1. This is a reference under Section 256(1) of the Income-tax Act, 1961.
2. The assessee is a partnership firm which carried on wholesale business in cloth. During the previous year relevant to the assessment year 1958-59, it collected from its customers sales tax amounting to Rs. 4,46,944 and paid a sum of Rs. 3,16,899 to the sales tax department leaving a balance of Rs. 1,30,045. The Income-tax Officer treated the sum of Rs. 1,30,045 as the assessee's income for the assessment year in question and levied tax thereon. On appeal the Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Income-tax, relying upon a decision of the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal in the case of the assessee for the assessment year 1959-60, held that the surplus of Rs. 1,30,045 in the sales tax account did not constitute revenue receipt and remitted the tax levied thereon. The income-tax department went up in appeal before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, The Tribunal has dismissed the appeal, but at the instance of the Commissioner of Income-tax has submitted the following question for our opinion :
' Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the sum of Rs. 1,30,045 represents income of the assessee for the assessment year 1958-59?'
3. The facts found by the Tribunal are these :
4. The assessee is a dealer registered under the U.P. Sales Tax Act. In the sale memos, sales tax had separately been charged besides the sale price of the cloth. The sale price was credited to the sales account while the sales tax collected was credited to the sales tax account. The credits in the sales tax account on account of collection of tax were made as and when sales were effected while the debits in the said accounts were made when the payment was made by the assessee to the sales tax department. In the immediately preceding assessment year, the assessee paid more sales tax than it had collected and the deficit was allowed as a deduction by the income-tax authorities in the computation of the assesssee's income. The Tribunal has further observed that the Sales Tax Act imposed an obligation on the assessee to collect sales tax from its customers and to pay the same to the sales tax authorities at specified intervals. According to the Tribunal both at the time the sales tax was collected as also at the time when the tax so collected was paid to the Government, there was a valid statute in force. It further held that the true nature of the amount both at the time of collection and till such time as it was actually paid to the sales tax authorities remained as money in trust with the assessee and at no point of time such collections could be treated to be the assessee's income. The short question, that we have to answer is as to whether the view taken by the Tribunal is right.
5. Section 3 of the U.P. Sales Tax Act is the charging section. It imposes tax on every dealer on the turnover of sales during an assessment year. The liability to pay sales tax is, therefore, on the dealer which term has been defined to mean a person carrying on business of buying or selling goods. There is no liability cast upon the purchasers to pay sales tax. Under Section 8A(2)(b) of the U.P. Sales Tax Act a registered dealer has been given the right to recover from his customers an amount equivalent to sales tax payable by him but he is not obliged to do so. If he does not collect the tax from his customers he is visited with no penalty nor is he absolved from the liability to pay the tax. Under these circumstances can it be said that the tax collected by a dealer is held by him on trust for the Government. The answer is obviously no. If the liability to pay the tax was that of the purchasers and a dealer was required by the statute to collect the same from them at the time of sale and to pay the same to the Government it could be said that the dealer collected the tax as the agent of the Government and held the amount so collected on trust for the Government. But such is not the position under the U.P. Sales Tax Act. The liability to pay tax is solely of the dealer whether he realises such tax or not from his customers. In Ashoka Marketing Ltd. v. State of Bihar,  26 S.T.C. 254, 260 [1970) 3 S.C.R. 455, A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 946 while examining the validity of certain provisions of the Bihar Sales Tax Act, authorising the Government to forfeit the sales tax collected by a registered dealer in excess of his statutory liability, the Supreme Court observed as follows in paragraph 11 :
' In either case the liability to pay tax under the Act lies upon the dealer : he does not collect any tax for and on behalf of the Government. The dealer may recover from the purchaser the tax payable by him as part of the price, but on that account the purchaser is not the person liable to pay tax on the sale to the State.'
6. In Delhi Cloth and General Mills Co. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Sales Tax,  28 S.T.C. 331, 334; A.I.R. 1971 S. C. 2216 a question arose before the Supreme Court as to whether the sales tax realised by a dealer was a part of the prjce of goods sold by him. The Supreme Court observed in paragraph 8 :
' Under Section 4, the liability to pay tax is that of the dealer. The purchaser has no liability to pay tax. There is no provision in the Act from which it can be gathered that the Act imposes any liability on the purchaser to pay the tax imposed on the dealer. If the dealer passes on his tax burden to his purchasers he can only do it by adding the tax in question to the price of the goods sold. In that event the price fixed for the goods including the tax payable becomes the valuable consideration given by the purchaser for the goods purchased by him. If that be so, the tax collected by the dealer from his purchasers becomes a part of the sale price fixed. .....'
