Tax Withholding under Section 194R: CBDT Issues Additional Guidelines
The CBDT has, vide Circular No. 18 of 2022, dated September 13, 2022, aimed to remove difficulties on the implementation of TDS on benefits or perquisites under Section 194R of the Income Tax Act of 1961 “Act”). This circular is a continuation of Circular No. 12, issued by CDBT earlier, on June 16, 2022, providing guidelines on the scope and coverage of Section 194R of the Act. The Income Tax Department explicitly makes it clear that this Circular is only for the removal of difficulties in the implementation of provisions of Section 194R of the Act and does not impact the taxability of income in the hands of the recipient, which shall be governed by the relevant provisions of the Act.
Key Clarifications in Circular No. 18 of 2022
One-time loan settlement/waiver of loan
The provision of Section 194R of the Act shall not be applicable on one-time loan settlements entered with or waivers of loans granted to borrowers by specified banks or financial institutions.
Reimbursement of expenses incurred by a ‘Pure Agent’
Any expense incurred by a “pure agent,” as defined under the GST Valuation Rules, 2017 and which is in turn reimbursed by the service recipient, would not be treated as a benefit or perquisite for the purposes of Section 194R, and therefore the pure agent would not be liable to deduct TDS u/s 194R of the Act. It has been explained that in such cases, even the GST input credit ought to be availed of by the service provider and not the service recipient.
Interplay of 194R and other TDS provisions
The Circular clarifies that if reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses (OPE) is already a part of the gross consideration and tax has been deducted on the gross consideration under sections 194J or 194C of the Act, then there would not be any further liability to deduct tax under section 194R of the Act.
Expenditure incurred on dealers’/business conferences
In case of a dealers’ conference to educate the dealers about the company’s products, it has been clarified that:
- It is not necessary to invite all dealers to a conference for the expenses incurred for conducting the conference to not be reckoned as a benefit or perquisite for tax deduction.
- Any overstay by a dealer beyond one day prior and one day after the date of the conference would be treated as a benefit or perquisite liable for deduction of tax under Section 194R.
- Where it is not possible, owing to practical difficulties, to ascertain the actual number of dealers for whom certain expenses were incurred, which should be classified as a benefit/perquisite, then to avoid any further challenges, the taxpayer who has provided the benefit/perquisite may suo-moto disallow the said expenditure, and thereafter, there will not be any requirement to comply with the provisions of Section 194R.
Availability of depreciation on any capital asset (car) gifted as a benefit/perquisite
Where any capital asset is received as a gift and tax has been withheld under Section 194R, the recipient shall be eligible to claim depreciation under Section 32 of the Act on such asset. The Circular clarifies that the value of such a benefit/perquisite offered as ‘income’ in the income-tax return of the recipient shall be deemed to be ‘actual cost’ in the hands of the recipient for the purpose of calculating such depreciation.
Liability on Embassy or High Commissions
The Circular clarifies that certain embassies and high commissions are not required to deduct tax under Section 194R of the Act for the benefit/perquisite provided by such organisations.
Liability on issuance of bonus/right shares
Tax under Section 194R of the Act is not required to be deducted on the issuance of bonus or right shares issued by a company in which the public is substantially interested ( a listed company), as the overall value and ownership of their holding remain the same.
The above additional guidelines are welcome clarifications, as they certainly provide much needed clarity and certainty to some of the issues and concerns that were raised through representations by various industry and professional forums. As such, it is expected that the vexed provisions of Section 194R of the Act would now be less cumbersome in their practical application. Needless to say, there are still several issues in Section 194R and its application, which continue to bother the assessees regularly. It is hoped that CBDT, in the coming days, will continue with its avowed objective of making tax administration simple and provide further clarity on the other issues and challenges.
The Income Tax Department explicitly makes it clear that this Circular is only for the removal of difficulties in the implementation of provisions of Section 194R of the Act and does not impact the taxability of income in the hands of the recipient, which shall be governed by the relevant provisions of the Act.