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Addl. Commissioner of Income-tax Vs. Maddi Venkataratnam and Co. Ltd. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCase Referred No. 65 of 1975
Judge
Reported in[1979]119ITR514(AP)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 37 and 37(1)
AppellantAddl. Commissioner of Income-tax
RespondentMaddi Venkataratnam and Co. Ltd.
Appellant AdvocateP. Rama Rao, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateJ.V. Srinivasa Rao and ;M.J. Swamy, Advs.
Excerpt:
.....- contended that expenditure be allowed as expenditure was for business promotion and not in nature of entertainment - held, expenditure allowed as expenditure incurred wholly for business purpose and falling under section 37. - - 27,318 were incurred by way ofmeeting hotel bills for lodging and boarding of guests in hotels and by way of meeting catering charges of guests which are clearly in the nature of entertainment expenditure and obviously under sub-section (2) of section 37 beyond the specified limit of rs. but in the context of legislative intent evinced from the gradual evolution of the present provisions contained in section 37(2a) and (2b), we venture to indicate a few broad tests so as to facilitate a taxpayer to understand and the revenue to determine the nature..........the instant case that the amount of rs. 38,229 spent by the assessee on their guests is an item of business expenditure which would fall under section 37(1) of the act of 1961. since it is not entertainment expenditure it does not fall under section 37(2) nor can it be said to have been spent by way of advertisement and it was expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business of the assessee-company and hence it would fall under section 37(1) of the act.7. before leaving this case, we must observe that it has very often come to our notice that two departments of the government of india seem to be pursuing contradictory policies. on theone hand, there is a drive by the government of india for encouraging exports and for encouraging industrial development. to that.....
Judgment:

B.J. Divan, C.J.

1. In this case, at the instance of the revenue, the following question has been referred to us for our opinion :

' Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the sum of Rs. 38,229 spent by the assessee on guests could be allowed either under Section 37(2) or under Section 37(3) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 ?'

2. The facts leading to this reference are as follows :

We are concerned with the assessment year 1967-68. The assessee is a private limited company. It claimed two amounts, namely, Rs. 22,098 and Rs. 45,539 by way of entertainment expenses and guest expenses, respectively. Going into the details of these expenses, the ITO found that the actual entertainment expenditure incurred for the customers was only Rs. 5,527 and the balance represented various other expenses. The details of guest expenses of Rs. 45,539 included, apart from expenses, that is, salaries, etc., a sum of Rs. 38,229 under the head ' food ', etc., expenses. The ITO treated the sums of Rs. 5,527 and Rs. 38,229 as coming under the head of ' entertainment expenditure ' and limited this expenditure to Rs. 5,000 and disallowed a sum of Rs. 38,756. The assessee claimed before the ITO that the guest expenses were in the nature of providing lodging and boarding for foreign customers and representatives who came and stayed with the assessee for effecting purchases of tobacco. The assessee had maintained two guest houses, one at Chilakaluripet and another at Guntur. These guest houses were intended only for the foreign buyers who came to inspect the tobacco which was exported. During the year, the assessee had received three guests from London, two from Japan, two from Egypt and two from East Germany. It was claimed by the assessee that this was business promotion expenditure necessary for the business and did not constitute entertainment. The ITO, as stated above, disallowed the sum of Rs. 38,756. He held that the parties and other forms of entertainment were purely voluntary and ex gratia. The assessee took the matter in appeal and the AAC found that out of the amount disallowed by the ITO only Rs. 527 was properly disallowed. But there was no justification for disallowing any amount out of the claim of Rs. 38,229 which represented the boarding and lodging expenses of foreign representatives. The AAC held that it was neither entertainment expenditure nor expenditure on the maintenance of the guest houses and did not fall under Section 37(2) or s, 37(3) and this amount could not be disallowed. The expenditure on boarding and lodging of foreign representatives was necessary for the business. Even if a part of it was on account of drinks, etc., supplied to foreigners, it was not in the nature of entertainment.

