India vs Sulzer Tech India Pvt Ltd, July 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Case No ITAT No 633-MUM-2021

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Sulzer Tech India Pvt Ltd (the assessee) is in the business of providing design and engineering services. To that end Sulzer Management AG, an associated enterprise provided various IT and support services to Sulzer Tech India. The payment for these services had been determined based on a benchmark study where Sulzer Management AG was chosen as the tested party. The cost plus margin for the selected comparables ranged from 4.08% to 7.08%, with a median of 5.69%, and on that basis the payment to Sulzer Management of Rs. 2,52,49,650, which was equal to cost plus 5%, was considered to be at arm’s length.

The tax authorities disagreed and held that Sulzer Tech India at arm’s length would not have paid any amount toward services which are not availed to it and have not benefited its business. Accordingly, an adjustment of additional income of Rs. 2,52,49,650, was issued.

Judgement of the Income Tax Appellant Tribunal

The Tribunal set aside the assessment of the tax authorities.

“From careful perusal of all the details filed by the assessee, we are of the considered view that lower authorities were not justified in holding that no services were rendered by the associated enterprise in respect of which payments were made by the assessee. We are further of the view that none of the basis for rejecting these details by the learned DRP is arising from the record.

Further, the lower authorities claimed to have adopted ‘other method’ by applying need, benefit and evidence test for considering the arm’s length price of this transaction to be NIL. In this regard it is pertinent to note that the provisions of Rule 10AB of the Income Tax Rules, 1962, which provides as under:

“10AB. For the purposes of clause (f) of sub-section (1) of section 92C, the other method for determination of the arm’s length price in relation to an international transaction or a specified domestic transaction shall be any method which takes into account the price which has been charged or paid, or would have been charged or paid, for the same or similar uncontrolled transaction, with or between non-associated enterprises, under similar circumstances, considering all the relevant facts.”

Thus, as per the provisions of aforesaid Rule, the ‘other method’ shall be the method which takes into account the price which has been or would have been charged or paid for the same or similar uncontrolled transaction between non-associated enterprises. However, in the present case, the lower authorities without searching for similar uncontrolled transaction between non-associated enterprises, straightaway treated the value of the international transaction to be at NIL. In this regard, it is relevant to note following observations of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Cushman and Wakefield (India) Pvt. Ltd., [2014] 367 ITR 730 (Del.):

“35. The TPO’s Report is, subsequent to the Finance Act 2007. binding on the AO. Thus, it becomes all the more important to clarify the extent of the TPO’s authority in this case, which is to determining the ALP for international transactions referred to him or her by the AO, rather than determining whether such services exist or benefits have accrued. That exercise of factual verification is retained by the AO under Section 37 in this case. Indeed, this is not to say that the TPO cannot-after a consideration of the facts-state that the ALP is ‘nil’ given that an independent entity in a comparable transaction would not pay any amount. However, this is different from the TPO stating that the assessee did not benefit from these services, which amounts to disallowing expenditure.”

As noted above, in the present case, no search was conducted to find out the independent entity in a comparable transaction and the arm’s length price of the international transaction was treated to be NIL. In the present case, no doubts about payments made by the assessee have been raised by the Assessing Officer under section 37 of the Act. Further, accrual of benefit to assessee or the commercial expediency of any expenditure incurred by the assessee cannot be the basis for disallowing the same, as held by Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of EKL Appliances Ltd. [2012] 345 ITR 241 (Del.).”

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India vs Sulzer Tech India Pvt Ltd 250722 ITA No 633-MUM-2021

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