Halcrow Consulting India Pvt. Ltd vs. DCIT (ITAT Delhi)
January, 12th 2018
S. 271(1)(c) Penalty: Under Explanation 7 to s. 271(1)(c), the onus on the assessee is only to show that the ALP is computed in accordance with the scheme of s. 92 C in good faith and due diligence. The fact that the TPO changes the method of computation of ALP does not mean it is a fit case for imposition of penalty if there is no dishonesty is found in the conduct of the assessee
(i) The main argument of the Ld. AR against the levy of penalty on the difference in determination of ALP is that it is a debatable issue and, therefore, the penalty cannot be sustained. The scheme of Explanation 7 to section 271(1)(c) of the Act makes it clear that the onus on the assessee is only to show that the ALP was computed by the assessee in accordance with the scheme of section 92 C of the Act in good faith and due diligence. It is not in dispute here that the ALP was computed in accordance with the scheme of section 92C inasmuch as Cost Plus Method was used. The TPO only substituted Cost Plus Method with TNMM and also computed the ALP of intra group services by taking the ALP as nil by applying the CUP Method. Whatever may be the merits in the action of the TPO changing the method of computation of ALP, the same cannot be a fit case for imposition of penalty inasmuch as it cannot be said that the ALP had not been computed by the assessee under the scheme of section 92C. The scope of connotations of expressed ‘in good faith’ and appearing in Explanation 7 can be found from section 3(22) of the General Clauses Act which states that “a thing shall be deemed to be done in ‘good faith’ where it is in fact done honestly. Therefore, it is not even necessary whether in doing that thing the assessee has been negligent or not. Thus, there is no way that the assessee can prove his honesty, because honesty, in practical terms, only implies lack of dishonesty, and proving not being dishonest is essentially proving a negative, which as the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed in the case of K.P. Verghese vs ITO reported in 131 ITR 597 is almost impossible. However, as the expression ‘good faith’ is used along with ‘due diligence’ which refers to ‘proper care’. It is also essential that not only the action of the assessee should be in good faith but also with proper care. An act done with due diligence would mean the act done with as much as care as a prudent person would take in such circumstances. Thus, as long as no dishonesty is found in the conduct of the assessee, as long as he has done what a reasonable man would have done in his circumstances, to ensure that the ALP was determined in accordance with the scheme of section 92C, deeming fiction under Explanation 7 to section 271(1)(c) cannot be invoked.
(ii) It is seen that the grounds on which the ALP determined by the assessee has been rejected are reasonably debatable. The assessee had obtained a transfer pricing study from an outside expert and the objectivity of the same was not called into question. Therefore, lack of due diligence in determining the ALP is neither indicated nor can be inferred. In such a situation, it cannot be said that the assessee had not determined the ALP in accordance with the scheme of section 92C in good faith and with due diligence and accordingly, the conditions precedent for invoking Explanation 7 to section 271(1)(c) did not exist on the facts of the instant case. We also find that the assessee’s case is covered by the order of the ITAT Mumbai Bench in the case of DCIT vs RBS Equities India Ltd. in ITA No. 2570/MUM/2010 in which the penalty u/s 271(1)(c) had been deleted in a somewhat similar circumstance. If we accept the contentions of the department that addition on account of transfer pricing adjustment invariably means absence of good faith and due diligence, then each and every case involving transfer pricing adjustment would call for imposition of penalty us/ 271(1)(c) of the Act. ITAT Delhi had also taken a similar view on identical facts in case of Mitsui Prime Advanced Composites India Pvt. Ltd. in ITA No. 550/Del/2016 and had deleted the penalty imposed u/s 271(1)(c) of the Act. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi has also upheld this order of the ITAT on the appeal of the department in ITA No. 913/2016 vide order dated 17.01.2017. Further, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi has held in the case of Principal Commissioner of Income Tax vs Verizon India Ltd. in ITA No. 4602/2016 that in absence of any overt act, which indicates conscious and material suppression, invocation of Explanation 7 in a blanket manner could not only be injurious to the assessee but ultimately would be contrary to the purpose for which it was engrafted in the statute. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court further observed that it might lead to a rather peculiar situation where the assessee who might otherwise accept such determination may be forced to litigate further to escape the clutches of Explanation 7. Therefore, in view of the factual circumstances and respectfully following the ratio of the decisions of the various judicial authorities, we are of the opinion that the assessee cannot be visited with penalty u/s 271(1)(c) of the Act on this issue and accordingly, the impugned order is set aside and penalty is deleted.