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Duncan Brothers and Co. Ltd. Vs. Commissioner of Income-tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberIncome-tax Reference No. 96 of 1975
Judge
Reported in[1983]141ITR374(Cal)
ActsCompanies (Profits) Surtax Act, 1964 - Schedule - Rule 2
AppellantDuncan Brothers and Co. Ltd.
RespondentCommissioner of Income-tax
Appellant AdvocateK.S. Roy and ;S. Chatterjee, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateSuhas Sen, Adv.
Cases ReferredMetal Box Co. of India Ltd. v. Their Workmen
Excerpt:
- .....that in the computation of capital, the assessee was not entitled to the benefit of deduction of proposed dividend in terms of section 2(8) of the companies (profits) surtax act, 1964, and the second schedule thereunder ?' 2. after hearing the parties and considering the facts of the case it appears to us that it wilt be more appropriate to reframe the question to bring out the correct controversy in the manner following : 'whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the tribunal was right in holding that in the computation of capital the company was not entitled to the benefit of deduction of proposed dividend from its cost of investments in terras of clause (ii) of rule 2 of the second schedule to the companies (profits) surtax act, 1964 ?' 3. therefore, the question.....
Judgment:

Sabyasachi Mukharji, J.

1. In this reference under Section 256(1) of the I.T. Act, 1961, for the assessment year 1965-66, the Tribunal has referred to us the following question :

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in holding that in the computation of capital, the assessee was not entitled to the benefit of deduction of proposed dividend in terms of Section 2(8) of the Companies (Profits) Surtax Act, 1964, and the Second Schedule thereunder ?'

2. After hearing the parties and considering the facts of the case it appears to us that it wilt be more appropriate to reframe the question to bring out the correct controversy in the manner following :

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in holding that in the computation of capital the company was not entitled to the benefit of deduction of proposed dividend from its cost of investments in terras of Clause (ii) of Rule 2 of the Second Schedule to the Companies (Profits) Surtax Act, 1964 ?'

3. Therefore, the question before us is whether, in the computation of capital, it is proper to deduct the proposed dividend from its cost of investments in terms of Clause (ii) of Rule 2 of the Second Schedule to the C. (P.) S.T. Act, 1964. In order to appreciate the controversy it would be necessary to refer to certain facts. The assessee is M/s. Duncan Brothers & Co. Ltd. and the accounting year of the assesses ended on 31st December, 1964, corresponding to the assessment year 1965-66. In the proceeding for assessment of surtax, the appropriate tax officer held that for the purpose of computation of capital the proposed dividend could not be treated as reserve or surplus. It would be appropriate to set out the relevant portion of the order of the ITO. In the order he computed the surtax as follows :

'Surtax assessment is computed as below:-

' Surtax assessment is computed as below : -- Rs.Total income assessed 48,86,730Less :Donations 11,586 Dividend from Indian companies 4,34,604 Rebate on export profit 8,364

4,54,554

44,32,176Less :tax23,12,970 Less :Tax on Indian dividends @ 25%1,02,784 Less :Rebate u/s. 235 26,489

76,295

(22,36,675) Less :Excluding dividend from New Industrial undertakings of Rs. 23,548 Tax on excess dividend Rs. 1,73,496

97,200

21,39,475

Chargeable profits22,92,701'

4. He deducted donations and dividend from Indian companies amounting to Rs. 4,34,604 and after certain other deductions with which we are not concerned he arrived at the chargeable profit at Rs. 22,92,701. From that he deducted the statutory deduction of the capital. He took capital as computed by the assessee as Rs. 1,32,41,970. This computation of capital would be clear if we go to the break up of the computation which has been handed over to us on behalf of the assessee and is not disputed.

DUNCAN BROTHERS & CO. LTD.Compulation of capital employed for surtax purposes.Assessment year 1965-66. Rs.Rs.Rs.Paid up share capital on1-1-19641,63,00,000 Share premium account' 18,00,000 Development Rebate Reserve' 87,000 General Reserve' 83,00,000 Investment Reserve' 35,00,000 Capital Redemption Reserve' 15,00,000 Contingencies Reserve' 45,00,000

(sic)2,89,67,000 Less :Cost of investments in share in Indian Cos.2,54,58,650 Deduct :Unsecured loans 14,15,377 Acceptances 14,16,353 Outstanding amounts to agency companies 21,10,916 Provision for taxation 31,78,850 Proposed dividend 15,90,000 Profit & Loss a/c. balance 22,124

97,33,620

1,57,25,030

Capital employed1,32,41,970

Statutory deduction at 10% or above 13,24,197

5. Thereafter, the ITO observed that the claim for the deduction from the investments in Indian company was disallowed as being neither reserve nor surplus and also the provision for taxation and the proposed dividend were similarly disallowed by the ITO.

