Civil Appeal No. 4918, 4919, 4920, 4921, 4922 of 2017, (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 2140, 4261, 4319, 4356, 4249 of 2017). Case: Honda Siel Cars India Ltd. Vs Commissioner of Income Tax, Ghaziabad. Supreme Court

Case Number:Civil Appeal No. 4918, 4919, 4920, 4921, 4922 of 2017, (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 2140, 4261, 4319, 4356, 4249 of 2017)
Party Name:Honda Siel Cars India Ltd. Vs Commissioner of Income Tax, Ghaziabad
Judges:A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ.
Issue:Income Tax Act - Section 148; Indian Companies Act
Judgement Date:June 09, 2017
Court:Supreme Court
 
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Judgment:

A.K. Sikri, J.

  1. Assessee in all these appeals is Honda SIEL Cars Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the "Assessee"). Question of law that is raised is also identical. Five appeals are filed only because of the reason that same issue has occurred in different Assessment Years, i.e., for the years 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2002-2003, 2003-2004 and 2005-2006.

  2. M/s. Honda Motors Company Limited, Japan (hereinafter referred to as "HMCL, Japan") had entered into a joint venture dated September 12, 1995 with M/s. SEIL Ltd., a company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act. After getting necessary approval from the Government of India, a joint venture company in the name of the assessee was incorporated. After incorporation of the assessee as a joint venture, An agreement dated May 21, 1996 between HMCL, Japan and the assessee was entered into, known as ''Technical Collaboration Agreement'' (for short, ''TCA''). As per the TCA, HMCL, Japan which is engaged in the business of development, manufacture and sale of automobiles and their parts agreed to give ''license'' and ''technical assistance'' to the assessee. The TCA also stipulated different kinds of technical know-how and technical information which were to be provided by HMCL, Japan (as a licensor) to the assessee (as a licensee). For providing the aforesaid facilities, it was agreed that a consideration/lump sum fee of 30.5 million US Dollar would be paid by the assessee to the HMCL, Japan in five continuous equal installments and payment thereof was to commence from third year after commencement of commercial production. Besides, assessee was also liable to pay royalty of 4%, both on internal and exports, subject to taxes.

  3. The dispute which has arisen is as to whether the said technical fee of 30.5 million US Dollar payable in five equal installments on yearly basis is to be treated as revenue expenditure or capital expenditure.

  4. The assessee had filed its first return for the Assessment Year 1999-2000 (in which year, first installment was paid) showing the said expenditure as revenue expenditure. Though, in the normal assessment, the expenditure was allowed as such, thereafter a notice was issued under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act (hereinafter referred to as the ''Act'') stating that said expenditure was capital in nature and, therefore, instalment towards royalty paid in the sum of Rs. 79602000/-, by the assessee to HMCL, Japan in that year had escaped assessment. Ultimately, orders were passed treating the same as capital expenditure. In the subsequent years, the Assessing Officer again treated the royalty paid as capital expenditure. The assessee filed appeals before the CIT(A) which were dismissed. However, further appeals before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) were allowed and the ITAT held that the expenditure is to be treated as the revenue expenditure. Against the order of the ITAT, the Department went in appeal before the High Court of Allahabad which has allowed these appeals thereby reversing the order of the ITAT and agreeing with the view taken by the Assessing Officer the payments of royalty expenditure in-question are to be treated as capital expenditure. In the present appeals challenging the impugned judgment dated December 21, 2016 passed by the High Court is challenged.

  5. With the aforesaid preliminary remarks about the nature of controversy, we now proceed to take note of the facts in some detail.

  6. As mentioned above, joint venture company, namely, the assessee was incorporated by HMCL, Japan and SEIL, India.

    "8. Total share capital of HSCIL/Assessee was 36 crores shares out of which 35,63,99,995 shares were held by HMCL, Japan while remaining 3600005 shares held by M/s. Seil India. In other words, joint venture was almost owned by HMCL, Japan, having around 99% shares and Seil India (local Indian company) owned only 1% shares.

  7. Thereafter, M/s. HMCL, Japan who held about 99% share of joint venture company/subsidiary company, i.e., Assessee, entered into an agreement on 21.5.1996 with HSCIL/Assessee which is called as "Technical Collaboration Agreement". Agreement stipulated and termed HMCL, Japan as "licensor" and HSCIL/Assessee as licensee."

