Payment by employer of employee contribution to a fund on or before due date
Clause (24) of section 2 of the Act provides an inclusive definition of the income. Sub-clause (x) to the said clause provide that income to include any sum received by the assessee from his employees as contribution to any provident fund or superannuation fund or any fund set up under the provisions of ESI Act or any other fund for the welfare of such employees.
Section 36 of the Act pertains to the other deductions. Sub-section (1) of the said section provides for various deductions allowed while computing the income under the head ‘Profits and gains of business or profession’.
Clause (va) of the said sub-section provides for deduction of any sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which the provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 apply, if such sum is credited by the assessee to the employee’s account in the relevant fund or funds on or before the due date.
Explanation to the said clause provides that, for the purposes of this clause, “due date” to mean the date by which the assessee is required as an employer to credit an employee’s contribution to the employee’s account in the relevant fund under any Act, rule, order or notification issued there-under or under any standing order, award, contract of service or otherwise.
Section 43B specifies the list of deductions that are admissible under the Act only upon their actual payment. Employer’s contribution is covered in clause (b) of section 43B. According to it, if any sum towards employer’s contribution to any provident fund or superannuation fund or gratuity fund or any other fund for the welfare of the employees is actually paid by the assessee on or before the due date for furnishing the return of the income under sub-section (1) of section 139, assessee would be entitled to deduction under section 43B and such deduction would be admissible for
the accounting year. This provision does not cover employee contribution referred to in clause (va) of sub-section (1) of section 36 of the Act.
Though section 43B of the Act covers only employer‘s contribution and does not cover employee contribution, some courts have applied the provision of section 43B n employee contribution as well. There is a distinction between employer contribution and employee‘s contribution towards welfare fund. It may be noted that employee‘s contribution towards welfare funds is a mechanism to ensure the compliance by the employers of the labour welfare laws. Hence, it needs to be stressed that the employer‘s contribution towards welfare funds such as ESI and PF needs to be clearly distinguished from the employee‘s contribution towards welfare funds.
Employee‘s contribution is employee own money and the employer deposits this contribution on behalf of the employee in fiduciary capacity. By late deposit of employee contribution, the employers get unjustly enriched by keeping the money belonging to the employees. Clause (va) of sub-section (1) of Section 36 of the Act was inserted to the Act vide Finance Act 1987 as a measures of penalizing employers who mis-utilize employee‘s contributions.
Accordingly, in order to provide certainty, it is proposed to –
(i) amend clause (va) of sub-section (1) of section 36 of the Act by inserting
another explanation to the said clause to clarify that the provision of section 43B does not apply and deemed to never have been applied for the purposes of determining the “due date” under this clause; and
(ii) amend section 43B of the Act by inserting Explanation 5 to the said section to clarify that the provisions of the said section do not apply and deemed to never have been applied to a sum received by the assessee from any of his employees to which provisions of sub-clause (x) of clause (24) of section 2 applies.
These amendments will take effect from 1st April, 2021 and will accordingly apply to the assessment year 2021-22 and subsequent assessment years.