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May 26, 2023

To clarify the definition of the term “every month” in clause 38 of the EPF system, a matter was pursued

To clarify the definition of the term “every month” in clause 38 of the EPF system, a matter was pursued

Fact and issue of the case

This appeal by the assessee is directed against order dated 15.11.2022 passed by the Ld. Commissioner of Income-tax – National Faceless Appeal Centre [in short ‘the Ld. CIT(A)’] for assessment year 2020-21 in relation to rectification order passed by the Assessing Officer u/s 154 of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (in short ‘the Act’). The grounds raised by the assessee are reproduced as under

On facts and in law, the Learned Commissioner of Income Tax (hereinafter referred to as Ld. CIT–A) had erred in confirming the addition of Rs. 13,41,333/- made w/s. 143(1) by CPC Bangalore. Under the facts and circumstances, he ought to have deleted the addition made by CPC Bangalore

On facts and in law, the Ld. CIT–A had failed to appreciate that the sum of Rs. 13,41,333/ – was paid within due dates; hence the same is allowable u/s. 36(1)(va) r.w.s. 2(24)(x)

On facts and in law, the Ld. CIT–A had erred in not directing CPC to allow credit of Rs. 13,328/ – being the TDS on income which have been offered to tax. Under the facts and circumstances of the matter he should have directed PC Bangalore to allow the credit of TDS of Rs. 13,328/ –

In the ground No. 1 and 2 of the appeal, the assessee is aggrieved with the disallowance upheld by the Ld. CIT(A) in respect of employee’s contribution to ES I/PF, which was made by the CPC as an adjustment and further sustained in rectification order u/s 154 of the Act. The Ld. CIT(A) has upheld the disallowance in view of binding precedent of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Checkmate Services Pvt. Ltd. v . CIT in Civil Appeal No. 2833 of 2016, observing as under

Having pursued the rectification order, the grounds of appeal and the written submissions, the issue of admissibility of payment of employees’ contribution of SIC/PF beyond the due date as per the relevant Statute, raised through ground number 1 is hot tenable in view of decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Checkmate Services pvt. Ltd. Vs CIT in Civil Appeal No. 2833 of 2016 with CA No. 2830/2016, CA No. 159/2019, CA No.2832/20 16 and CA No: 2831/2016 vide judgment dated 12.10.2022, wherein it was held that deduction us 36(1)(va) of the IT Act is admissible only of the amount so received from employees for PF/ESIC is credited in specified account within the due date as per the relevant Statute. In the instant appeal, it is an admitted position of the appellant that there was delay in crediting the contribution so collected in the specified account within the due date as per the relevant Statute

Before us, the Ld. Counsel of the assessee submitted that assessee was engaged in providing manpower securities services etc. He submitted that salary/ remuneration payment to staff for the month was paid in subsequent month, preferably before 7 thday of next month. For example, payment for month of April 2019 was paid on or before 7thof May 2019. The Ld. Counsel referred to the provisions of section 36(1)(va) of the Act and submitted that employee’s contribution was deposited as per the due date prescribed under the relevant Act. The Ld. Counsel further referred to the employee provident fund scheme 1952 formulated under the provisions of the relevant Act. The relevant clause no. 38 of the scheme is reproduced as under: “38. Mode of payment of contributions

The employer shall, before paying the member his wages in respect of any period or part of period for which contributons are payable, deduct the employee’s contribution from his wages which together with his own contribution as well as an administrative charge of such percentage of the pay (basic wages, dearness allowance, retaining allowance, if any, and cash value of food concessions admissible thereon) for the time being payable to the employees other than an excluded employee, and in respect of which provident fund contributions are payable as the Central Government may fix, he shall within fifteen days of the close of every month pay the same to the Fund by separate bank drafts or cheques on account of contributions and administrative charge

[Provided that if the payment is made by a cheque, it should be drawn only on the local bank of the place in which deposits are made.]