  8. In view of aforesaid licence, a consideration/lump sum fee agreed between parties was 30.5 million U.S Dollar, payable in five continuous equal installments by licensee to licensor and payment thereof was to commence from third year after commencement of commercial production. Besides, licensee was also liable to pay royalty of 4%, both on internal and exports, subject to taxes. Article 14 of agreement which talks of lump sum fee and royalty reads as under:

    "14.1 In consideration of the right and licence granted to licensee under Article 2 hereof and of the furnishing of the Technical Information under Article 4.2 hereof, licensee shall pay to LICENSOR the following fees:

  9. Lumpsum fee:

    The amount of lumpsum fee payable by the licensee to the LICENSOR shall be USS 30.5 million. This fee shall be payable in 5 continuous equal annual installments, the amount of each of which installments shall be six million one hundred thousand US dollars (USS6,100,000), beginning from the 3rd year after the commencement of Commercial Production. The lump sum fees shall be payable by licensee in currency of US dollars by bank transfer remittance to the bank account designated by LICENSOR, based on final government approval.

  10. Royalty:

    The rate of royalty payable by the licensee to the LICENSOR shall be Four (4) percent; both on internal sales and exports, subject to taxes.

    The royalty shall calculated on the basis of the ex-factory sale price of the product exclusive of excise duties, minus the cost of standard bought out components and the landed cost of imported components irrespective of the source of procurement, including ocean-freight, insurance, custom duties, and other similar charges.

    The royalty shall be payable for a period of seven (7) years from the date of commencement of Commercial Production.

    List of standard bought out items is as per exhibit II.

    14.2 The total amount of royalty specified in the counter signed report and invoice under Article 13.1 hereof shall be payable by licensee in the currency of US Dollars by bank transfer remittance to the bank account designated by LICENSOR, so that such remittance shall reach LICENSOR not later than the 10th day of month next following the month in which such countersigned report and invoice reach licensee. In the event the currency in which the amount of running royalty is calculated differs from the currency in which payment of the running royalty is to be made, then conversion shall be made in accordance with the final quotation of the telegraphic transfer selling rate of exchange prevailing at the time of remittance by the Delhi office of any international bank, mutually agreed separately.

    14.3 All payments and remittances by licensee will be subject to Tax Deduction at Source (TDS)/levy of CESS (under Research and Development Cess Act, 1986). Receipt by LICENSOR of any payment tendered hereunder shall not constitute LICENSOR'S acceptance of any account, schedule or figure on which such payment is based. All payments made or to be made by licensee to LICENSOR hereunder shall not be refundable to licensee, in any facts or circumstances whatsoever. If licensee fails to make any payment here under on the due date, licensee agrees to pay a late payment fee in the amount equivalent to LIBOR +TWO (X) percent per annum in the payment currency, calculated on the basis of a 365 day year, subject to Government of India/RBI approvals/guidelines prevailing at that time.

    14.4 It is understood and confirmed that it should be separately agreed to by the parties hereof in the "Memorandum on Exchange of Technicians" referred to in Article 4 hereof the any and all fees, costs, expenses and other consideration for and in connection with the technical guidance provided by LICENSOR by dispatching to licensee technical experts (s) of LICENSOR and the technical training of licensee's engineers) at a factory or factories of LICENSOR or any of its designers, including but not limited to technical guidance fees, per dien allowances, traveling expenses, staying or living expenses and other incidental expenses, shall be payable by licensee to LICENSOR in accordance with such" Memorandum on Exchange of Technicians", separate from and in addition to the payments under this Article 14, and that no amount of any such fees, costs, expenses or other consideration is included in the payments under this Article 14."

    (emphasis added)

  11. Article 19 provides term/tenure of agreement and reads as under:

    " Article 19. TERMS OF AGREEMENT:

    This Agreement shall become effective on the Effective Date, and shall continues in full force and effect for period of ten(10) years from the date of agreement or seven (7) years from the date of commencement of commercial production, and shall thereafter be renewed subject to the prevailing laws in...

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