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The Other Face of Digitalization: Changes to Tax Laws and More

Very often, speeches and articles begin by alluding to an environment of significant change, that brings in its wake, opportunities as well as higher levels of uncertainty. The wave of digitalization triggered by the emergence of various technologies is often cited as a prime example of this change. Digitalization has undoubtedly proved its worth in the past 18 months. Enabling remote working for millions of employees in various industries, enhancing the convenience of online banking, creation of new mobile payment options, virtual video/audio conferences are all examples of how digitalization has transformed the global society.

But there is a flip side to this too. Big Tech companies are growing rapidly, not just in terms of influence but also their financial muscle. To put it in perspective, the combined market capitalization of the top five Big Tech companies- i.e., Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google’s parent), Amazon and Facebook was around US$9 Trillion as of 1 October 2021[1]. By comparison, the market cap of India’s top five companies was around US$750 Billion.

Tax laws need to keep up with the “digital economy”

The pandemic has severely dented government revenues worldwide, while expenses have ballooned. This has led to spiraling fiscal deficits, that have their own consequences. Given that most corporate tax regimes worldwide evolved keeping conventional businesses in mind, and that digital economy businesses are very different in nature, a new corporate tax playbook is clearly needed.

Given its large number of digitally-savvy consumers, a country like India is often one of the top three markets for digital economy companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, etc. But the nature of their business is such that they can carry out business in India (or any other jurisdiction) without having a significant place of business in that jurisdiction. So while countries like India contributed to revenues, low local operating costs meant higher profits. But this did not translate into higher taxes for India because MNCs registered companies in countries with lower tax rates and assigned IPR to these companies. The subsidiary operating in India would then pay a royalty to this overseas company. This is not illegal under the letter of existing tax laws, but it does lead to low tax revenues.

The Tax Justice Network estimates that India loses US$10.1 Billion annually due to abuse of tax laws; the US is believed to lose five times that amount (US$49.2 Billion). It is interesting that the same study identifies the Netherlands, the Cayman Islands, China, Hong Kong and the UK as the largest enablers of tax abuse. (source: “How global Tax Rules may reshape India”, The Mint, 23 September 2021).  

Change is already in the air

India was, in fact, a pioneer of sorts, when it introduced the equalization levy (a sort of digital service tax) in 2016 to bring some of the revenues of these digital companies into the tax net. Many other countries followed suit. Not surprisingly, there are now more concerted efforts to plug loopholes that Big Tech in particular is able to exploit to avoid tax in jurisdictions with higher tax rates. A major step to address this situation was announced in July 2021 by the OECD and G20. The move envisions a minimum corporate tax rate of 15% worldwide as well as a new framework for allocating more rights to tax digital economy companies to countries housing digital consumers- i.e., ensure fairer taxation of businesses in those jurisdictions where they earn profits.

Stop press!

Talk about timing! Just as I thought I had finished writing this blog, I saw the news that the OECD has finalized the framework for this major international tax reform. A new global minimum corporate tax rate of 15% has been set and will apply to companies whose revenues exceed 750 million Euros. Additionally, MNCs with global sales above 20 billion Euros and profitability above 10% will also be covered by the new rules. Model rules are expected to be formulated in 2022 and the new regime is to take effect in 2023.[2]

Including India 136 countries (that together account for 90% of global GDP) have backed this framework. Once such a regime comes into effect, individual countries will be required to withdraw any digital taxes they levy- e.g., India’s equalization levy.

While this kind of thinking will have a far-reaching impact on digital businesses and the global economy, new tax laws are not the only drivers of major change. If the recent testimony to the US Senate by whistleblower Ms. Frances Haugen is any indication, Facebook and other companies may soon face tougher laws around advertising and targeting specific segments of users. And given Google’s dominant position in the search business, competition laws too will inevitably get tougher. And as seen by India’s tough stand on Mastercard, data localization requirements too will become increasingly stringent. And finally, of course, data privacy laws too will evolve. The popular saying “May you live in interesting times” (incidentally, there’s no credible evidence that this was indeed a Chinese curse, as is often claimed) seems to have had the current period in mind. Even if it didn’t, we do live in interesting times- that’s for sure.

I wish you all a Happy Navratri/Durga Puja.

