business entity registered as body corporate located in taxable territory
· 50% tax shall be payable by service provider and 50% shall be payable by service recipient.
Supply of Food or other articles of Human Consumption [Para(i) of Section 66E]:
· As per BSNL and other court decisions dissection between sale and service part is allowed.
·Value of service at restaurant = 40% of total amount
· Value of service as a part of outdoor catering = 60% of total amount
Exemption under Notification 25/2012
· Services provided in relation to serving of food or beverages by a restaurant, eating joint or a mess, other than those having the facility of air-conditioning or central air-heating in any part of the establishment, at any time during the year, and which has a license to serve alcoholic beverage. (Para19 of 25/2012)
This article provides the understanding of the new law and a brief analysis of what is Service and declared services. We have to wait and watch if it is going to create chaos, uncertainty, unprecedented litigation, high pitched demands, and increased corruption while certainly augmenting the coffers. We will soon know.
CA Madhukar N. Hiregange
& CA Dhanashree D. Prabhu