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Ganeshi Lal Ram Kumar Vs. Commissioner of Income-tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberIncome-tax Reference Miscellaneous Case No. 43 of 1963
Judge
Reported in[1970]77ITR974(All)
ActsUttar Pradesh Sales Tax Act, 1948 - Sections 3; ;Sales Tax (Validation) Act, 1958
AppellantGaneshi Lal Ram Kumar
RespondentCommissioner of Income-tax
Appellant AdvocateS.N. Misra and J.P. Khandelwal, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateShanti Bhushan and ;R.R. Misra, Advs.
Excerpt:
- - i would like to state a few more facts to show, precisely, how the amount in question, viz. 27/167. on these facts the tribunal held that the amount in question which was debited to the profit and loss account was at best a provision for a contingent liability which the assessee had thought fit to provide for in case the additional levy of sales tax was ultimately held by the supreme court to be a proper levy. however, as the matter was argued at considerable length before me, i would like to add a few words. thus, the charge is, clearly, on the turnover of the assessment year which is in excess of rs......187 ; [1961] 2 s.c.r. 189, 195 (s.c.) :'the liability of the assessee adopting the turnover of the year of assessment arises by virtue of sections 3 and 7 and rule 41 at the end of each quarter.'18. the principles governing the accrual of statutory liability under a taxing enactment have been enunciated by the supreme court in the case of kesoram industries and cotton mills ltd. v. commissioner of wealth-tax, [1966] 59 i.t.r. 767, 784 (s.c).which is the binding authority in point. the supreme court has pointed out in that case when liability to tax may be regarded as an ascertained liability and debited in the accounts as a debt owed by the assessee. in that case a sum of money was shown in the balance-sheet of the assessee as a liability as on the last day of its accounting year to.....
Judgment:

Mukerjee, J.

1. The question on which I am required to give my opinion in this case is :

'Whether, the sum of Rs. 15,000 debited by the assessee in the profit and loss account on the last day of the accounting year, relevant to the assessment year 1958-59, represents an ascertained liability on the mercantile system of accounting deductible in the computation of its income, profits and gains under Section 10 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, for the assessment year 1958-59 ?'

2. Sahai J. and Pathak J. have differed in their answer to this question; Sahai J. answered the question in the negative, while Pathak J. answered it in the affirmative.

3. The facts giving rise to this reference have been set out in the orders of the two learned judges. I would like to state a few more facts to show, precisely, how the amount in question, viz., Rs. 15,000, came to be debited in the accounts of the assessee as its liability to sales tax. These facts would be relevant in connection with a contention raised by Dr. I. Mishra appearing for the revenue.

4. The assessee is a firm which was accorded registration under Section 26A of the Income-tax Act, 1922 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'), for the relevant assessment year 1958-59, the previous year being the period from the 9th July, 1956, to the 28th June, 1957. The firm deals in cloth on wholesale basis at Pratapgarh and it maintains its accounts on mercantile basis. It is assessed to sales tax under the U.P. Sales Tax Act on sales of cloth purchased from outside Uttar Pradesh.

5. The assessee, however, did not maintain a separate account in respect of such sales. During the relevant year the assessee estimated such sales at Rs. 4,24,226 on the basis of the ex-U.P. purchases for which it maintains a separate account.

6. Until the 31st March, 1956, sales tax on cloth imported from outside Uttar Pradesh was levied at six pies per rupee. On the 31st March, 1956, the Governor of U.P. issued an Ordinance (No. 9 of 1956), declaring that the turnover in respect of goods imported from outside Uttar Pradesh shall be liable to sales tax at one anna in the rupee with effect from 1st January, 1956. On the same date, the Government published a notification (No. S.T. 905/X) under Section 3A of the U.P. Sales Tax Act notifying the Ordinance promulgated by the Governor. In due course, the U.P. Sales Tax Ordinance was replaced by the U. P. Sales Tax (Amendment) Act (19 of 1956),incorporating the provisions of the Ordinance and stating that the amendment shall be deemed to have effect on and from 1st April, 1956. The notification was struck down by a Full Bench of this court in the case of Adarsh Bhandar v. Sales Tax Officer, (1) [1957] 8 S.T.C 666; A.I.R. 1957 All. 475 (F.B.). The judgment in the case was pronounced on the 9th May, 1957.

