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M. S. M. M. Meyyappa Chettiar Vs. Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCase Referred No. 5 of 1957 (Case referred under section 66(1) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, b
Reported in[1962]44ITR775(Mad)
AppellantM. S. M. M. Meyyappa Chettiar
RespondentCommissioner of Income-tax, Madras.
Cases ReferredTravancore Rubber and Tea Co. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Agricultural Income
Excerpt:
- .....came before the appellate tribunal, the matter was disposed of shortly in these words :'it [the rubber estate] began to yield, that is, the actual working of the estate for profit, started to be carried on only from january, 1947, as conceded by the appellants counsel. the amount in question was spent prior to the said period and as such we see no reason to interfere with the decision of the department on this point. all expenses up to the first rapping relate to rearing of the area in its immature stage and consequently add to the cost of the estate.'that is to say, the view was taken that the expenditure was of a capital nature.under section 66 (1) of the income-tax act, the following question stands referred for the decision of this court :'whether the aforesaid expenditure of.....
Judgment:

SRINIVASAN J. - The assessee purchased an estate in 1938 and planted it with rubber in 1941. The rubber plants reached maturity only in January, 1947, and started yielding thereafter. During the year ended April 13, 1947, which was the previous year for the assessment year 1947-48, an expenditure of 14,237 dollars was incurred on the maintenance of the immature plantation, the expenditure having been actually incurred between April 13, 1946, and November 30, 1946. The Income-tax Officer disallowed these expenses; the only reason that is found in the order of assessment is that 'the estate had to begun to yield. The expenditure will, therefore, be treated as of a capital nature.' The disallowance of this expenditure was canvassed in appeal before the Appellate Assistant Commissioner, who stated :

'This estate began to yield rubber from 1947. First sales of rubber took place in January, 1947. I, therefore, hold that the expense incurred up to the end of December, 1946, should be considered as of a preliminary nature not allowable under the Act, while the expenses incurred thereafter should be considered as of a revenue nature. The Income-tax Officer is, therefore, directed to ascertain the net amount of expenditure incurred after January, 1947, of course, after excluding the capital items of expense and to allow the same as a deduction.'

When the matter came before the Appellate Tribunal, the matter was disposed of shortly in these words :

'it [the rubber estate] began to yield, that is, the actual working of the estate for profit, started to be carried on only from January, 1947, as conceded by the appellants counsel. The amount in question was spent prior to the said period and as such we see no reason to interfere with the decision of the department on this point. All expenses up to the first rapping relate to rearing of the area in its immature stage and consequently add to the cost of the estate.'

That is to say, the view was taken that the expenditure was of a capital nature.

Under section 66 (1) of the Income-tax Act, the following question stands referred for the decision of this court :

'Whether the aforesaid expenditure of 14,237 dollars incurred on the rubber estate called Ambika Estate aforesaid till November, 1946, soon after which alone it attained full maturity is of a revenue nature ?'

We are of the view that the decision of the Tribunal and of the department is wholly erroneous, and the approach to the question they had before them appears to have proceeded on an entire misconception of what can properly be regarded as revenue expenses in relation to a plantation of this type. The view of the Tribunal appears to be that any expenditure incurred before the actual working of the estate for profit must be regarded as adding to the cost of the estate, and consequently should be treated of a capital nature. This view is entirely opposed to the line of cases commencing from Vallambrosa Rubber Co. Ltd. v. Farmer. That case also dealt with a rubber estate of which only one-seventh of the trees produced rubber, the other six-sevenths being in the process of cultivation for the production of rubber. It is undisputed that rubber trees do not yield until they are about six years old. The company incurred expenditure for superintendence, weeding, etc., similar to the items of expenditure incurred in the present case. The revenue took the view that the entirety of the expenditure should not be allowed as a deduction but only one-seventh of such expenditure apparently holding that only that proportion of the expenses could be expenses of 'the ordinary business and as such deductible.' This view was characterised by the learned judges as startling, based as it was on the proposition 'that nothing ever could be deducted as an expense unless that expense was purely and solely referable to a profit which was reaped within the year.' It was further observed :

'This very case, which deals with a class of thing that takes six years to mature before you pluck or tap it, is a very good illustration, but, of courts, without any ingenuity one could multiply cases by the score.... But when you come to think of the expense in this particular case that is incurred, for instance, in the weeding, which is necessary in order that a particular tree should bear rubber, how can it possible by said that that is not a necessary expense for the rearing of the tree from which alone the profit eventually comes ?'

And further :

'.... but in a rough way I think it is not a bad criterion of what is capital expenditure as against what is income expenditure to say that capital expenditure is a thing that is going to be spend once and for all, and income expenditure is a thing that is going to recur every year. Therefore, prima facie, weeding, which does occur every year, seems to me to be income expenditure ?'

Lord Johnston also said in that case :

'It appears to me that, as at present worked, the trade, manufacture, adventure or concern of the company is the cultivation and production for sale at profit of rubber and other tropical products. For this purpose, land had to be acquired, clear, and drained, roads made, and buildings erected, before the cultivation began. What was expended for these purposes was I think capital expenditure, and not, in the sense of the Income-tax Act, money laid out and expended for the purposes of the trade, & c. But once the cultivation began with the planting, expenditure on cultivation, production, and marketing was I think revenue expenditure for the purposes of the trade, & c.'

