CBDT issues clarifications regarding unabsorbed depreciation and unutilised MAT credit for companies opting for concessional tax rates

Background

The Government of India recently announced significant reduction in corporate tax rates through The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 (‘Ordinance’). The Ordinance provides for a reduced tax rate of 22% for existing domestic companies and 15% for newly set up manufacturing companies. The taxpayer has the option to opt for lower tax rate or to continue under the existing tax regime and avail existing deductions and set-off of losses.

The Ordinance also provides that Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) shall not apply to any taxpayer opting to be governed by these lower tax rates. One of the conditions for availing the lower tax rates is that the taxpayer shall not be eligible to set-off brought forward tax losses against its taxable income.

The drafting of the Ordinance left open certain key questions. The CBDT through Circular No. 29/2019 dated 2 October 2019, has sought to clarify the following two questions:

  • Whether taxpayers will be eligible to set-off unabsorbed depreciation against taxable income of FY 2019-20 and subsequent years?
  • What will be the position of unutilised MAT credit since the provisions of MAT no longer apply to taxpayers opting for concessional tax rates

 

Clarification 1:

A company opting for the lower tax rates shall not be eligible to set-off any brought forward business loss on account of additional depreciation

Key Takeaway:

The Clarification provided by the CBDT, with due respect, appears misplaced. Denial of benefit of unabsorbed depreciation will require an amendment in section 32(2) which can be carried out only by approval from the Parliament of India or a Presidential Ordinance and not by the CBDT through issuance of Circular. Therefore, to that extent, the Circular No. 29/2019 may be considered as ultra-vires the powers of CBDT and may not survive judicial review. Please refer the subsequent paragraphs for a discussion on this aspect.

It is pertinent to note that the restriction is only on set-off of unabsorbed additional depreciation. The set-off of normal depreciation should continue unabated

Be that as it may, taxpayers opting to be governed by the Circular will have to carry out active number- crunching to determine the component of unabsorbed additional depreciation comprised in brought forward depreciation

Our reasoning:

  1. The restrictions provided under the newly inserted section 115BAA(2) has three clauses, as under:
  • Clause (i) prohibits claiming specified deductions, including additional
  • Clause (ii) prohibits set-off of brought forward tax losses relating to deductions under Clause (i)
  • Clause (iii) provides for claim of current year depreciation in such manner as may be prescribed

It is a settled position under the Income Tax Act, 1961 (Act) that depreciation is an allowance and not a deduction. Therefore, the restriction under Clause (ii) dealing with losses relating to deductions referred in Clause (i) should not cover additional depreciation.

 

  1. Under section 32(2) of the Act, unabsorbed depreciation is treated as depreciation of the current year and can be carried forward indefinitely to be set-off against taxable income of future years. As such, when the taxpayer off-sets unabsorbed depreciation, technically, the taxpayer claims off-set of the current year depreciation and not of a brought forward loss. Therefore, any restrictions on brought forward losses should not apply to brought forward depreciation

 

  1. It is also an established position that unabsorbed tax losses are different than unabsorbed A case in point is the provisions of section 79 of the Act which deny benefit of brought forward losses to closely held companies in cases of change in control. Courts have held that section 79 would not apply to brought forward unabsorbed depreciation as depreciation is not a loss.
  2. The CBDT can issue Circulars only for administrative and procedural guidance. A Circular cannot amend or restrict the operation of the law. It is pertinent to note that the clarification is provided by the CBDT by way of a Circular and has not been announced through a Supplementary Ordinance.

 

Clarification 2:

A company opting for the lower tax rates shall not be eligible to set-off unutilised MAT credit

Key Takeaway:

Since the provisions of MAT do not apply to taxpayers opting for the lower tax rates, any unutilised MAT credit available with these companies up to 31st March 2019 shall lapse. This could require writing-off of unutilised MAT credit as an expense to the Profit and Loss Account, impacting the Profit after Tax.

This provision, in effect, will make the MAT paid in earlier years a final tax payment. However, since an option has been provided to the taxpayer of not opting for the concessional tax rate and utilise the MAT credit, a constitutional challenge to this clarification may not survive

Summary

The changes made by the Ordinance and this recent clarification present a strong case for the taxpayers and tax advisors to sit together for carrying out a tax review of existing business operations to ascertain whether any tax optimisation avenues exist and what would be the opportune time for the taxpayer to opt for the lower headline tax rate of 22%

Contact Us

For any queries and feedback, you may please reach us at [email protected]

Webinar on Prevention of Sexual Harassment At Workplace

Prevention of Sexual Harassment At Workplace

When : August 23, 2019 | Timing: 4.30 p.m to 5.30 p.m.