7. It may be noted at this stage that the assessee had paid an amount of Rs. 11,504 during the relevant accounting period on the basis of the quarterly returns filed by it. On 28th June, 1957, the last date of the retevant accounting period, the assessee debited in its sales tax account a sum of Rs. 15,000. It is stated that this amount was provided for in the accounts with a view to meet the extra amount of sales tax leviable on the basis of the notification dated 31st March, 1956. Having done so, the assessee claimed this amount as an admissible deduction in the computation of its total income for the assessment year 1958-59.

8. It would be noticed that the assessee debited the amount of Rs. 15,000 on 28th June, 1957, after the Full Bench of this court which decided the case of Adarsh Bhandar had struck down the notification dated 31st March, 1956, by its decision dated the 9th May, 1957. On behalf of the State, Dr. Misra, learned counsel for the revenue, contended that after the notification had been declared illegal and ultra vires by the High Court, no extra amount of sales tax was payable by the assessee on the basis thereof and, therefore, the provision of Rs. 15,000 which was debited by the assessee in its accounts on 28th June, 1957, was not allowable as deduction. I am unable to accept this argument. In the first place, this point was not raised before the learned judges of the Division Bench; secondly, the State Legislature enacted the U.P. Sales Tax (Validation) Act, 1958 (U.P. Act 15 of 1958), validating the said modification as from the 31st March, 1956. In the case of J. K. Jute Mills v. State of U.P., [1961] 12 S.T.C. 429; [1962] 2 S.C.R. 1; A.I.R. 1961 S.C. 1534.the Supreme Court held that the U.P. Sales Tax (Validation) Act. 1958, was valid and intra vires and, therefore, the notification dated Mst March, 1956, levying sales tax at the rate of one anna per rupee on goods imported from outside Uttar Pradesh was a valid notification. The position, therefore, is that sales tax was payable in the relevant assessment year by the assessee at the enhanced rate of one anna per rupee with effect from the 1st April, 1956.

9. It may be noted here that an identical contention was raised beforeanother Bench of this court in the case of Devi Das Madho Prasad v. Com-missioner of Income-tax, [1967] 63 I.T.R. 356; 20 S.T.C. 53 (All.).but it was rejected. In that case, the assessee haddebited its profit and loss account with the sum of Rs. 27,167 on the last dateof the previous year which ended on the 28th August, 1967, as estimatedsales tax liability imposed by the said notification dated 31st March, 1956, the validity of which was challenged by other dealers in this court. The system of accounting maintained by the assessce in that case was mercantile and it claimed deduction in respect of the sum of Rs. 27/167. On these facts the Tribunal held that the amount in question which was debited to the profit and loss account was at best a provision for a contingent liability which the assessee had thought fit to provide for in case the additional levy of sales tax was ultimately held by the Supreme Court to be a proper levy. The Tribunal, therefore, rejected the claim. On reference, this court allowed the claim for deduction holding that the liability to sales tax was a statutory liability and under the mercantile system of accounting the assessee was entitled to debit the amount in his accounts. Following the decision of the Supreme Court, in the case of Calcutta Co. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income-tax, Manchanda J., who delivered the leading judgment in that case, held that if the estimate made by the assessee of its liability was wrong, the department could have substituted its own estimate but that will not make the ascertained liability into an unascertained one.

10. The facts in the above case are in pari materia with those in the present case and the decision is, therefore, binding until reversed by a larger Bench. However, as the matter was argued at considerable length before me, I would like to add a few words.

11. As I have already noted, the question for my consideration is whether the sum of Rs. 15,000 debited by the assessee, on the last day of its accounting year as a provision for the liability to sales tax created by the notification dated 31st March, 1956, represents an ascertained liability allowable as a deduction in computing the profits and gains of the assessee's business for levy of income-tax. It has been already stated that the assessee-firm maintains its accounts on the mercantile system and not on cash or receipt basis. Both Sahai J. and Pathak J. have pointed out that the mercantile system of accounting brings into credit what is legally due before it is actually received and it brings into debit an expenditure for which a legal liability has been incurred before it is actually disbursed.

12. Now, broadly speaking, liability to incur an expenditure may arise either under a contract or under a taxing statute. The decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Calcutta Co. Ltd., which has been discussed by both Sahai and Pathak JJ., is the leading authority on the accrual of a contrac-tual liability. In the present case we are, strictly speaking, concerned with the question of the accrual of a statutory liability, namely, liability under the U.P. Sales Tax Act. Sahai J. is of the view that until and unless the assessment has been made and the liability becomes enforceable, the amount of Rs. 15,000 cannot be treated as ascertained liability and it cannot be debited in the accounts. Pathak J., on the other hand, holds that the liability to sales tax arises by virtue of the charging Section, namely, Section 3 of the said Act, and it arises not later than the end of the relevant assessment year. In his opinion, accrual of the liability does not depend upon assessment which merely quantifies the exact amount of sales tax payable by the assessee. It is common ground that, in the present case, no assessment had been made by the Sales Tax Officer in respect of the turnover of the material period by the last day of the relevant assessment year. I concur with the opinion of Pathak J., and, with profound respect, I am unable to share the view taken by Sahai J.