6. Being aggrieved by the aforesaid order of the ITO, the assessee went up in appeal before the AAC. The AAC held, inter alia, as follows :

'It is pleaded that provision for taxation and proposed dividend should be deducted from the cost of investment under Rule 2 of the Second Schedule. In appeal No. S.T.A. No. 20 (Cal) 69-70, for the assessment year 1964-65, order dated 16-11-71 of the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, 'E' Bench, Calcutta, it has been held that provision for taxation and the proposed dividend are not reserves and could not be deducted in computing the capital treating the amounts as reserves. However, now in the same order it has been held that proposed dividend is surplus and the surplus has to be deducted from investment in working out the capital. '

7. Being aggrieved by the said order the Revenue went up in appeal before the Income-tax Tribunal and the Tribunal, after noting the rival contentions and the relevant sections, observed, inter alia, as follows :

'Thus, our conclusion is that the amount standing to the credit of proposed dividend cannot be treated as reserve or fund or surplus and thus, it cannot be taken into account for the purpose of calculating the capital under the Second Schedule to the Companies (Profits) Surtax Act, 1964. The amount standing to the credit of proposed dividend cannot be available for the purpose of capital or assets of the company.'

8. Therefore, the question as indicated before has been referred and we have refrained the question that brings out the real controversy. Therefore, the short question is, whether the proposed dividend could be considered to be surplus or reserve, rather funds in the hands of the company in order to be entitled to deduction under Clause (ii) of Rule 2 of the Second Schedule of the C.(P.)S.T. Act, 1964. Now the scheme of Clause (ii) of Rule 2 of the Second Schedule to the C.(P.)S,T. Act, 1964, has been the subject-matter of several judicial interpretations and it is not necessary for us to refer to the numerous decisions. We may point out that under Rule 1 of the Second Schedule in tenns of Section 2(8) of the Act which defines the statutory deduction, one of the items to be taken into the computation of the capital is :

'1. (iii) its other reserves as reduced by the amounts credited to such reserves as have been allowed as a deduction in computing the income of the company for the purposes of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 (XI of 1922), or the Income-tax Act, 1961 (XLIII of 1961).'

9. Rule 2 stipulates:

'Where a company owns any assets the income from which in accordance with Clause (iii) or Clause (vi) or Clause (viii) of Rule 1 of the First Schedule is required to be excluded from its total income in computing its Chargeable profits, the amount of its capital as computed under Rule 1 of this Schedule shall be diminished by the cost to it of the said assets as on the first day of the previous year relevant to the assessment year in so far as such cost exceeds the aggregate of--...

(ii) the amount of any fund, any surplus and any such reserve as is not to be taken into account in computing the capital under Rule 1 ...... '

10. The question is, whether the proposed dividend would come within the category of any fund, any surplus or any such reserve which is entitled to deduction under Clause (ii) of Rule 2 of the Second Schedule. We may incidentally point out that the expression 'reserve' in Clause (ii) of Rule 2 of Schedule II to the said Act uses the expression 'such', indicating such type of reserve which conies under Rule 1 of the Second Schedule. The Supreme Court has said that such item would not come into the computation of capital. TheSupreme Court in a judgment in the case of Vazir Sultan Tobacco Co. Ltd, v. CIT : [1981]132ITR559(SC) , had an occasion to consider some of the aspects. The Supreme Court observed at p. 568 of the report as follows :

'The expression 'reserve' has not been defined in the Act and therefore, one would be inclined to resort to its ordinary natural meaning as given in the dictionary but it seems to us that the dictionary meaning, though useful in itself, may not be sufficient, for, the dictionaries do not make any distinction between the two concepts 'reserve' and 'provision' while giving their primary meaning whereas in the context of the legislation with which we are concerned in the case, a clear distinction between the two is implied. According to the Dictionaries (both Oxford and Webster) the applicable primary meaning of the word 'reserve' is ; 'to keep for future use or enjoyment ; to set apart for some purpose or end in view; to keep in store for future or special use ; to keep in reserve while ' provision' according to Webster means : 'something provided for future '. In other words, according to the dictionary meanings, both the words are more or less synonymous and connote the same idea. Since the rules for computation of capital contained in the Second Schedule to the Act proceed on the basis of the formula of capital plus reserves--a formula well known in commercial accountancy, it becomes essential to know the exact connotation of the two concepts 'reserve' and 'provision' and the distinction between the two as known in commercial accountancy. Besides, though the expression 'reserve' is not defined in the Act, it cannot be forgotten that it occurs in a taxing statute which is applicable to companies only and to no other assessable entities and as such the expression will have to be understood in its ordinary popular sense, that is to say, the sense or meaning that is attributed to it by men of business, trade and commerce and by persons interested in or dealing with companies. Therefore, the meanings attached to these two words in the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, dealing with preparation of balance-sheet and profit and loss account would govern their construction for the purposes of the two taxing enactments. We might mention here that in CIT v. Century Spinning and . : [1953]24ITR499(SC) , this court, after referring to the dictionary meaning of the expression 'reserve' observed : 'what is the true nature and character of the disputed sum (sum allegedly set apart), must be determined with reference to the substance of the matter' and went on to determine the true nature and character of the disputed sum by relying upon the provisions of the Indian Companies Act, 1913, the form and the contents of the balance-sheet required to be drawn up and Regulation 99 in Table A of the 1st Schedule.'