7. Of course, in the Sales Tax Acts with which the Supreme Court was concerned in the two cases cited above, there was no provision enabling a dealer to collect tax from his purchasers like the one present in the U.P. Sales Tax Act, but that does not alter the position. In spite of the fact that a registered dealer under the U.P. Sales Tax Act has been authorised to collect sales tax from his customers, the liability to pay tax remains that of the dealer and the tax that he collects from his customers, whether as a part of the price or separately, is not collected by him as the agent of the Government nor does he hold such amount in trust for the Government. The first assumption upon which the Tribunal proceeded, therefore, is erroneous. This proposition is amply borne out from the following observations of the Supreme Court in the case of Tata Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. v. State of Bihar,  9 S.T.C. 267, 284-85  S.C.R. 1355, A.I.R. 1958 S.C. 452:
' The circumstance that the 1947 Act, after the amendment, permitted the seller who was a registered dealer to collect the sales tax asa tax from the purchaser does not do away with the primary liability of the seller to pay the sales tax. This is further made clear by the fact that the registered dealer need not, if he so pleases or chooses, collect the tax from the purchaser and sometimes by reason of competition with other registered dealers he may find it profitable to sell his goods and to retain his old customers even at the sacrifice of the sales tax. This also makes it clear that the sales tax need not be passed on to the purchasers and this fact does not alter the real nature of the tax which, by the express provisions of the law, is cast upon the seller. The buyer is under no liability to pay sales tax in addition to the agreed sale price unless the contract specifically provides otherwise.'
8. In our opinion, the position under the U. P. Sales tax Act is precisely the same.
9. The next question which has to be considered is as to whether the sales tax realised by the assessee is a trading receipt, unless it is shown that it cannot be treated to be a revenue receipt liable to income-tax. Under the U.P. Sales Tax Act a registered dealer when he charges tax from his customers does so at the time of a transaction of sale so that the tax is an integral part of such transaction. The purchaser is under no statutory liability to pay the tax. The amount paid by him to the dealer by way of sales tax is nothing but a part of the sale price of the goods which he purchases. It makes no difference that the tax is separately shown in the bill presented to him. For that matter the dealer may show separately the excise duty and other expenses incurred by him on the goods. The price of the goods will be the ultimate amount that the customer is required to pay even if the price is made up of several items consisting of the price of the goods, handling charges, excise duty,' sales tax, etc. This is borne out from the following observations of Lawrence J. in Paprika Ltd. v. Board of Trade,  1 All E.R. 372, 374 (K.B.):
' Wherever a sale attracts purchase tax, that tax presumably affects the price which the seller who is liable to pay the tax demands, but it does not cease to be the price which the buyer has to pay even if the price is expressed as X plus purchase tax.'
10. To the same effect is the observation of Goddard L.J. in Love v. Norman Wright (Builders) Ltd.,  1 All E.R. 618, 620 (C.A.):
' Where an article is taxed, whether by purchase tax, customs duty or excise duty, the tax becomes part of the price which ordinarily the buyer will have to pay. The price of an ounce of tobacco is what it is because of the rate of tax, but on a sale there is only one consideration, though made up of cost plus profit plus tax. So, if a seller offers goods for sale, it is for him to quote a price which includes the tax if he desires to pass it on to the buyer ; if the buyer agrees to the price, it is not for himto consider how it is made up, or whether the seller has included tax or not.'
11. It is thus clear that the tax charged by the dealer from his customer is in reality a part of the price of the goods sold and, as such, it would be a revenue receipt. Of course, any amount paid by the assessee to the Government by way of sales tax would be an allowable deduction and likewise any outstanding liability on account of sales tax would also be an allowable deduction if the assessee follows the mercantile system of accounting. Thus, if an assessee collects some amount by way of tax which he is liable to pay, nothing will be added to the profits of his business. It is only when the tax collected is more than what he is liable to pay, that the surplus would be deemed to be his income. When an assessee follows the cash system of accounting, the actual payment made by him to the Government towards sales tax alone would be deductible and the surplus would be treated as his income. It is not necessary to notice the decisions of the various High Courts on this point, because the matter is now concluded by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Chowringhee Sales Bureau (P.) Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income-tax. In that case the assessee was an auctioneer. It had collected sales tax on the sales made by it but had not paid the same to the Government. The Supreme Court held that the amount collected by way of sales tax was part of the assessee's income.
12. In the instant case, the assessee is following the cash system of accounting and, as such, the surplus of Rs. 1,30,045 in the sales tax account would be treated as his income. As and when this amount is paid to the Government, it will be allowed to the assessee as a deduction.
13. For the reasons stated above, we answer the question in the affirmative, in favour of the department and against the assessee. The Commissioner of Income-tax will get his costs, which we assess at Rs. 200.
Question answered in the affirmative.