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CIT vs. Air Cargo Agents Association Of India (Bombay High Court)
April, 25th 2016

The contributions made by the members to the assessee cannot be a subject matter of tax merely because the part of its excess of income over expenditure is invested in mutual funds. It is also not the case of the Revenue that the dividend received from mutual funds have not been offered to tax by the assessee. The concept of Mutual concerns not being subject to tax is based on the principle of no man can profit out of itself. Therefore the test to be satisfied before an association can be classified as a Mutual concern are complete identity between the members i.e. contributors and the participants, the action of the mutual concern must be in furtherance of its objectives and there must be no scope of profiteering by the contributors from a fund. These tests have in fact been reiterated in Bangalore Club v/s. CIT 350 ITR 509 (SC). However, the facts therein are completely distinguishable. Amongst the members of the Bangalore Club were certain banks. The Bangalore Club have invested its excess funds in member banks as well as non member banks in form of fixed deposits and earned interest thereon.

The assessee thereon paid tax on the interest earned on fixed deposit with non member banks. However, so far as interest earned from member banks was concerned, the assessee therein sought to apply the doctrine of mutuality to contend that the interest on the fixed deposit received from the member banks would not be assessable to tax as the dealing was with members only. The Apex Court held that no sooner any amount is invested by an association claiming to be mutual concern in a fixed deposit with the banks the complete identity between the contributors and the participants in the fund on the amounts invested in member banks is ruptured. It held that till the surplus funds were generated and was used only amongst the members/contributors, the complete identity between contributors and participants continued. However the moment the funds are invested in fixed deposits with the banks and the funds are used for advancing loans etc. by the Bank to its customers, the identity of participants and contributors is sapped. Thus the interest earned on fixed deposits is to be brought to tax. However, it is to be noted that it did not result in the Bangalore Club being taxed on all contributions of its members.

The case of the Revenue here is that having invested excess amounts in mutual funds the concept of mutuality would not extend to the contribution made by the members of the association even though the contributions are used to achieve the objectives of the association. In fact as pointed out above the Apex Court in Bangalore Club (supra) did not hold so but only brought to tax the interest earned on fixed deposit with member banks. In this case it is not disputed that the income earned on account of investments made in Mutual Funds has been offered to tax. The respondent has in effect followed the decision of the Apex Court in Bangalore Club (supra). However as held in Bangalore Club (supra), it cannot result in the respondent being charged to tax on the contribution received from its members. In fact the decision of this Court in Common Effluent (supra) concludes the issue in favour of the assessee.

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