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1181188/sandp500-largest-companies-market-cap/
  2. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/oecd-deal-mncs-will-be-subject-to-a-minimum-tax-of-15-from-2023/articleshow/86876192.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Photo by fabio on Unsplash

The pandemic has severely dented government revenues worldwide, while expenses have ballooned. This has led to spiraling fiscal deficits, that have their own consequences. Given that most corporate tax regimes worldwide evolved keeping conventional businesses in mind, and that digital economy businesses are very different in nature, a new corporate tax playbook is clearly needed.

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Heightened Onus on Assessee to Prove Genuineness of Share Subscription Money Routed Through Web of Entities

The Hon’ble Mumbai Tribunal in the case of Leena Power Tech Engineers Pvt Ltd[1] has held that the onus (i.e. burden) is on the assessee to prove the ‘bonafides’ or ‘genuineness’ of the share application money credited in the books of accounts. The Tribunal further remarked that it would be superficial approach to examine assessee’s claim only on the basis of documents filed and overlook the unusual pattern in the documents filed by the assessee and pretend to be oblivious of the ground realities.  

Considering the fact that the monies were routed through complex web of entities, which failed to inspire any confidence about the genuineness of the investing company and made it looks like a shell company, the Tribunal upheld the additions made by the Assessing Officer (AO) in the hands of the assessee with respect to the receipt of share application money.

 

Facts – Leena Power Tech Engineer’s Pvt. Ltd.:

In the instant case, the assessee had received share application monies from Rohan Vyapar Private Limited (RVPL) and Manbhawan Commercial Pvt Ltd (MCPL). The equity shares were issued at 900% premium on the face value of Rs 10 each i.e. Rs 90 per share. The assessee had issued 3,78,290 equity shares to RVPL and accordingly received an amount aggregating to Rs 3,78,29,600. Similarly, the assessee had received an amount aggregating to Rs 4,35,00,000 from MCPL.

The case of the assessee was reopened by the Assessing Officer (‘AO’) on the basis of certain information received from the investigation wing which mentioned that the assessee has received share application money from RVPL which was subjected to routing through several layers and ultimately has its source in of huge cash deposits in one of the branches of ICICI Bank.

The transaction flow has been elaborated below for ease of reference.



Assessee’s Contentions: Relevant documentary evidence produced

The Assessee’s contentions have been summarized below:

The assessee contended that it had submitted all the relevant documentary evidence such as details of the subscribers to the share capital, share premium, bank statement, justification of share premium (computed on a scientific basis), share valuation by cash flow method, and ledger confirmation from the subscribers. The assessee further submitted that the Revenue had also issued a notice under section 133(6) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (Act) which was duly replied along with the details of the transaction with the assessee, ledger account, return of income, audited balance sheet, etc. and accordingly it was contended that the assessee had discharged its initial onus cast upon it and now it is for the revenue authorities to prove otherwise.

It was further contended that the proviso to section 68[2] of the Act inserted with effect from 1 April 2013 cannot have retrospective operation. In this regard, reliance was placed on the ruling of Hon’ble jurisdictional High Court in the case of Gagandeep Infrastructure Pvt Ltd[3].

The Assessee further contended that the companies from which the assessee had received the share subscriptions were companies with proper net-worth and these companies were properly assessed to tax and have not been declared as shell companies by the Government or any official body and just because five levels below these companies, there are cash deposits in some bank accounts, the receipts cannot be rejected as lacking bonafide.

Accordingly, it was contended that the entries in the books of accounts of the companies subscribing to the shares cannot be brought to tax in the hands of the assessee.

Revenue’s Contentions: Assessee has failed to prove ‘Bonafides’

The primary contention of the Revenue was that the assessee has failed to prove the ‘bonafides’ of the share application money. Further, the Revenue further contended that the surrounding circumstance of the transaction clearly demonstrates that the transaction is not bonafide and the assessee is a beneficiary of a sophisticated money-laundering racket wherein the money is routed through multiple layering of accounts to the accounts of entities subscribing to the share capital of the assessee.

The Revenue further contended that it was the responsibility of the assessee to show the genuineness of the share application money received and merely producing PAN, income-tax returns, and financial statements of the subscriber do not prove that the transaction is bonafide. It was pointed out that there were hardly any overnight balances in the bank accounts of the companies subscribing to the shares of the assessee company, and all this indicates that these companies are merely conduit companies.

Issue Before the Tribunal:

The question which arose before the Tribunal was whether the learned Commissioner of Income-tax (Appeals) was justified in deleting the addition of Rs 8,13,29,600 as unexplained credit under section 68 of the Act in the hands of the assessee.

