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CIT vs. Hewlett Packard Global Soft Ltd (Karnataka High Court) (Full Bench)
November, 06th 2017

S. 10A/ 10B: Entire law on the concept of "derived from" the undertaking and "purposive interpretation" of statutes explained. The incidental activity of parking surplus funds with banks or advancing of staff loans by assessees covered u/s 10-A or 10-B is an integral part of their export business activity and a business decision taken in view of the commercial expediency. Such incidental income cannot be delinked from the profits and gains derived by the undertaking engaged from the export of specified goods and cannot be taxed separately u/s 56 of the Act

The Full Bench of the Karnataka High Court had to consider the following two important questions of law:

“(i) Whether in the facts and in the circumstances of the case, Tribunal was justified in holding that interest from Fixed Deposits, accrued interest on Fixed Deposits, interest received from Citibank, Hong kong and interest on staff loans should be treated as business income of the assessee even though the assessee is not carrying any banking/financial activity?

(ii) Whether the Assessing Officer was correct in holding that the interest income cannot be held to be derived from eligible business of the assessee (software development) for the purpose of claiming deduction under Section 10A of the Income Tax Act, 1961?”

HELD by the Full Bench:

(i) Sections 10-A and 10-B of the Act are special provisions and complete code in themselves and deal with profits and gains derived by the assessee of a special nature and character like 100% Export Oriented Units (EOUs.) situated in Special Economic Zones (SEZs), STPI, etc., where the entire profits and gains of the entire Undertaking making 100% exports of articles including software as is the fact in the present case, the assessee is given 100% deduction of profit and gains of such export business and therefore incidental income of such undertaking by way of interest on the temporarily parked funds in Banks or even interest on staff loans would constitute part of profits and gains of such special Undertakings and these cases cannot be compared with deductions under Sections 80-HH or 80-IB in Chapter VI-A of the Act where an assessee dealing with several activities or commodities may inter alia earn profits and gains from the specified activity and therefore in those cases, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that the interest income would not be the income “derived from” such Undertakings doing such special business activity.

(ii) The Scheme of Deductions under Chapter VI-A in Sections 80-HH, 80-HHC, 80-IB, etc from the ‘Gross Total Income of the Undertaking’, which may arise from different specified activities in these provisions and other incomes may exclude interest income from the ambit of Deductions under these provisions, but exemption under Section 10-A and 10-B of the Act encompasses the entire income derived from the business of export of such eligible Undertakings including interest income derived from the temporary parking of funds by such Undertakings in Banks or even Staff loans. The dedicated nature of business or their special geographical locations in STPI or SEZs. etc. makes them a special category of assessees entitled to the incentive in the form of 100% Deduction under Section 10-A or 10-B of the Act, rather than it being a special character of income entitled to Deduction from Gross Total Income under Chapter VI-A under Section 80-HH, etc. The computation of income entitled to exemption under Section 10-A or 10-B of the Act is done at the prior stage of computation of Income from Profits and Gains of Business as per Sections 28 to 44 under Part-D of Chapter IV before ‘Gross Total Income’ as defined under Section 80-B(5) is computed and after which the consideration of various Deductions under Chapter VI-A in Section 80HH etc. comes into picture. Therefore analogy of Chapter VI Deductions cannot be telescoped or imported in Section 10-A or 10-B of the Act. The words ‘derived by an Undertaking’ in Section 10-A or 10-B are different from ‘derived from’ employed in Section 80-HH etc. Therefore all Profits and Gains of the Undertaking including the incidental income by way of interest on Bank Deposits or Staff loans would be entitled to 100% exemption or deduction under Section 10-A and 10-B of the Act. Such interest income arises in the ordinary course of export business of the Undertaking even though not as a direct result of export but from the Bank Deposits etc., and is therefore eligible for 100% deduction.

(iii) We have to take a purposive interpretation of the Scheme of the Act for the exemption under Section 10-A/10-B of the Act and for the object of granting such incentive to the special class of assessees selected by the Parliament, the play-in-the-joints is allowed to the Legislature and the liberal interpretation of the exemption provisions to make a purposive interpretation,

(iv) On the above legal position discussed by us, we are of the opinion that the Respondent assessee was entitled to 100% exemption or deduction under Section 10-A of the Act in respect of the interest income earned by it on the deposits made by it with the Banks in the ordinary course of its business and also interest earned by it from the staff loans and such interest income would not be taxable as ‘Income from other Sources’ under Section 56 of the Act. The incidental activity of parking of Surplus Funds with the Banks or advancing of staff loans by such special category of assessees covered under Section 10-A or 10-B of the Act is integral part of their export business activity and a business decision taken in view of the commercial expediency and the interest income earned incidentally cannot be de-linked from its profits and gains derived by the Undertaking engaged in the export of Articles as envisaged under Section 10-A or Section 10-B of the Act and cannot be taxed separately under Section 56 of the Act.

(v) We therefore affirm and agree with the view expressed by the first Division Bench of this Court in the case of M/s. Motorola India Electronics (P) Ltd.(supra) and we do not agree with the view taken by the subsequent Division Bench on 10/04/2014 in the present case.

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