Provided further that where there is no branch of the Reserve Bank or the ‘ State Bank of India] at the station where the *[factory or other establishment] is situated, the employer shall pay to the Fund the amount mentioned above by means of Reserve Bank of India [Government Drafts at parl separately on account of contributions and administrative charge

The employer shall forward to the Commissioner, within twenty-five days of close of the month, a monthly abstract in such form as the Commissioner may specify showing the aggregate amount of recoveries made from the wages of all the members and the aggregate amount contributed by the employer in respect of all such members for the month

Provided that an employer shall send a Nil return, if no such recoveries have been made from the employees

Provided further that in the case of any such employee who has become a member of the Pension Fund under the Employees ‘ Pension Scheme, 1995, the aforesaid Form shall also contain such particulars as are necessary to comply with the requirements of that Scheme

Observation of the court

We have heard rival submission of the parties on the issue-in-dispute and perused the relevant material on record. The issue-in-dispute is in respect of employee ’scontribution to provident fund (PF) and employee state insurance corporation (ESIC) fund amounting to Rs.84,43,087/ – and Rs.8,58,774/- The provisions of the Act provide for payment of the employee’s contribution of PF/ESI on or before the due date prescribed under the relevant PF/ESI and the issue-in-dispute is in respect of due date prescribed. According to the assessee, the due has to be reckoned within 15 days from the close of the month in which payment is made to the employee, whereas according to Revenue the contribution has to be deposited within the 15 days from the close of the month for which salary/wages of the employee is due. The Ld. Counsel has referred to the decisions of the Ho n’ble Calcutta Tribunal in the case of Kanoi Paper & Industries Ltd. v. ACIT ITA No. 1260/Cal/1996. The relevant finding of the Tribunal is reproduced as under

Clause 38 of the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme, 1952, fixes the time limit for making payment in respect of contribution to the provident fund to be 15 days from the close of the month concerned. However, the issue here is whether the “month” should be considered to be the month to which the wages relates or the month in which the actual disbursement of the wages is made, we are of the considered opinion that the expression “month” should mean here the month during which the wages/salary is actually disbursed irrespective of month to which the same relates. Thus, the scheme of the government in this regard is that once a deduction is made in respect of the employees’ contribution to the provident fund from the salary/wages of the employee or the employer also makes his contribution, factually at the time of disbursement of the salary the payment in respect of such contribution should be made forthwith. If for some reason or other the payment of salary for a particular month be held up for considerable period of time it cannot be said that the employer would be liable to make payments in respect of the “employer’s” as well as “employees” contribution in respect of wages for such period within a period of 15 days from the close of the month to which the wages relates. On the other hand, in our view, most appropriate interpretation would be that the employer would be at liberty to make payment of the contribution concerned within 15 days (subject however to the further grace period) from the end of the month during which the disbursement of the salary is actually made and the contribution of the, provident fund are, thus, generated, inasmuch as, the provision relating to the disallowance of such contribution on account of delay is rather an artificial provision. In our view, a liberal approach has got to be made to this issue. Ultimately, therefore, we reverse the order of the lower authorities and direct the assessing officer to examine whether the payments of contribution in the present case were made within 15 days (allowed with further grace period of 5 days) from the close of the respective months during which the disbursement of the salary/wages were actually made. The assessing officer should recompute the amount disallowable, if any, on the above basis and take appropriate action accordingly

In our opinion, it will be appropriate if the term ‘every month’ specified in Provident Fund scheme, whether it is the month for which salary/wages are due or month of the payment is referred to Relevant Authorities for finding out with reference to any judicial precedent in respect of provisions of the relevant Act. Accordingly. we restored this issue back to the file of the Ld. Assessing Officer with the direction to find out from the relevant PF authorities about the term ‘every month’ as mentioned in clause 38 of the employees provident fund scheme. Similarly, he may find out from the ESI Authorities. It is needless to mention that the assessee shall be afforded adequate opportunity of being heard. The ground s of appeal of the assessee are accordingly allowed for statistical purposes

In the result, the appeal of the assessee is allowed for statistical purposes

Order pronounced in the open Court on 26/04/2023


In the result, appeal of the assessee is allowed and ruled in favour of the assessee

Read the full order from here


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