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April 25, 2022

SC: Under section 37 Foreign Exchange fluctuation loss allowable

by CA Shivam Jaiswal in Income Tax

SC: Under section 37 Foreign Exchange fluctuation loss allowable

Facts and Issue of the Case

This appeal takes exception to the judgment and order dated 2.4.2008 passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru in I.T.A. No. 633/2004. Briefly stated, the appellant company submitted returns of income on 29.11.1997 for the assessment year 1997­1998, mentioning loss of income, amongst others, owing to exchange fluctuation of Rs.1,10,53,909/­. After processing the return under Section 143(1)(a) of the Income Tax Act, 19611, the assessment was completed on 16.3.2000.  As against the loss declared by the appellant due          to exchange fluctuation, the assessment was concluded by positive taxable income. Against that decision, the matter was carried in appeal by the appellant before the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals)2 and eventually, by way of appeal before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal3 being I.T.A. No. 795 (Bang)/2000.

In the appeal before the ITAT, the appellant not only claimed deduction in respect of loss of Rs.1,10,53,909/­ arising on account of exchange fluctuation, but also set up a fresh claim in respect  of revenue expenses to the tune of Rs.2,46,04,418/­, erroneously capitalised in the returns. The ITAT entertained this fresh claim set forth by the appellant and recorded in its judgment that the department’s representative had no objection in that regard. Additionally,  the  ITAT  adverted  to  the  decision  of  this  Court  in National Thermal Power Co. Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Income Tax4  in  support,  for  entertaining  fresh  claim  of  the  appellant   in exercise  of  powers  under  Section  254  of  the  1961  Act.  The  ITAT,  in the   first   place,   reversed   the   finding   given   by   CIT(A)   regarding application of Section 43A of the 1961 Act. The ITAT opined that the said provision had no application to the fact situation of the present case. Having said that, it then proceeded to consider the question whether   the   loss   suffered   by   the   appellant   owing   to   exchange fluctuation can be regarded as revenue expenditure or capital expenditure incurred by the appellant,  and  answered  the  same  in favour of the appellant by holding that it would be a case of expenditure  on  revenue  account  and  an  allowable  deduction.

The matter was carried before the High Court by the department. Amongst others, following questions were formulated for consideration as substantial questions  of  law  concerning  subject  deduction  claimed by the appellant.  The High Court vide impugned judgment has reversed the view taken by the ITAT, mainly observing that the ITAT had not recorded sufficient reasons in support of its conclusion and in any case, the conclusion was without any basis.

Observation of the Case

Court has heard Mr. S. Ganesh, learned senior counsel for the appellant and Mr. Vikramjit Banerjee, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the respondent.

The broad undisputed relevant facts, as can be culled out from the record are that the appellant entered into a loan agreement with one Commonwealth Development Corporation having its registered office at England in the United Kingdom, for borrowing amount to carry on its project described in Schedule 1 to the agreement ­ for expanding its primary business of leasing and hire purchase of capital equipment to existing Indian enterprises.

The loan was obtained in foreign currency (5 million pounds sterling). However, while repaying the loan, due to the difference  of  rate  of foreign exchange, the appellant had to pay higher amount, resulting  in loss to the appellant. Indeed, the loan amount was utilised by the appellant for financing the  existing  Indian enterprises for  procurement of capital equipment on hire purchase or lease basis. The fact remains that the activity of financing by the appellant to the existing Indian enterprises for procurement or acquisition of plant, machinery and equipment on leasing and hire purchase basis, is an independent transaction or activity being the business of the appellant.