What Will The Webinar Cover?
Not sure whether you need a POSH Policy or an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)? Worried about a #metoo situation in your office? Join LexStart for a discussion on the key requirements under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Law) and understand what the law actually requires.
Who Should Attend?
  • Founders, Promoters, Entrepreneurs
  • Directors
  • Investors
  • HR Personnel

 

Key Takeaways
  • Understand the law in India on Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace
  • Key terms that should go into a Policy for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace
  • Constitution of Internal Complaints Committee
  • ABCs of how to respond to a #metoo situation

 

About the Speaker
Deeksha Singh is a corporate lawyer with more than a decade of experience in corporate laws. She regularly advises on laws relating to prevention of sexual  harassment at workplace. She also regularly conducts sensitization training programs for employees at companies and training programs for ICC members on how to stay compliant with POSH Law and handle complaints addressed to the ICC.

GOVERNMENT PROPOSES MAJOR LABOUR LAW CHANGES FOR EASE OF COMPLIANCE

PROPOSED MAJOR LABOUR LAW CHANGES FOR EASE OF COMPLIANCE

The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2019 (“OSHW”), introduced by the Ministry of Labour and Employment introduces provisions allowing companies to have a single registration, which will be coupled with a single licence, along with a single return, for executing projects for five years involving contract workers, across the country.

An establishment will require a single registration instead of around 10 required to be done for all labour laws, a move that may help India bolster its “ease of doing business” ranking. Significantly, the Code on OSHW will cover all establishments hiring at least 10 workers, including those in services sector, thereby bringing the information technology sector within its ambit.

Employers will have to create a security deposit with the government at the time of obtaining such licence and specify the number of contract workers it might require. In case an employer wants to hire more contract workers, it will have to go back to the government to renew the licence and make an additional deposit.

In a further bid to improve ease of doing business, the Centre has proposed assigning “inspector-cum-facilitators” outside their jurisdiction “through randomised computer system”.

The provision of one licence and one return in place of multiple licences and returns in existing 13 labour laws subsumed in this Code is intended to save time, resources and efforts of businesses.

Mandatory POSH filing under Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act

Constitution of your Internal Committee, POSH ACT
The Government of Maharashtra has issued a letter requiring employers of workplaces in the District of Mumbai City employing 10 or more employees to report details of constitution of their Internal Committee (IC) under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The Form on Page 3 of the letter needs to be filled in and mailed by July 20, 2019, failing which a penalty of INR 50,000 will apply.
The Form and its attachments have to be sent to the address below:
1. District Collector or Deputy District Collector, Office of District collector, Old Customs House, Shahid Bhagat Singh Rd, Marg, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001.
2. Copy to- (a)Deputy Commissioner(Women Development), Department of Development of Women and Child, Pune.
(b) Departmental Deputy Commissioner, Department of Women and Child, Konkan Division, Mumbai.
To know more contact us at [email protected]

Budget 2019

RELEVANT BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

 

STARTUPS

  1. Tax Relief for Investors in Startups: Measures are proposed to carry forward and set off losses for startups & increase in period of exemption of capital gains from sale of residential house for investment in startups up to March 2021.
  2. Angel Tax Clarification: Startups and investors who file requisite declarations will not be subjected to any kind of scrutiny in respect of valuation of share premium. A mechanism of e-verification will be put in place and with this, the funds raised by startups will not require any angel tax scrutiny.
  3. Helping Skilled Entrepreneurs: 80 Livelihood business incubators and 20 technology business incubators to be set up in 2019-20 under ASPIRE to develop 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industries.
  4. TV Channel: Finance Minister is to start a TV channel exclusively for start-ups.
  5. Social Enterprises Startups: Electronic funding platform for social enterprises is to give necessary impetus to the startups.

 

MSMEs

  1. Loan incentive to MSMEs: Government to provide INR 1 Crore loan to MSMEs.
  2. Incremental loans: In continuation to bolstering MSME sector growth, interest subvention of 2% has been announced for fresh or incremental loans.

 

TAX

  1. Angel Tax Relief for Cat II AIFs: Valuation of shares issued to Cat II AIFs shall also now be out of scrutiny of Income Tax evaluation (earlier it was only for Cat I AIF).
  2. TDS above 1 crore: The government proposes to levy TDS of 2% on cash withdrawal exceeding INR 1 Crore in a year from a bank account.
  3. Surcharge on Individuals: In view of rising income levels, a surcharge will be levied on individuals with taxable income of INR 2 to 5 Crore, and INR 5 Crore and above.
  4. Corporate Tax Rate: Lower rate of 25% corporate tax rate shall now be applicable to companies with a turnover of up to INR 400 Crore (increased from previous threshold of INR 250 Crore).