Mumbai Tribunal’s Ruling:

The Mumbai Tribunal observed and held as under:

At the outset, the Tribunal observed that there cannot be any dispute on the fundamental legal position that the onus is on the assessee to prove ‘bonafides’ or ‘genuineness’ of the share application money credited in the books of accounts and to prove the nature and source on the money to the satisfaction of the assessing officer.

The Tribunal placed reliance on the cases of Youth Construction Pvt Ltd[4], United Commercial and Industrial Co (P.) Ltd[5] & Precision Finance (P.) Ltd[6] and noted the kind of explanations which assessee is expected to provide:

  1. proof regarding the identity of the share applicants;
  2. their creditworthiness to purchase the shares; and
  3. genuineness of the transaction as a whole.

The Tribunal remarked that the onus of the assessee of explaining nature and source of credit does not get discharged merely by filing confirmatory letters, or demonstrating that the transactions are done through the banking channels, or even by filing the income tax assessment particulars.

The Tribunal further went on to add that, being a final fact-finding authority, it cannot be superficial in its assessment of the genuineness of a transaction and this call has to be taken not only in the light of the face value of the documents presented before the Tribunal but also in the light of all the surrounding circumstances, the preponderance of human probabilities and ground realities. The Tribunal placed reliance on the case of Durga Prasad More[7] wherein it was held that “If all that an assessee who wants to evade tax is to have some recitals made in a document either executed by him or executed in his favour then the door will be left wide open to evade tax. A little probing was sufficient in the present case to show that the apparent was not real. There may be a difference in subjective perception on such issues, on the same set of facts, but that cannot be a reason enough for the fact-finding authorities to avoid taking subjective calls on these aspects and remain confined to the findings on the basis of irrefutable evidence.”

The Tribunal further analyzed the financial statements of RVPL and observed that RVPL has earned only an interest income of Rs 1.13 lakhs and has not carried out any substantial activity during the relevant period. Further, the Tribunal found it difficult to believe that company handling investments in excess of Rs 10 crores and making such aggressive investments as buying shares for Rs 3.78 crores, at a huge premium of nine times the face value of shares, in the private limited and wholly unconnected companies, without any management control, will operate in such a modest manner. This defies logic and such transactions do not take place in the real-life world. The Tribunal also examined the bank account of RVPL and noted that there are series of transactions that do not inspire any confidence about the genuineness of the investing company but make it looks like a shell company acting as a conduit.

The Tribunal also observed that the entities involved in the transaction only provide different layers to the transaction and de facto hide the true investor. The assessee was also unaware of the actual beneficial investor in his company.

Additionally, the Tribunal examined, in detail, the valuation carried out by the assessee on the basis of Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) method and rejected the same thereby holding that the share premium at which the shares are issued is wholly unrealistic.   

A similar analysis was also carried out by the Tribunal with respect to another investor ‘MCPL’.

In light of the above facts and circumstances, the Tribunal rejected the assessee’s contention and held that the transactions under consideration are not ‘bonafide’ and accordingly restored the additions made by the AO.

Our Observation:

The order of the Mumbai Tribunal has, indeed, widened the scope of ‘onus’ placed on the assessee to prove the genuineness of a particular transaction. Such ‘onus’ will not be deemed to be discharged by merely filing the documents before the tax authorities, but the assessee would have to go one step further to justify the rationale of such transactions in order to prove that the transaction has not been entered as a colorable device to defraud the Revenue. The judgment further emphasizes taking a holistic view of the matter based on the surrounding circumstances rather than just relying upon the documentary evidence. Having said this, one has to keep in mind that documentary evidence will always be the primary source of substantiation of a particular transaction.

Going forward, it would be interesting to see the repercussions of this judgment and whether the other Tribunal and lower tax authorities would adopt a similar path and undertake a holistic view of the matter in order to differentiate between the apparent and the real.’

References

[1] [TS-883-ITAT-2021(Mum)]

[2] It provides that where the assessee is a company (not being a company in which the public are substantially interested), and the sum so credited consists of share application money, share capital, share premium or any such amount by whatever name called, any explanation offered by such assessee-company shall be deemed to be not satisfactory, unless— (a) the person, being a resident in whose name such credit is recorded in the books of such company also offers an explanation about the nature and source of such sum so credited; and (b) such explanation in the opinion of the Assessing Officer aforesaid has been found to be satisfactory.

