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Need not be established as bad for tax deduction: SC
April, 13th 2010

Corporates and banks will not have to establish a debt as a bad debt in order to claim tax deduction, according to a recent Supreme Court ruling. The apex court order has said that bad debts written off in the books of accounts of the taxpayer is sufficient ground for claiming deduction.

Indeed the issue was settled by a 1989 amendment in the income-tax Act. The amendment had clarified that the tax payer need not establish that the debt is irrecoverable for claiming deduction. Under this, if a bad debt is written off, the taxpayer can legitimately claim the deduction. This amendment was incorporated with the specific intention to reduce the number of litigation arising from disputes over whether a debt is a bad or not. But, even after the 1989 amendment, tax officers insisted on proofs from tax payers for declaring a debt as bad debt.

The Supreme Court judgement therefore reaffirmed the importance of the 1989 amendment, much to the relief of several corporates. TP Ostwal, a senior chartered accountant, told ET: The apex courts decision will reduce the number of litigation arising from the requirement to establish that the debts are irrecoverable. According to Vispi T Patel of Vispi Patel & Associates: Though the Supreme Court has not spelled it out, we believe that the debts written off needs to be bonafide and should be based on commercial wisdom or expediency.

The apex court gave this order on an appeal filed by TRF, an engineering company. The company has claimed deduction under section 36 (I) (vii) 0f income-tax Act that deals with deduction on account of bad debts. The assessing officer disallowed the claim for deduction, triggering a long-drawn litigation that finally reached the Supreme Court.

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