As regards, the transaction of loan between the appellant and Commonwealth Development Corporation, the same was in the nature of borrowing money by the appellant, which was necessary for carrying on its business of financing.  It was certainly not for creation of asset of the appellant as such or acquisition of asset from a country outside India for the purpose of its business. In such a scenario, the appellant would be justified in availing deduction of entire expenditure or loss suffered by it in connection with such a transaction in terms of Section 37 of the Act. For, the loan is wholly and exclusively used for the purpose of business of financing the existing Indian enterprises, who in turn, had to acquire plant, machinery and equipment to  be used by them.  It is a different matter that they may do so because of the leasing and hire purchase agreement with the appellant. That would be, nevertheless, an activity concerning the business of the appellant. In that view of the matter, the ITAT was right in answering the claim of the appellant in the affirmative, relaying on the dictum of this Court in India Cements Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, Madras5.    The  exposition  in  this  decision  has  been  elaborated  in  the subsequent   decision   of    this   Court    in Empire Jute Co. Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Income Tax6.

A priori, Court is of the considered opinion that the analysis done by the ITAT and the conclusion arrived at in respect of the subject claim of the appellant being the correct approach consistent with the exposition of this Court, needs to be upheld. In our opinion, the High Court missed the relevant aspects of the analysis of the ITAT concerning the fact situation of the present case. As a matter of fact, the High Court has not even adverted to the aforementioned reported decisions, much less its usefulness in the present case.

The learned ASG appearing for the department had faintly argued that since the appellant in its return had taken a conscious  explicit plea with regard to the part of the claim being ascribable to capital expenditure and partly to revenue expenditure, it was not open for the appellant to plead for the first time before the ITAT that the entire claim must be treated as revenue expenditure. Further, it was not open to the ITAT to entertain such fresh claim for the first time. This submission needs to be stated to be rejected. In the first place, the ITAT was conscious about the fact that this claim was set up by the appellant for the first time before it, and was clearly inconsistent and contrary to the stand taken in the return filed by the appellant for the concerned assessment year including the notings made by the officials of the appellant. Yet, the ITAT entertained the claim as permissible, even though for the first time before the ITAT, in appeal under Section

254 of the 1961 Act, by relying on the dictum of this Court in National Thermal Power Co. Ltd.9. Further, the ITAT has also expressly recorded the no objection given by the representative of the department, allowing the appellant to set up the fresh claim to treat the amount declared as capital expenditure in the returns (as originally filed), as revenue expenditure.   As a result, the objection now taken by the department cannot be countenanced.

Learned ASG had placed reliance on the decision of this Court in Goetze (India) Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Income Tax10 in support of the objection pressed before us that it is not open  to  entertain  fresh claim before the ITAT. According to him, the decision in National Thermal Power Co. Ltd.11 merely permits raising of a new ground concerning the claim already mentioned in the returns and not an inconsistent or contrary plea or a new claim.  We are not impressed by this argument. For, the observations in the decision in Goetze (India) Ltd.12 itself make it amply clear  that  such  limitation  would  apply  to the “assessing authority”, but not impinge upon the plenary powers of the ITAT bestowed under Section 254 of the Act.   In other words, this decision is of no avail to the department.

Learned  counsel  for  the  department  had  also  relied   on   the decision of this Court in Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, Vadodara vs. Elecon Engineering Company Limited13. This decision is on the question of application of Section 43A of the 1961 Act. Accordingly, the exposition in this decision will be of no avail to the fact situation of the present case.   For, we have already noticed that the appellant had not acquired any asset from any  country outside India for the purpose of his business.

In view of the above, this appeal ought  to  succeed. The impugned judgment and order of the High Court needs to be set aside and instead, the decision of the ITAT dated 3.6.2004 in favour of the appellant on the two questions examined by the High Court in the impugned judgment, needs to be affirmed and restored.

As a result of allowing the entire claim of the appellant to the tune of Rs.3,56,57,727/­ being revenue expenditure, suitable amends will have to be effected in the final assessment order passed by the assessing officer for the concerned assessment year, thereby treating the consequential benefits such as depreciation availed by the appellant­assessee in relation to the stated amount towards exchange fluctuation related to leased assets capitalised (being Rs.2,46,04,418/­), as unavailable and non­est.


The appeal is allowed in the by the court.


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