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Income-tax Residency Circular - Circular No 2 of 2021

For Financial Year 2019-2020 – Circular 11 of 2020

Considering the exceptional circumstances caused by pandemic, Central Board of Direct Taxes (‘CBDT’) had issued Circular No 11 of 2020 dated 8th May 2020 to address the genuine hardship faced by stranded Individual during the F.Y. 2019-20. In this Circular, the CBDT had clarified that the forced stay in India due to Covid-19 between 22nd March 2020 to 31st March 2020 or due to quarantine will not be considered for the purpose of determining the residential status of an Individual in India.
For Financial Year 2020-2021 – Circular 2 of 2021 Similarly, based on several representations received by the CBDT for relaxation in determination of residential status for the Previous Year (P.Y) 2020-21, the matter was examined by the Board and a Circular has now been issued with following observations / explanations:
  •  CBDT has observed that as per the domestic tax laws, an individual needs to satisfy a minimum number of days stay in India in order to qualify as an Indian resident. Generally, an individual becomes a resident in India only if he/she has stayed in India for 182 days or more and hence any forced short stay will not result in Indian residency. Further, even in exceptional case if an individual becomes resident, he/she will most likely become “not ordinarily resident” and hence his/her foreign income shall not be taxable unless it is derived from business controlled in or profession set up in India.
  • CBDT has observed that most of the countries have the condition of stay of 182 days or more for determining residency. If a general relaxation of 182 days is provided, there may be possibilities of double non-residency and eventually the individual might end up not paying tax in any country.
  • Similar condition of stay in India, generally 182 days or more, is also present in Double tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) under the employment Article, in order to tax income from Salaries, where the said employment is exercised in India. CBDT has highlighted that even if an Individual qualifies as a resident of two countries, he/she can still avail the DTAA benefit by applying “Tie-breaker rule”. In the event of non-applicability of Tie-breaker rule, the individual can apply for Mutual Agreement Procedure benefit to resolve the residency issue.
  • CBDT has also highlighted that even in a case of Double taxation, a resident Indian is also entitled to claim credit of taxes paid in other country, in accordance with Rule 128 of the Income tax Rules, 1962.
  • CBDT has also observed that a similar view has been adopted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that DTAAs contain the necessary provisions to deal with the cases of dual residency arising due to COVID – 19 cases. Also, globally, there have been very few countries that have provided relief in this regard.

Hence, after detailed examination and explanation as provided above, CBDT has endorsed the view taken by OECD and most other countries that in light of the domestic tax law read with relevant DTAA’s, there does not appear a possibility of double taxation of Income.

Accordingly, if any individual even after considering DTAA relief faces Double taxation issues, then such individuals can apply electronically to the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income tax (PCIT) in Form – NR up to 31st March 2021, which can then be examined by the CBDT on a case-to-case basis.

Our Comments:
This Circular is rather academic in its entire narrative and provides limited relief as it is deals only with respect to a generic kind of residency situations. The Circular does not per se attempt to address specific issues such as non-treaty country situation taxability. Similarly, the taxability of employees who became Indian residents due to their evacuation to home country from no-tax jurisdictions (eg. UAE etc) during the pandemic, thus making their foreign income exposed to tax in India. The Circular is also silent on the risk of exposures vis-à-vis “Permanent Establishment (PE)” or “Place of Effective Management (POEM)” that may be triggered in India due to presence of Key personnel of Multinational Companies (MNC) exercising their duties during the pandemic months, while being forced to be present in India.

It would help if the CBDT were to bring out a more detailed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) quickly to deal with the unanswered questions/situations.
This article provides a summary of the Circular addressing the issue of residential status in light of travel restrictions due to COVID.

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