 

OTHERS

  1. PAN and AADHAR to be interchangeable: PAN and Aadhar to be interchangeable; now Aadhar can be quoted instead of PAN, wherever PAN is required. It is ok to not have a PAN.
  2. Labour Laws: Proposal to streamline multiple labour laws into a set of ‘four labour codes’.
  3. Rental Housing: Current archaic rental laws to be updated to assess relation between lessor and lessee in a fair manner.
  4. Annual Global Meet: The Government is contemplating organising an annual global meet to get all three sets of global players: Industrialists, corporate leaders, corporate sovereign and venture funds.
  5. Platform to Raise Capital: The Government proposes to work on a platform for listing social enterprises and voluntary organisations to raise capital as equity, debt or units like mutual fund.

LexStart’s LexGyaan Series: Can I grant ESOPs to a Co-Founder?

Granting ESOPs to Promoters/Co-Founders

I often get asked this question – “Can I grant ESOPs to a Co-Founder who I recently brought on board my Startup?”. Well the answer is both yes and no!

The Companies Act, 2013 prohibits grant of ESOPs to the Promoter of a company. The term “Promoter” does not necessarily refer to only a person who is named as a Promoter at the time of incorporation of the company. A Promoter is defined broadly and includes, the following:

  • Any person who has been named as such in a prospectus or is identified by the company in its annual return; or
  • Any person who has control over the affairs of the company, directly or indirectly whether as a shareholder, director or otherwise; or
  • Any person in accordance with whose advice, directions or instructions the Board of Directors of the company is accustomed to act. Provided that such person is not someone who is acting merely in a professional capacity.

Therefore, typically a Co-Founder who you bring on board at a later stage, may not be a Promoter as stated in the Charter Documents (Memorandum and Articles of Association of your Startup) but still can be considered a “Promoter”, thus restricting him from receiving ESOPs in the company.

ESOPs to Promoters/Co-Founders of recognized Startups

The Companies Act, 2013 has made an exception to the above rule, by allowing Startups that are recognized by Govt. of India to grant ESOPs to founders, as long as the grant of such ESOPs is within 5 years from their incorporation. This means if your Startup has a Certificate of Recognition from DPIT, Govt. of India, then you can grant ESOPs to Promoters/Co-founders.

Related Readings : How to Get Startup India Registration

FAQs on ESOPs

 

What happens if an employee leaves the company before the shares have vested?

This depends on the ESOP policy of the company. The norm is for the unvested ESOPs to lapse upon cessation of employment. This means that the employee will not be able to exercise and avail ESOP benefits from those ESOPs any more.

However, in case an employee suffers a permanent incapacity while in employment, all the ESOPs granted to him as on the date of permanent incapacitation, shall vest in him on that day and in the event of the death of an employee while in employment, all the ESOPs granted to him till such date shall vest in the legal heirs or nominees of the deceased employee.

Below are the typical scenarios:

Company Friendly
Event Vested Unvested
Termination with Cause Lapse Lapse
Termination without Cause Exercise within the notice period Lapse
Resignation Exercise within the notice period Lapse
Death or Disability Exercise within 3 months of the event Exercise within 3 months of the event
Retirement Exercise on or before the last working day Lapse

 

Employee Friendly
Event Vested Unvested
Termination with Cause Exercise immediately Lapse
Termination without Cause Exercise immediately Lapse
Resignation Exercise immediately Lapse
Death or Disability Exercise within 6 months of the event Exercise within 6 months of the event
Retirement Exercise within 6 months of the event Exercise within 6 months of the event

What does Cause in the above scenario mean?

 If your employment agreement has a definition of cause, you could consider including that. If not, then we would recommend the following definition:

“Cause” shall include:

  • Wilful insubordination or disobedience, whether or not in combination with another, of any lawful and reasonable order of a superior.
  • Theft, fraud, misappropriation, embezzlement, moral turpitude or dishonesty in connection with the employer’s business or property.
  • Habitual absence without leave, overstaying the sanctioned leave without sufficient grounds, or proper and satisfactory explanation, or habitual late attendance.
  • Commission of any act subversive of discipline or good behavior on the premises of the Company, such as, drunkenness, riotous, disorderly or indecent behavior, gambling or taking or giving bribes or any illegal gratification whatsoever.
  • Disregard of the rules of the Company.
  • Disclosing to any unauthorized person any confidential information with respect to the Company and/or its business and/or its operation, including but not limited to trade secrets, intellectual property etc.
  • Commission or attempt to commit any cyber-crime.
  • Proven instance of sexual harassment.
  • Any other grounds that results in the Board of Directors of the Company to conclude that the act or omission by the concerned person may result in loss, damage or injury to the Company.