11. Then the Supreme Court referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Metal Box Co. of India Ltd. v. Their Workmen : (1969)ILLJ785SC . The Supreme Court thereafter went on to observe at page 570 as follows :

'On a plain reading of Clause 7(1)(a) and (b) and Clause 7(2) above, it will appear clear that though the term ' provision' is defined positively by specifying what, it means, the definition of ' reserve ' is negative in form and not exhaustive in the sense that it only specifies certain amounts which are not to be included in the term ' reserve'. In other words the effect of reading the two definitions together is that if any retention or appropriation of a sum falls within the definition of 'provision' it can never be a reserve but it does not follow that if the retention or appropriation is not a provision it is automatically a reserve and the question will have to be decided having regard to the true nature and character of the sum so retained or appropriated depending on several factors including the intention with which and the purpose for which such retention or appropriation has been made because the substance of the matter is to be regarded and in this context the primary dictionary meaning of the term 'reserve' may have to be availed of. Bat it is clear beyond doubt that if any retention or appropriation of a sum is not a provision, that is to say, if it is not designated to meet depreciation, renewals or diminution in value of assets or any known liability, the same is not necessarily a reserve. We are emphasising this aspect of the matter because during the hearing almost all counsel for the assessees strenuously contended before us that once it was shown or became clear that the retention or appropriation of a sum out of profits and surpluses was for an unknown liability or for a liability which did not exist on the relevant date it must be regarded as a reserve. The fallacy underlying the contention becomes apparent if the negative and non-exhaustive aspects of the definition of reserve are borne in mind. Having regard to the type of definitions of the two concepts which are to be found in Clause 7 of Part III the proper approach in our view would be first to ascertain whether the particular retention or appropriation of a sum falls within the expression 'provision' and if it does then clearly the concerned sum will have to be excluded from the computation of capital, but in case the retention or appropriation of the sum is not a provision as defined, the question will have to be decided by reference to the true nature and character of the sum so retained or appropriated having regard to several factors as mentioned above and if the concerned sum is in fact a reserve then it will be taken into account for the computation of capital.'

12. The Supreme Court at pp. 578-579 observed as follows :

'It is true that under Section 217 of the Companies Act, 1956, the directors can merely recommend that a certain sum be paid as dividend but such recommendation does not result in any obligation or liability ; the obligation or liability to pay the dividend arises only when the shareholders at the annual general meeting of the company decide to accept the recommendation and pass a resolution for declaration of the dividend. It is, therefore, open to the directors to withdraw or modify their recommendation at any time before the shareholders accept the same and it is equally open to the shareholders not to accept the recommendation at all or to declare a dividend of an amount lesser than that recommended by directors. In Kesoram Industries' case : [1966]59ITR767(SC) , this court has clarified the aforesaid legal position by observing at p. 772 of the report thus :

'The directors cannot distribute dividends but they only recommend to the general body of the company the quantum of dividend to be distributed. Under Section 217 of the Indian Companies Act, there shall be attached to every balance-sheet laid before a company in general meeting a report by its board of directors with respect to, inter alia, the amount, if any, which it recommends to be paid by way of dividend. Till the company in its general body meeting accepts the recommendation and declares the dividend, the report of the directors in that regard is only a recommendation which may be withdrawn or modified, as the case may be. As on the valuation date (under the Wealth-tax Act), nothing further happened than a mere recommendation by the directors as to the amount that might be distributed as dividend, it is not possible to hold that there was any debt owed by the assessee to the shareholders on the valuation date.' All that follows from the above is that in the instant cases the appropriation of the concerned amounts by the board of directors by way of providing for proposed dividend would not constitute 'provisions', for, the appropriations cannot be said to be by way of providing for any known or existing liability, none having arisen on the date when the directors made the recommendation, much less on the relevant date being the first day of the previous year relevant to the assessment year in question. But, as stated earlier, this by itself would not automatically convert the appropriations into 'reserves', regard being had to the negative and non-exhaustive character of the definition of ' reserve ' given in Clause 7(1)(b) of Pt, III of the Sixth Schedule to the Companies Act. The question whether the concerned amounts in fact constituted 'reserves', or not will have to be decided by having regard to the true nature and character of the sums so appropriated depending on the surrounding circumstancesparticularly the intention with which and the purpose for which such appropriations had been made.'