3. Against the order of the AAC, the revenue carried the matter in appeal before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal and there it was contended by the revenue that even an item of expenditure incurred for business purposes if it amounts to entertainment expenses must be disallowed except to the extent permitted by law. The Tribunal analysed the decisions on the point and the word ' entertainment ' as found in the dictionary and relevant decisions. It held that the word ' entertainment' would include refreshment as also amusement. Having in view the purpose of the restriction introduced in Section 37(2), the Tribunal held that where an item of expenditure was incurred for the necessary subsistence or living of a member of the staff or a visitor to the assessee's business premises or constituents or business agent who had to be with the assessee for some time to enable the assessee to carry on his business properly, in respect of such an amount, it would not be proper to regard it as entertainment, but only as expenses for business purposes. The Tribunal, therefore, confirmed the order of the AAC. Thereafter, at the instance of the revenue, the question hereinabove set out has been referred to us for our opinion.

4. Mr. Rama Rao, the learned standing counsel for the I.T. department, relied upon certain observations of the Bombay High Court in ACC-Vickers Babcock Ltd. v. CIT [1975] 103 ITR 321 of the report, Tulzapurkar J., delivering the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court, has dealt with the question regarding entertainment expenditure. The question related to a sum of Rs. 36,446 which was spent by the assessee at the time of the inaugural function of the assessee-company's heavy engineering works at Durgapur at the hands of the then Chief Minister of West Bengal. The amount of Rs. 36,446 comprised of Rs. 9,128 and Rs. 27,318. The amount of Rs. 9,128 represented hotel bills for lodging and boarding of guests in hotels and the remaining amount of Rs. 27,318 represented catering charges of guests. The question was whether the expenditure totalling to Rs. 36, 446 was incurred by the assessee by way of entertainment expenditure. At page 338, Tulzapurkar J. emphasised the non-obstante clause occurring in Section 37(2) which says, notwithstanding any thing contained in Sub-section (1) of Section 37, no expenditure in the nature of entertainment expenditure shall be allowed beyond certain specified limits. He observed (p. 338):

' In other words, notwithstanding the fact that the expenditure might have been laid out or expended wholly or exclusively for the purpose of business, if such expenditure is in the nature of ' entertainment expenditure * the same is not to be allowed beyond the specified limit. 'On the face of it the two items of Rs. 9,128 and Rs. 27,318 were incurred by way ofmeeting hotel bills for lodging and boarding of guests in hotels and by way of meeting catering charges of guests which are clearly in the nature of entertainment expenditure and obviously under Sub-section (2) of Section 37 beyond the specified limit of Rs. 5,000 no further deduction can be allowed to the assessee. In our view, therefore, the Tribunal was right in taking the view that the expenses of Rs. 36,446 were not allowable as a deduction in computing the profits of the business of the assessee-company. The second question is, therefore, answered in the negative and against the assessee,'

5. It will be noticed that in the decision of the Bombay High Court the question as to what constitutes entertainment and when a particular item of expenditure can be said to amount to entertainment expenditure within the meaning of Section 37(2) was not analysed by the Bombay High Court. However, in CIT v. Patel Brothers & Co. Ltd. : [1977]106ITR424(Guj) a Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court, of which I was a member, has analysed the whole concept of entertainment expenditure. Mehta J., delivering the judgment of the Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court has observed at page 441.

