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CIT vs. Sikandarkhan N. Tunvar (Gujarat High Court)
May, 15th 2013

S. 40(a)(ia) TDS: Special Bench verdict in Merilyn Shipping is not good law

The assessee, engaged in the business of transport contractor and commission agent, incurred expenditure of Rs. 8.74 crores on payment to contractors where no TDS was deducted. The AO & CIT(A) held that the expenditure had to be disallowed u/s 40(a)(ia). On appeal, the Tribunal, relying on Merilyn Shipping & Transports 146 TTJ 1 (Viz) (SB) held that as the said amount had already been paid and was not “payable” as of 31st March, the disallowance u/s 40(a)(ia) could not be made. On appeal by the department to the High Court, HELD reversing the Tribunal:

In Merilyn Shipping 146 TTJ 1 (Viz) (SB) the majority held that as the Finance Bill proposed the words “amount credited or paid” and as the Finance Act used the words “amounts payable“, s. 40(a)(ia) could only apply to amounts that are outstanding as of 31st March and not to amounts already paid during the year. This view is not correct for two reasons. Firstly, a strict reading of s. 40(a)(ia) shows that all that it requires is that there should be an amount payable of the nature described, which is such on which tax is deductible at source but such tax has not been deducted or if deducted not paid before the due date. The provision nowhere requires that the amount which is payable must remain so payable throughout during the year. If the assessee’s interpretation is accepted, it would lead to a situation where the assessee who though was required to deduct the tax at source but no such deduction was made or more flagrantly deduction though made is not paid to the Government, would escape the consequence only because the amount was already paid over before the end of the year in contrast to another assessee who would otherwise be in similar situation but in whose case the amount remained payable till the end of the year. There is no logic why the legislature would have desired to bring about such irreconcilable and diverse consequences. Secondly, the principle of deliberate or conscious omission is applied mainly when an existing provision is amended and a change is brought about. The Special Bench was wrong in comparing the language used in the draft bill to that used in the final enactment to assign a particular meaning to s. 40(a)(ia). Accordingly, Merilyn Shipping does not lay down correct law. The correct law is that s. 40(a)(ia) covers not only to the amounts which are payable as on 31th March of a particular year but also which are payable at any time during the year.

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