 

[3] (2017) 80 taxmann.com 172 (Bom)

[4] [(2013) 357 ITR 197 (Del)]

[5] [1991] 187 ITR 596 (Cal)]

[6] [1994] 208 ITR 465 (Cal)]

[7] 1971) 82 ITR 540 (SC)

 

 

Image Credits: Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

The order of the Mumbai Tribunal has, indeed, widened the scope of ‘onus’ placed on the assessee to prove the genuineness of a particular transaction. Such ‘onus’ will not be deemed to be discharged by merely filing the documents before the tax authorities, but the assessee would have to go one step further to justify the rationale of such transactions in order to prove that the transaction has not been entered as a colorable device to defraud the Revenue.

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Taxation (Amendment) Bill, 2021: Regaining Investor Confidence

The retrospective clarificatory amendment regarding taxability of indirect transfers and consequent demand raised in a few cases, had created doubts and serious concerns for potential investors in our country and had also tarnished India’s image in the international community. The country today stands at a juncture when quick recovery of the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, is the need of the hour and foreign investment has an important role to play in promoting faster economic growth and employment.  With this objective in mind, the Hon. Finance Minister of India has proposed this Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 (“the Bill’), to put an end to the protracted litigation on this subject matter.

 

The issue regarding taxability of indirect transfer of assets located within the country, by transferring shares of an intermediary foreign company, was first analyzed in the case of Vodafone International Holdings (‘Vodafone’). In that case, Vodafone had acquired 100 percent shares of a Cayman Island based subsidiary company, from Hutchison Telecommunication International Ltd. (‘HTIL’), which was holding 67 percent controlling interest in Hutchison Essar Limited (‘HEL’), an Indian Joint venture company. Through this transaction, Vodafone had indirectly acquired a controlling interest of 67% in HEL, without triggering any taxable event in India. However, the Indian Revenue authorities had served a notice on Vodafone for not withholding tax under section 195 of the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961 (‘the Act’) on the consideration that was paid by it to HTIL.

The controversy was finally settled by the Hon’ble Supreme Court (‘SC’) in 2012 in favour of Vodafone[1]. The SC had ruled that the word “through” in section 9 of the Act does not mean “in consequence of” and “sale of share in question to Vodafone, did not amount to transfer of capital asset within the meaning of section 2(14) of the Act”. Accordingly, an indirect transfer of Indian assets by transferring shares in a foreign company was not chargeable to tax in India and therefore was not liable to any withholding tax.

Retrospective Amendment in Finance Act, 2012:

In order to override the SC decision and tax such Indirect transfer transactions, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had introduced an amendment under section 9(1) of the Act, which was made effective retrospectively from 01 April 1962. The Finance Act, 2012 had inserted a clarificatory Explanation 4 and Explanation 5 to section 9(1)(i), as under:

“Explanation 4— For the removal of doubts, it is hereby clarified that the expression “through” shall mean and include and shall be deemed to have always meant and included “by means of”, “in consequence of” or “by reason of”.

Explanation 5— For the removal of doubts, it is hereby clarified that an asset or a capital asset being any share or interest in a company or entity registered or incorporated outside India shall be deemed to be and shall always be deemed to have been situated in India, if the share or interest derives, directly or indirectly, its value substantially from the assets located in India”

The above retrospective amendments created doubts in the minds of the stakeholders regarding the stability of India’s tax laws and also invited huge criticism and embarrassment at the international level.

Pursuant to this retrospective amendment, income tax demand had been raised in seventeen cases by the Revenue authorities. In four cases, the aggrieved taxpayers had preferred arbitration under India’s Bilateral Investment Protection Treaty with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, respectively. Recently, the respective Arbitration Tribunals have, in the case of Vodafone International Holding BV vs. The Republic of India as well as in Cairn Energy PLC vs. The Republic of India, ruled in favour of the assessee and against the Government of India. The government of India has challenged both this arbitration award.

Proposed Amendment:

The Bill [2] proposes to amend the Act and abolish the retrospective tax on indirect transfer of Indian assets, if the transaction was undertaken before 28 May 2012 [3].

The amendment proposes to insert three provisos (fourth, fifth and sixth) under Explanation 5 to section 9(1)(i), thereby nullifying:

  • any pending or concluded assessment or reassessment; or
  • any order enhancing the demand / reducing the refund; or
  • any order deeming a person to be an “assessee in default” for non-withholding of tax; or
  • any order imposing a penalty

with respect to any income accruing or arising from the transfer of an Indian asset pursuant to the transfer of shares in a foreign company.