13. I would first consider the question when a statutory liability under a taxing statute may be regarded as having been ascertained or accrued. In the case of Whitney v. Inland Revenue Commissioners, [1926] A.C. 37, 52; 10 T.C. 88, 110 Lord Dunedin stated as follows:

'Now, there are three stages in the imposition of a tax : there is the declaration of liability, that is the part of the statute which determines what persons in respect of what property are liable. Next, there is the assessment, Liability does not depend on assessment. That, ex-hypothesi, has already been fixed. But assessment particularises the exact sum which a person liable has to pay. Lastly, come the methods of recovery, if the person taxed does not voluntarily pay.'

14. These remarks were quoted with approval by Vaidialingam J. in M. Abramai v. Commissioner of Sales Tax, (2) [1958] 9 S.T.C. 780 ; [1958] K.L.J. 376 and also by the Federal Court in Chatturam v. Commissioner of Income-tax, [1947] 15 I.T.R. 302; [1947] F.L.J. 92(F.C.). In fact, in all taxing enactments provisions are made for :

(i) imposition of the liability to tax,

(ii) assessment or quantification of the exact amount of tax, and

(iii) recovery or collection of tax.

15. The imposition of liability is made by what is usually called the charging section while provisions for assessment and collection of the tax are made in what are termed the machinery sections. In the U.P. Sales Tax Act, Section 3 is the charging section and it runs as follows :

'3. Liability to tax under the Act.--(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, every dealer shall, for each assessment year, pay a tax at the rate of two naye paise per rupee on his turnover of such year which shall be determined in such manner as may be prescribed.'

16. The first proviso to this section exempts a turnover of Rs. 12,000 from tax. Thus, the charge is, clearly, on the turnover of the assessment year which is in excess of Rs. 12,000. It may be noticed here that section 3A of the Act authorises the State Government by notification in the officialgazette, to declare that tax in respect of any goods or class of goods may be levied at specified single points at a rate not exceeding ten naye paise per rupee. In the present case, the impugned notification No, S.T. 905/X, dated 31st March, 1956, was issued by the State Government under this section authorising levy of sales tax at one anna per rupee in respect of goods imported from outside Uttar Pradesh.

17. Referring to the terms of Sections 3, 7 and 21 of the U.P. Sales Tax Act and the Rules made thereunder, Sahai J. says that from the scheme of the Act and the Rules it appears that Section 3 only authorises the levy of the tax but the amouat of tax that a dealer has to pay must be determined by means of an assessment order before the tax becomes due from an assessee. On this view he held that, as no assessment had been made in the present case, it could not be contended that the amount of Rs. 15,000 was due from the assessee as sales tax on 28th June, 1957, and, therefore, no deduction could be claimed in respect of that amount under the mercantile system of accounting followed by the assessee (page 7 of his judgment). Pathak J., on the other hand, referring to the provisions of Sections 3 and 7(1) of the U.P. Sales Tax Act and Rule 41(1) reproduces the following observations of Shah J. in Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Modi Sugar Mills Ltd., [1961] 12 S.T.C. 182, 187 ; [1961] 2 S.C.R. 189, 195 (S.C.) :

'The liability of the assessee adopting the turnover of the year of assessment arises by virtue of Sections 3 and 7 and Rule 41 at the end of each quarter.'