13. In coming to its conclusion, after referring to the different submissions, the Supreme Court observed at p. 586 as follows :

'It is not possible to accept either of these contentions urged by the counsel for the assessee-company. It is true that under Section 205(1) of the Companies Act, 1956, it is open to the directors to recommend and the shareholders to approve payment of dividends either from the current year's profits or from the past year's profits. It is also true that on transfer of a portion of current year's profits to the general reserve the augmented general reserve becomes a conglomerate fund but having regard to the natural course of human conduct of hard-headed men of business and commerce it is not difficult to predicate that the dividends would ordinarily be paid out from the current income rather than from the past savings, unless the directors in their report expressly or specifically state that payment of dividends would be made from the past savings. From the commercial point of view if any amount is required for incurring any expenditure or making any disbursement like distribution of dividends in a current year, then ordinarily the same will come out of the current income of the company if it is available and only if the same is insufficient then the past savings will be resorted to for the purpose of incurring that expenditure or making that disbursement; such a course would be in accord with the commonsense point of view. We may point out that this aspect of the matter was not considered by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Super Spinning Mills Ltd.'s case : [1979]120ITR512(AP) , and the view of the Bombay High Court in the case of Bharat Bijlee Ltd. : [1977]107ITR30(Bom) and Marrior (India,) Ltd. : [1977]107ITR35(Bom) , commends itself to us. Even In regard to the question of valuing the closing stock the learned authors of the treatise, referred to by the counsel for the assessee-company, merely indicate three methods for such valuation and it will be open to a commercial concern to avail of any one method. In our view in the context of the question whether while incurring any expenditure df making any disbursement a commercial concern will resort to current income or past savings, the normal rule, in the absence of express indication to the contrary, would be to resort to the current income rather than past savings.'

14. Mr. Justice A.N. Sen, who delivered a concurrent judgment, for different reasons, observed at p. 596 as follows :

'I am, therefore, of the opinion that the amount set apart for the payment of any proposed dividend on the basis of the recommendation of the directors cannot constitute reserve for the purpose of computation of the capital of the company. The view that I have taken, to my mind,appears to be in accord with the view earlier expressed by this court in the decisions to which I have already referred.'

15. Therefore, it appears to us that the Supreme Court was of the view that taking the commercial point of view, the proposed dividend, though it had not matured into an agreed liability on the first day of the relevant year, was for all practical purposes a liability to be incurred and should not be treated as reserve or surplus available to the company in future. If that is the position it cannot be considered to be either reserve or surplus and cannot enter into the computation of capital and it cannot be, for similar reason, as has been pointed out immediately above, a surplus or fund in the hands of the company. This view is also in consonance with the views expressed by this court in the case of CIT v. Bird & Co. (P.) Ltd. : [1982]133ITR40(Cal) , and the relevant observations are at page 42.

16. Our attention was also drawn to the decision in the case of Duncan Brothers and Co. Ltd. v. CIT : [1978]111ITR885(Cal) , where the question was whether the provision for taxation could be considered to be a reserve in terms of Rule 1 of the C. (P) S.T. Act, 1964, and whether it was entitled to deduction. Our attention was also drawn to the unreported decision in I.T. Reference No. 272 of 1976 in the case of Duncan Brothers & Co. Ltd. v. CIT, the judgment delivered on 4th August, 1978 [since reported in : [1981]128ITR302(Cal) ], where the court was concerned with the question whether the deduction of a provision for taxation and cost of investments in terms of Clause (ii) of Rule 2 in the Second Schedule to the C. (P.) S.T. Act, 1964, was allowable or not. The provision for taxation, in our opinion, would stand on a different footing, as was explained in the case of CIT v. Bird & Co. (P.) Ltd. : [1982]133ITR40(Cal) . For the reasons stated above, WR are of opinion that the Tribunal came to the correct conclusion.

17. Therefore, the question as reframed must be answered in the affirmative and in favour of the Revenue. In the facts and circumstances of the case, the parties will pay and bear its own costs.

C.K. Banerji, J.

18. I agree.


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