Therefore, all assessments or rectification applications (pending/ concluded) before the Revenue authorities, to the extent it relates to the computation of income from any indirect transfer of assets, shall be deemed to have concluded/ have never been passed without any additions.

Specified Conditions:

Relief under the proposed amendment would be available only to assessees fulfilling the following specified conditions:

  • The assessee shall either withdraw or submit an undertaking to withdraw any appeal filed before the Tribunal, High Court or Supreme Court with respect to the indirect transfer, in such form and manner as may be prescribed [4];
  • The assessee shall either withdraw or submit an undertaking to withdraw any proceeding for arbitration, conciliation or mediation, with respect to the indirect transfer, in such form and manner as may be prescribed [3];
  • The assessee shall furnish an undertaking waiving his right, whether direct or indirect, to seek or pursue any remedy or any claim in relation to indirect transfer in such form and manner as may be prescribed [3].

Pursuant to fulfillment of the specified conditions, where any amount becomes refundable to the person referred to in the fifth proviso, then, such amount shall be refunded to such person, without any interest on such refund under section 244A of the Act.

FM Comments:

The amendment is a proactive step aimed at neutralizing the criticism and embarrassment caused by retrospective amendment and regaining the stakeholder’s confidence in Indian judicial system. Such measures from the Government will certainly create a positive sentiment and a sense of tax certainty amongst the investors and hopefully, help in attracting incremental foreign investment into the country, which will play an important role in promoting faster economic growth and development.

 

References:

[1] Vodafone International Holdings B.V. vs. UOI (2012) 341 ITR 1 (SC)

[2] President is yet to give his assent on the said Amendment Bill

[3] Date on which Finance Bill, 2012 received assent of the President

[4] Form for submitting undertaking is yet to be prescribed

 

Image Credits: Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

Such measures from the Government will certainly create a positive sentiment and a sense of tax certainty amongst the investors and hopefully, help in attracting incremental foreign investment into the country, that will play an important role in promoting faster economic growth and development.

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) during Covid-19

The novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11th, 2020 and subsequently, the Government of India decided to treat it as a notified disaster.  Accordingly, the Government took various steps to curb the spread of the disease as well as minimize the impact on the economy. While businesses were grappling with the new reality of this global uncertainty, their support and participation was considered imperative to manage the current situation. To encourage entities and garner their cooperation, the Government decided to treat funds spent on activities relating to COVID-19 as part of CSR performance. Additionally, the Ministry of Home Affairs of India issued directions to lockdown all the states in India till 20.05.2020 (“Lockdown Period”) and has come up with various notifications with respect to payment of salaries/ wages to employees.

Under section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 (“Act”), every company having a net worth of Rs. 500 Crores or more, or turnover of Rs. 1000 Crores or more or a net profit of Rs. 5 Crores or more during the preceding financial year shall constitute a CSR Committee. This CSR Committee shall formulate and recommend a CSR policy for the activities to be undertaken by the company, recommend the amount of expenditure to be incurred on the activities and monitor the CSR policy of the company from time to time. The company shall spend, in every financial year, at least 2% of its average net profits made during three immediately preceding financial years or since incorporation, whichever is applicable. Moreover, the CSR expenditure shall include projects and programs specified under Schedule VII of the Act.

Keeping in mind the requirement under the Act, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (“MCA”) issued a General Circular No. 10/2020 dated 23.03.2020 (“General Circular”) on the spending of CSR funds for COVID-19. The MCA has clarified that spending of CSR funds for COVID-19 is an eligible CSR activity. The MCA through the General Circular has included the promotion of health care including preventive health care and sanitation, and disaster management to the list of CSR activities under Schedule VII. Furthermore, it is pertinent to note here that as per General Circular No. 21/2014 dated 18.06.2014 issued by MCA, the entries in Schedule VII are broad-based and must be interpreted liberally so as to capture the essence of the subjects therein. With this change, Schedule VII now recognizes any contribution to incubators funded by Central or State Government or any Government agency engaged in conducting research in science, technology, engineering, and medicine as falling within the ambit of CSR. 