18. The principles governing the accrual of statutory liability under a taxing enactment have been enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Kesoram Industries and Cotton Mills Ltd. v. Commissioner of Wealth-tax, [1966] 59 I.T.R. 767, 784 (S.C).which is the binding authority in point. The Supreme Court has pointed out in that case when liability to tax may be regarded as an ascertained liability and debited in the accounts as a debt owed by the assessee. In that case a sum of money was shown in the balance-sheet of the assessee as a liability as on the last day of its accounting year to provide for payment of income-tax and super-tax in respect of the year of account. The object was to claim the amount as a deduction in the computation of the 'net wealth' of the assessee under the newly introduced Wealth-tax Act, 1957, When the Wealth-tax Act was first introduced, a company was one of the assessable entities and Section 3 of the Act, which is the charging Section imposed the liability to wealth-tax on the 'net wealth' of every assesses mentioned therein on the corresponding valuation date, that is, the last day of the accounting year. Section 2(m) of the Act defined the term 'net wealth' to mean the excess of the aggregate value of all assets belonging to the assessee over the aggregate value of all 'debts owed by the assessee on the valuation date. Quite obviously, if the provision for income-taxand super-tax made by the assessee-company in its balance-sheet were regarded as 'a debt owed by the assessee' it would be deductible in the computation of the net wealth. The assessment for income-tax and supertax for the relevant period had not been made till then, and, therefore, the Calcutta High Court, when the case came before it, held that the amount in question was not liable to be deducted as a debt owed by the assessee on the valuation date. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Calcutta High Court in point and after considering various judicial pronouncements made by Indian and English courts held that the provision for taxation in the balance-sheet was deductible as an ascertained liability, despite the fact that no assessment had been made and the liability had not been quantified. Subba Rao J. (as he then was), speaking for the majority, said that the liability was created by the charging section and the rate of tax was prescribed by the Finance Act. If, however, the Finance Act had not been passed by the last day of the accounting year the rate could be ascertained by reference to Section 67B of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, and a reasonable estimate of the tax payable could be easily made. Concluding, Subba Rao J. observed as follows:

'To summarize : A debt is a present obligation to pay an ascertainable sum of money, whether the amount is payable in praesenti or in future: debitum in praesenti, solvendum in futuro. But a sum payable upon a contingency does not become a debt until the said contingency has happened. A liability to pay income-tax is a present liability though it becomes payable after it is quantified in accordance with ascertainable data. There is a perfected debt at any rate on the last day of the accounting year and not a contingent liability. The rate is always easily ascertainable. If the Finance Act is passed, it is the rate fixed by that Act; if the Finance Act has not yet been passed, it is the rate proposed in the Finance Bill pending before Parliament or the rate in force in the preceding year, whichever is more favourable to the assessee. All the ingredients of a 'debt' are present. It is a present liability of an ascertainable amount.'

19. In view of the principle formulated in the above case it may be laid down as a general rule that where the charging section in a taxing statute not only imposes the liability to tax but also prescribes the rate of tax or where the charging section is subject to the other provisions of the statute, which prescribe the rate, the amount payable as tax is ascertainable with reasonable precision and the amount may be debited in the accounts for the relevant accounting period as an accrued liability under the mercantile system of accounting.

20. It may be pertinent here to refer to the charging sections of certain parallel statutes. Thus, Section 3 of the Wealth-tax Act, 1957, which, while imposing the charge, fixes the tax at the rate or rates laid down in theSchedule. The charging section of the Income-tax Act, 1922, namely, Section 3, adopts the rate or rates prescribed in the corresponding Finance Act and it is subject to the other provisions of the Act including Section 67B which, as already noticed, lays down that, if the Finance Act has not been passed till the 1st day of April, the rates prescribed in the Bill or in the Finance Act of the preceding year, whichever is more favourable to the assessee, will be applicable. Where, therefore, an assessee estimates his liability pending regular assessment under any such charging section and debits the amount so estimated in his profit and loss account for the relevant accounting year, such debit is allowable as an ascertained liability. However, a charging section which gives rise to a 'general liability' simpliciter without prescribing the rate of tax or indicating the mode in which the amount of the tax may be determined would not give rise to an ascertained or ascertainable liability and an assessee would not be entitled to debit an estimate of its liability in its accounts pending a regular assessment. Section 3 of the U. P. Sales Tax Act not only imposes a 'general liability' to tax on the taxable turnover, as Sahai J. says, but it also prescribes the rate thereof of two naye paise per rupee.

21. In certain cases there may be some difficulty in ascertaining the quantum of the liability with reasonable precision but, as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Calcutta Co. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income-tax, [1959] 37 I.T.R. 1, [1960] 1 S.C.R. 185 (S.C.) difficulty in estimation of the amount does not prevent the accrual of the liability. If the estimate is wrong the taxing officer would be competent to substitute his own estimate ignoring the assessee's.

22. In the instant case, as I have already noted, the assessee estimated its liability to extra sales tax at the rate payable under notification No. S. T. 905/X, dated 31st March, 1956, at Rs. 15,000. This is debitable in the profit and loss account as an ascertained liability under the mercantile system which the assessee follows. The amount is, therefore, allowable as a deduction in the computation of its profits and gains under Section 10 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, for the assessment year 1958-59.

23. My answer to the question referred is in the affirmative. The records of the case may now be sent back to the Bench concerned with my opinion herein expressed.


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