A clear line of demarcation has thus been drawn between capital expenditure and revenue expenditure in relation trades of this kind. When once the plantation has been laid, that is to say, the land has been acquired, made fit for planting and the trees actually planted, the stage of capital expenditure ceases, and, whatever is spent thereafter upon the maintenance, such as weeding, superintendence, etc., should appear to be in the nature of revenue expenditure, notwithstanding that the trees have not started to yield and will not yield for as long as six years thereafter.

Learned council for the department purport to argue that before any expenditure of this kind can be allowed as revenue expenditure, there should be at least a single tree capable of yielding. We are unable to interpret the above decision in this manner. Even on that basis, it should necessarily follow upon argument of the learned counsel that the major part of the expenditure would have been incurred upon trees which were immature and which were not yielding and should, therefore, be regarded as capital expenditure. But that was not the basis upon which the Vallambrosa Rubber Co case produced. In effect, this argument is nothing more than saying that unless profits are actually derived, no expense incurred in relation to the estate could be regarded as being laid out for the purpose of the business. Such a contention has been expressly negatived in the above decision.

The principle of this decision was followed by a bench of this court in Ouchterlony Valley Estates Ltd. v. Government of Madras. That was a case which arose under the Agricultural Income-tax Act. There too the Agricultural Income-tax Appellate Tribunal agreed in the view taken by the department that all expenditure on new clearings till they come to bearing is capital expenditure. That view was held to be erroneous in the light of the Vallambrosa Rubber Co. Ltd. case. We find further support of the view that we have expressed in a recent decision of the Supreme Court in Travancore Rubber and Tea Co. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Agricultural Income-tax, where their Lordships laid down that sums expended for purposes of superintendence, weeding, forking, manuring etc., of immature rubber trees, which have not come into bearing and the annual expenses of the upkeep and maintenance of such rubber plants are permissible deductions in calculating the assessable agricultural income of the rubber estate. The question arose whether under section 5 (j) of the Travancore-Cochin Agricultural Income-tax Act, these items of expenditure came within that clause which runs :

'Any expenditure (not being in the nature of capita expenditure or personal expenses of the assessee) laid out or expended wholly and exclusively of the purpose of deriving agricultural income.'

Their Lordships held that the expenditure came within the scope of this exemption. Though the case arose under the Agricultural Income-tax Act, it is clear that the content of the relevant provision of that Act is of the same nature as that contained in the Indian Income-tax Act.

Learned council for the department relied upon a decision of a bench of this court in R. C. No. 67 of 1958. That case has no application. What happened in that case was that the assessee, a public company, invested a large amount of its subscribed share capital in deposits and securities pending the completion of the factory intended for the purpose of manufacturing rayon products. From these securities, an income of over Rs. two lakhs was derived. The company had incurred expenditure upon it establishment and had claimed that it was entitled to set off the amount of expenditure against the interest earned from the securities. The learned judges found that in the earlier stages the ; plea of the assessee was that the expenditure was of a capital nature. There was no assessment under section 10 of the Act as the business itself had not come into being land an expenditure of this kind, in order to be allowable as a revenue expenditure must have relation to the business. It was under these circumstances that the High Court had to deal with that question. This decision to out minds gives no supports to the contention of the department.

The further contention of the department that in the absence of any profit derived furring the period in question, the expenditure would not be an allowable item, a as expressed by the Tribunal in these words 'the actual working of the estate for profit started to be carried on only from January, 1947', and 'all expense up to the first tapping relate to the rearing of the area in its immature stage and consequently, add to the cost of the estate', is based upon an alleged principle for which we find no support in any decided authority. On the other hand, in Hughesv. Bank of New Zealand, Lord Thankerton expressed himself thus :

'Expenditure in course of the trade which is un-remunerative is none the less a proper deduction, if wholly and exclusively made for the purposes of the trade. It does not require the presence of a receipt on the credit side to justify the deduction of an expense.'

Learned counsel for the department purported to draw some support for his contention, that, until business is commenced to be carried on, in the sense that its profit-making activity actually starts an expenditure of the in we are dealing with cannot be a revenue expenditure, format definition of the expression 'previous year' found in section 2 (11) (i) (c) of the Act, which refers to the 'date of setting up of a business' in determining what the 'previous year' for purposes of the Act should be. We are unable to find anything in this definition which can served to support the argument of the learned counsel.

Lastly, it was claimed by the department that this amount of 14,237 dollars is made up of items which cannot properly come within the scope of revenue expenditure. It seems to us that this contention is not open to the department. All the departmental officers and the Tribunal have proceeded on the footing that these items of expenditure were in fact incurred for purposes of superintendence, wedding, etc., that is to say, which would normally be regarded as revenue expenditure. It is not open to the department to ask us to investigate at this stage the nature of the various items going to make up this total. We must proceed on the footing that no part of this sum represented any expenditure on a capital head of account.

We answer the question referred to us in the affirmative and in favour of the assessee. The assessee will be entitled to his costs.

Councils fee Rs. 250.

Question answered in the affirmative.


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