' It is difficult, therefore, to lay down a hard and fast strait-jacket formula so as to answer various contingencies arising from time to time as to what expenses would be classed as entertainment expenses in the present context of the Income-tax Act, where no scheme as one we find in Section 15 of the Finance Act of 1965 of the United Kingdom is to be found. We think that it would be over simplification of the problem to accept the broad submission made on behalf of either of the parties. We do not think that we would be justified in laying down any formula so as to provide readymade answer to this problem; but in the context of legislative intent evinced from the gradual evolution of the present provisions contained in Section 37(2A) and (2B), we venture to indicate a few broad tests so as to facilitate a taxpayer to understand and the revenue to determine the nature of entertainment expenses though in each case in the ultimate analysis it would be a question of fact depending on many factors, more particularly in the absence of a well-defined scheme in the Indian statute. The following broad tests, in our opinion, will provide a guide-line to determine the nature of expenses allowed to be entertainment expenses :

(a) If the provision of food, drinks or any amusement to a client, constituent or customer is on lavish extravagant scale, or is of wasteful nature, it is entertainment per se.

(b) If the provision of food, or drinks to a client, constituent or customer is in nature of bare necessity, or by way of ordinary courtesy, or as an express or implied term of contract or employment spelled out fromlong-standing practice or custom of trade or business, it will not amount to entertainment.

(c) If the provision of food or drinks to a client, customer or constituent is in liberal and friendly way, it may amount to entertainment having regard to the place, item and cost of such provision.

(d) The provision of amusement to a client, customer or constituent by way of hospitality or otherwise will always be entertainment.'

6. In the instant case, expenses aggregating to Rs. 38,229 were incurred by the assessee for putting up foreign visitors, namely, people coming from London, Japan, Egypt and East Germany for the purposes of business of the company. The company was carrying on the business of exporting tobacco from India and these visitors had come to India to inspect tobacco which was exported. For the use of these visitors from abroad one guest house was maintained at Chilakaluripet and another was run at Guntur. It is obvious that in order to earn money from business these foreign visitors had to be put up and reasonable facilities for their accommodation, food, drink, etc., within reasonable limits had to be provided so that the company can carry on its business of exporting tobacco from India. In these circumstances, the case of the present assessee would fall within category (b) mentioned in the above passage from the judgment of the Gujarat High Court, namely, provision of food, drinks, etc., to client, constituent or customer in the nature of bare necessity or by way of ordinary courtesy or as an express or implied term of the contract. It is nobody's case that the guest houses were run on a lavish scale looking particularly to the needs of customers from abroad. Hence, the view taken by the Tribunal that the item of Rs. 38,229 was not by way of entertainment as the word ' entertainment' is understood in the context of Section 37(2) of the I.T. Act was correct. The process of reasoning which appealed to the Tribunal is different from the reasoning which has appealed to us. We are in entire agreement with the reasoning of the Gujarat High Court in CIT v. Patel Brothers & Co. Ltd. : [1977]106ITR424(Guj) , and following the principles culled out by the Gujarat High Court in that case, we hold in the instant case that the amount of Rs. 38,229 spent by the assessee on their guests is an item of business expenditure which would fall under Section 37(1) of the Act of 1961. Since it is not entertainment expenditure it does not fall under Section 37(2) nor can it be said to have been spent by way of advertisement and it was expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business of the assessee-company and hence it would fall under Section 37(1) of the Act.

7. Before leaving this case, we must observe that it has very often come to our notice that two departments of the Government of India seem to be pursuing contradictory policies. On theone hand, there is a drive by the Government of India for encouraging exports and for encouraging industrial development. To that end all the State Governments are also exerting themselves to the utmost. On the other hand, the attitude taken up by the department of direct taxes discourages any such drive for encouraging exports and industrial development. It is high time that the two departments, one of direct taxes and the other of promotion of export and industries, should work in harmony and lay down policy decisions which would work in harmony with each other. We are constrained to make this observation because of the conflicting interests of the two departments of the Government of India.

8. In these circumstances, we answer the question referred to us as follows :

The amount of Rs. 38,229 spent by the assessee on the guests can be allowed under Section 37(1) of the I.T. Act, 1961. The question is, therefore, answered in favour of the assessee and against the revenue. The Addl. CIT will pay the costs of the assessee. Advocate's fee Rs. 250.


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