S. 195 TDS: Entire law explained on whether payment of commission to non-resident agents for services rendered outside India is liable to tax in India u/s 5(2)(b) and 9(1)(i) on the ground that the "source" of the payment is in India and that the insertion of the Explanation to s. 9(2) with retrospective effect by the Finance Act 2010 makes such payments taxable
(i) The Assessing Officer made addition of Rs.62,19,609/- u/s 40(a)(i) on the ground that assessee has not deducted tax from the foreign agency commission paid as per the provisions of section 195 of the I. T. Act. While doing so, the Assessing Officer relied on the decision of the AAR in the case of SKF Boilers and Driers Pvt. Ltd. reported in 68 DTR 106 and the decision of AAR in the case of Rajiv Malhotra reported in 284 ITR 564. We find the ld. CIT(A) while upholding the action of the Assessing Officer held that income arising to the agent on account of export commission very much falls within the ambit of provisions contained in section 5(2)(b) of the I.T. Act as the income has accrued in India when the right to receive the same came into existence. According to him although the non-resident agent has rendered services and procured orders abroad but the right to receive the commission certainly arise in India when the order gets executed by the assessee. According to him, the mere fact that the agent is to render services abroad and the commission is to be remitted to him abroad are wholly irrelevant for the purpose of determining the income since income is from a source in India.
(ii) We find identical issue had come up before the Ahmedabad Bench of the Tribunal in the case of DCIT (International Taxation) vs. Welspun Corporation Ltd. reported in 77 taxmann.com 165. The Tribunal in the said decision has held that the payments made by the assessee for services rendered by non-resident agents could not be held to be fees for payment for technical services. These payments were in nature of commission earned from services rendered outside India which had no tax implications in India. The Tribunal while deciding the issue has also considered the two decisions of the AAR which has been relied on by the Assessing Officer as well as the CIT(A).
(iii) We find the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court in the case of CIT vs. Model Exims reported in 363 ITR 66 has held that failure to deduct tax at source from payment to non-resident agents, who has their own offices in foreign country, cannot be disallowed, since the agreement for procuring orders did not involve any managerial services. It was held that the Explanation to section 9(2) is not applicable. It was further held that the situation contemplated or clarified in the Explanation added by the Finance Act, 2010 was not applicable to the case of the assessee as the agents appointed by the assessee had their offices situated in the foreign country and that they did not provide any managerial services to the assessee. Section 9(1)(vii) deal with technical services and has to be read in that context. The agreement of procuring orders would not involve any managerial services. The agreement did not show the applicability or requirement of any technical expertise as functioning as selling agent, designer or any other technical services.
(iv) We find the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of CIT vs. Toshoku Ltd. reported in 125 ITR 525 has observed as under :-
“During the previous year relevant to the assessment year 1962-63, B, a dealer in tobacco in India, purchased tobacco and exported it to Japan and France through non-resident sales agents, a Japanese company and a French business house respectively. Under the terms of the agreement, the Japanese company, which was appointed as exclusive sales agent in Japan for tobacco exported by B, was entitled to a commission of 3 per cent. of the invoice amount. The sale price received on the sale in Japan was remitted wholly to B in India and B debited his commission account and credited the amount of commission payable to the Japanese company in his account books and later remitted the amount to the Japanese company. There was a similar agreement with the French business house in relation to the corresponding area and similar credit and debit entries and subsequent remittance of the commission were made. The question was whether the commission earned by the non-resident sales agents could be taxed in India, treating B as representative assessee under s. 161 of the I.T. Act, 1961:
Held, (i) that it could not be said that the making of the entries in the books of B amounted to receipt, actual or constructive, by the non-resident sales agents as the amounts so credited in their favour were not at their disposal or control; they could not, therefore, be charged to tax on the basis of receipt of income, actual or constructive, in the taxable territories. (ii) That the non-residents did not carry on any business operation in the taxable territories : they acted as selling agents outside India. The receipt in India of the sale proceeds of tobacco remitted or caused to the remitted by the purchasers from abroad did not amount to an operation carried out by the non-residents in India as contemplated by cl. (a) of the Explanation to s. 9(1)(i) of the I.T. Act, 1961. The commission amounts which were earned by the non-residents for services rendered outside India could not be deemed to be income which had either accrued or arisen in India. A credit balance, without more, only represents a debt and a mere book entry in the debtor’s own books does not constitute payment which will source a discharge from the debt.”
23. Similar view has been taken by the Hon’ble Madras High Court in the case of CIT vs. Kikani Exports Pvt. Ltd. reported in 369 ITR 96 and CIT vs. Faizan Shoes Pvt. Ltd. reported in 367 ITR 155. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case CIT vs. EON Technology P. Ltd. reported in 343 ITR 366 has also taken similar view where it has been held that non-resident commission agents based outside India rendering services of procuring orders cannot be said to have a business connection in India and the commission payments to them cannot be said to have been either accrued or arisen in India. In view of the decisions cited above (supra), we are of the considered opinion that the assessee is not liable to deduct tax under the provisions of section 195 of the I.T. Act on account of foreign agency commission paid outside India for promotion of export sales outside India. Accordingly, the order of the CIT(A) is set-aside and the grounds raised by the assessee are allowed.