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Satyam could get a tax refund
January, 10th 2009

There could be a silver lining for Satyam amid the dark clouds. The scam-tainted IT services company, whose accounts could be scrutinised by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), can actually claim a refund on the taxes paid in the past.

Technically, a refund claim can be made if the restated accounts reflect a lower profit than what was reported in the books of accounts, said a senior income-tax department official.

The company had made tax provisions of Rs 254.86 crore and Rs 168.15 crore for the financial years 2007-08 and 2006-07, respectively. The company had reported revenues of Rs 8,394.48 crore and Rs 6,410.08 crore for the two fiscal years, respectively.

The firm has time till March 2009 and March 2010, respectively, to revise its income-tax returns for 2006-07 and 2007-08. It can also claim a refund on the advance tax paid in the first two quarters of this fiscal. ICAI president Ved Jain confirmed the same, saying that the company will first have to revise their balance sheet and income statement and then claim a refund if it is evident from the revised financials that they have paid any excess tax.

Satyam, like many other software companies, earns a bulk of its income from exports and enjoys a tax holiday on export profits under the Income-Tax Act. Since the company has now admitted to inflating its income, tax authorities are expected to examine the tax benefits enjoyed by it over the years on its export income as well.

However, according to the annual report for FY08, the companys tax exemption for one unit each in the software technology parks in Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Bhubaneshwar had expired at the beginning of fiscal 2008. This, along with the increase in revenues, has been cited as reason for an Rs 86.71-crore increase in the companys current tax provision.

Even if a refund could be a possibility, the entire process may take a while as investigating agencies including market regulator Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India) have launched a probe after B Ramalinga Raju, the firms disgraced chairman, confessed that the companys accounts had been fudged and there was a Rs 7,000-crore hole in its balance sheet.

The gap in the balance sheet has arisen purely on account of inflated profits over a period of last several years (limited only to Satyam standalone, books of subsidiaries reflecting true performance). What started as a marginal gap between actual operating profits and the one reflected in the books of accounts continued to grow over the years and attained unmanageable proportions, Raju had said in his confession letter to the stock exchanges on January 7.

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