Moreover, the Government of India has set up a public charitable trust under the name of Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (“PM CARES Fund”) to deal with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like the one posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In view of this, the MCA issued Office Memorandum F. No. CSR-05/1/2020-CSR-MCA dated 28.03.2020 which provides that any contribution made to the PM CARES Fund shall qualify as CSR expenditure under item No. (viii) of the Schedule VII of the Act, which reads as under:

(viii) contribution to the prime minister’s national relief fund or any other fund set up by the central govt. for socio-economic development and relief and welfare of the schedule caste, tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women

The MCA issued further clarifications vide General Circular No. 15/ 2020 dated 10.04.2020 (“New Circular”) due to several queries on the eligibility of CSR expenditure related to COVID-19 activities. The following are the clarifications issued in the New Circular:

  1. The contribution made to the PM CARES Fund shall qualify as CSR expenditure under item no. (viii) of Schedule VII of the Act as stated above.
  2. Any contribution to ‘Chief Minister’s Relief Fund’ or ‘State Relief Fund for COVID-19’ is not included in Schedule VII of the Act and therefore, it shall not qualify as CSR expenditure.
  3. As provided in the General Circular, contribution made to State Disaster Management Authority to combat COVID-19 shall qualify as CSR expenditure under item no. (xii) of Schedule VII of the Act which reads as under:

(xii) disaster management, including relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities

  1. Funds spent on various activities related to COVID-19 under the items of Schedule VII with respect to the promotion of health care including preventive health care, sanitation, and disaster management shall qualify as CSR expenditure.
  2. The payment of salary/wages to employees and workers during the lockdown period is a moral obligation of the employers, as they have no alternative source of employment or livelihood during this Lockdown Period. Therefore, payment of salary/wages to the employees and workers during the Lockdown Period shall not qualify as admissible CSR expenditure. Moreover, payment of wages to temporary or casual, or daily wage workers during the Lockdown Period shall also not count as CSR expenditure as this forms a part of the contractual or moral obligation of the company and is applicable to all companies irrespective of whether they have any legal obligation for CSR contribution under section 135 of the Act.
  3. In case of any ex-gratia payment made to temporary/ casual workers/ daily wage workers over and above the payment of wages, specifically for the purpose of fighting COVID-19, the same shall be considered CSR expenditure. It is pertinent to point out that this payment shall be admissible as a one-time exception provided there is an explicit declaration to that effect by the Board of the company, which is duly certified by the statutory auditors.

 

To sum it up, the MCA has clarified that the expenses made by the corporate entities with regard to COVID-19 shall be construed to be part of the CSR responsibilities under the Companies Act, 2013 if the activities and expenses include the following:

  1. Contribution to PM CARES Fund;
  2. The contribution made to State Disaster Management Authority; and
  3. Funds spent on activities relating to the promotion of health care including preventive health care, sanitation, and disaster management.

Further, to put rest to the discussions pertaining to payment of salaries and wages to the employees or contract workers, the MCA has also clarified that payment of salaries and wages are moral obligations of a company irrespective of the CSR contribution. Therefore, payment of salaries and wages do not form part of CSR expenditure. However, MCA has provided a one-time exception for ex-gratia payment to the temporary or casual workers for fighting COVID-19.      

Corporates are opting for a hybrid approach where they are partly contributing to the various funds and simultaneously directly getting involved in the process of fighting the disease by manufacturing equipment, making quarantine facilities, and distributing free rations. The key here is to fight the disease from all possible fronts with the help of all possible avenues. Corporates taking an active part reflects their values and shall positively impact their reputation management efforts. However, had the payment of wages been included in the CSR activity, employees who are losing their job could see some respite. That said, the one-time exception for temporary and casual workers is definitely a positive step that goes a long way in resolving the economic distress that is affecting individuals and businesses alike.

ACTIVITY

COUNTS AS CSR?

Contribution to PM CARES

Yes

Contribution to State Disaster Management Authority

Yes

Payment of Salaries/Wages

No

Ex-Gratia Payment Above Wages to Temporary/Casual Workers for Fighting COVID-19

Yes, One Time

COVID-19 Related Activities Under Schedule-VII

Yes

Contribution to Chief Minister Relief Fund

No

Contribution to State Relief Fund for COVID-19’

No

 

 

Image Credits:  Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Such measures from the Government will certainly create a positive sentiment and a sense of tax certainty amongst the investors and hopefully, help in attracting incremental foreign investment into the country, that will play an important role in promoting faster economic growth and development.

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