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June 20, 2022

Only if funds are used for business purposes is interest deductible.

by CA Shivam Jaiswal in Income Tax, Legal Court Judgement

Only if funds are used for business purposes is interest deductible.

Facts and Issue of the case

The assessee has filed this appeal challenging the order dated 01-03-2019 passed by Ld CIT(A)-1, Bengaluru and it relates to the assessment year 2014-15. Though the assessee has raised many grounds, all of them are related to  a  single issue,  viz.,  disallowance of interest expenses relating to Non-Convertible debentures.

The assessee is undertaking the business of real estate development and builders. The assessee filed its return of income for AY 2014-15 declaring a total income of Rs.3,52,160/-. The AO disallowed part of interest expenses amounting to Rs.1,50,73,571/-. The Ld CIT(A) granted marginal  relief.  However, he treated the appeal as dismissed. Aggrieved, the assessee has filed this appeal before us.

In the appellate proceedings, the Ld CIT(A) examined the break- up details of Land advances and supplier advances. The  land purchase advances  was Rs.1,15,00,000/- and the remaining amount of advance pertaining to supplier  advances  was  Rs.1,54,03,008/-. The Ld CIT(A) took the view that the supplier advances should be considered as pertaining to on-going project “Splendour”. Accordingly, the Ld CIT(A) directed the AO to disallow interest on NCDs pertaining to “Loans to subsidiaries amounting to Rs.9,30,76,776/- and land purchase advances of Rs.1,15,00,000/-. However, it is not clear as to whether the Ld CIT(A) has allowed interest expenditure pertaining so supplier advances of Rs.1,54,03,008/-, which is considered as relating to on-going project of Splendour. The Ld CIT(A) rejected all other contentions raised by the assessee.

Observation of the court

Court has heard rival contentions and perused the record. The main contention of the assessee is that the loan funds borrowed by issuing NCDs, have been borrowed for general business purposes and hence interest expenditure is allowable u/s 36(1)(iii) of the Act, since the assessee has satisfied with the conditions mentioned in that section. However, the case of the revenue is that the assessee has diverted its interest-bearing funds to its subsidiary companies as interest free loans and also diverted funds for giving advances for purchase of lands and to other suppliers. According to the assessing officer, the about cited usage of loan funds cannot be considered as “for the purposes of business” of the assessee. Hence the proportionate interest pertaining to the above diverted amounts has been disallowed. Further, it was held that the interest pertaining to on- going project ‘Splendour’ should be included in “Work in Progress”. Accordingly, the AO has disallowed the proportionate interest expenses on the above said principles only.

There cannot be any dispute that the intention of assessee in raising borrowed funds by issuing NCDs was for the purpose of business. The first issue relates to the quantum of expenditure that is required to be considered for computing disallowance. We noticed earlier, the AO has computed the aggregate amount of interest expenditure pertaining to NCD as Rs.2,22,39,919/-, which consisted of interest expenses of Rs.1,51,89,032/- and professional charges for issuing NCD of Rs.70,50,887/-. There cannot be any dispute that interest expenses are allowed u/s 36(1)(iii) and the professional charges are allowed as deduction u/s 37(1) of the Act. Hence, in our view, the AO was not correct in aggregating the professional charges incurred on issuing NCDs as part of interest expenditure and thus disallowing proportionate expenses thereof. There should not be any dispute that the professional charges have been incurred for issuing NCDs and hence these expenses have been incurred prior to  the giving interest free loans to subsidiary companies. If the interest free loans were not given to the subsidiaries, then the AO shall have allowed professional charges fully in terms of sec. 37(1) of the Act. Since the professional charges has been incurred prior to the giving of loans to subsidiaries, in our view, it is allowable as deduction fully, there is no reason to disallow a portion of the same merely on account of the reason that the interest bearing funds have been  used  for giving interest free loans. Hence, what is relevant u/s 36(1)(iii) is the interest expenditure only and not any other expenditure. Accordingly, we are of the view that the professional charges of Rs.70,50,887/- is fully allowable as deduction u/s 37(1) of the Act. Accordingly, we direct the AO exclude the above said amount in computing proportionate disallowance of interest expenses, i.e., the amount of Rs.70,50,887/- should be allowed fully.

The next issue is whether advances given for purchase of land and to the suppliers are for  business  or  non-business  purposes?. The aggregate amount of ‘advances’ considered by the AO for computing interest disallowance is Rs.2,76,59,346/-. The next issue is whether the interest free loans given to subsidiary companies are to be considered as for non-business purposes. In view of our decision rendered in the preceding paragraphs, the interest expenditure on NCDs of Rs.1,51,89,032/- alone to be considered for computing disallowance, if any, u/s 36(1)(iii) of the Act. Now the question that arises is whether the interest free advances given to subsidiaries are to be considered as for non-business purposes?.

The contention of the assessee before the tax authorities is that all these subsidiary companies are also engaged in the real estate business and hence there is commercial expedience in given these advances to them. Accordingly, it was  contended  these  advances have been given for the purpose of business of the assessee. In support of this proposition, the assessee has relied upon the decision rendered by Hon’ble Supreme Court in the  case of  S.A Builders  Ltd vs. CIT (284 ITR 1).

The next issue is whether any portion of interest expense is to be apportioned to the on-going project Splendour. We noticed earlier that the AO has apportioned interest expense of Rs.17,58,563/- towards on-going project “Splendour” and has disallowed the same. The AO has not given the basis/workings as to how he arrived at the above said amount of Rs.17,58,563/-. In our view, the allocation of proportionate interest expenditure to the on-going project may be right, provided the nexus between the borrowed funds and its utilisation for the project is established. The case of the assessee is that the funds borrowed through the issue of  NCDs  have  been utilised for general business purposes and not specifically for the project “Splendour”.   However, the assessee has also not furnished the details in support of the above said contentions. As stated in the earlier paragraph, the apportionment of interest, if required, is to be done for the actual period of usage of funds for the above said project and not proportionately. Since this issue requires re-examination in the light of discussions made supra by considering the relevant details, we set aside this issue also to the file of AO for examining it afresh.

The ld D.R submitted that the assessee has voluntarily surrendered a sum of Rs.42,84,707/- and hence the said addition should be sustained.   In the earlier paragraphs, we have granted relief in respect of certain issues  and restored certain issues to  the file of the AO. We have also noticed that the assessee was also not very specific in replying to various queries. Hence, it is not clear as to whether the assessee has agreed to allocating a portion of interest expenditure to the work in progressor not? We notice that the AO himself has worked out the interest allocable to Project Splendour at Rs.17,58,963/-. However, he observes that the assessee has worked out the allocable interest at Rs.42,84,707/-.   In any case, in view of our decisions on various issues, all the workings will undergo change and further there may not be any situation to make voluntary surrender, since our directions will take care of every aspect.

Conclusion

The appeal filed by the assessee was allowed by the court.

Bagadia-Properties-Private-Limited-Vs-ITO-ITAT-Bangalore

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