AOs decision to refer to TPO must be based on material & not be arbitrary
The assessee entered into transactions with a party named Blue Gems BVBA. In the preceding year, the assessee treated the transactions as an international transaction for transfer pricing purposes. However, in the present year, the assessee claimed that though the said party was a related party, it was not an affiliated entity as defined in s. 92CA. However, instead of deciding the issue, the AO made a reference to the TPO to determine the ALP and the TPO asked the assessee to show-cause why the transaction with the said party was not subject to transfer pricing proceedings. The assessee filed a Writ Petition to challenge the action of the AO/TPO. HELD by the High Court:
The AO has jurisdiction to make a reference to the TPO only if there is an international transaction. Though the question as to whether there is an international transaction may be disputed, the AO is not obliged to grant hearing to the assessee, invite and consider the objections with respect to the question whether there was an international transaction before making a reference to the TPO. The AOs opinion has to be based on available material and would have ad-hoc finality. The power cannot be exercised arbitrarily or at whims or caprice. S. 92C (1) has inbuilt safeguards to ensure that the reference is made only in appropriate cases with approval of the higher authority. At the stage of framing the assessment in terms of the TPOs report the AO is entitled (despite the amendment to s. 92CA(4)) to consider the objections of the assessee that in fact there had been no international transaction. If the assessee succeeds in establishing such fact, the AO would have to drop the entire transfer pricing proceedings. Even the DRP has the power to consider whether there was an international transaction or not and it can annul the computations proposed on the basis of the TPOs order. However, the TPO has no jurisdiction to decide the validity of any such reference and his task is only to determine the ALP. On facts, as the parties were closely related and the assessee had accepted in the preceding year that the transactions were subject to transfer pricing, the AOs reference could not be interfered in writ proceedings.