CSR expenditure is allowable business expense : ITAT

By | July 5, 2016


Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax
Circle 1(1), Bilaspur ………….…………….Appellant
Jindal Power Limited ……..….…….…Respondent
Tanmar, Raigarh 496 107

I.T.A. No.99/BLPR/2012
Assessment year: 2008-09

S. 37(1): Expenditure on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), though voluntary, is allowable as business expenditure. Explanation 2 to s. 37(1) inserted w.e.f. 01.04.2015 is not retrospective. It applies only to CSR expenditure referred to in s. 135 of the Companies Act and not to voluntary CSR expenditure

AO View Point :-Fundamental objection of the Assessing Officer is that the
expenses is voluntary, not mandatory and not for business purposes


An attempt was made in the IT Bill of 1961 to lay down the “necessity” of the expenditure as a condition for claiming deduction under s. 37. Sec. 37(1) in the Bill read “any expenditure.. laid out or expended wholly, necessarily and exclusively for the purposes of the business or profession shall be allowed.” The introduction of the word “necessarily” in the above section resulted in public protest. Consequently,
when s. 37 was finally enacted into law, the word “necessarily” came to be dropped. The fact that somebody other than the assessee is also benefited by the expenditure should not come in the way of an expenditure being allowed by way of deduction under s. 10(2)(xv) of the Act if it satisfies otherwise the
tests laid down by law.”

Explanation 2 to Section 37(1), with effect from 1st April 2015, which provides that “for the removal
of doubts, it is hereby declared that for the purposes of sub-section (1), any expenditure incurred by an assessee on the activities relating to corporate social responsibility referred to in section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013) shall not be deemed to be an expenditure incurred by the assessee for
the purposes of the business or profession”

The amendment in the scheme of Section 37(1), which has been introduced with effect from 1st April 2015, cannot be construed as to disadvantage to the assessee in the period prior to this amendment. This disabling provision, as set out in Explanation 2 to Section 37(1), refers only to such corporate social responsibility expenses as under Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, and, as such, it cannot have any application for the period not covered by this statutory provision which itself came into existence in 2013. Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) is, therefore, inherently incapable of retrospective application any further. In any event, as held by Hon’ble Supreme Court’s five judge constitutional bench’s landmark judgment, in the case of CIT Vs Vatika Townships Pvt Ltd [(2014) 367 ITR 466 (SC)], the legal position in this regard has been very succinctly summed up by observing that “Of the various rules guiding how legislation has to be interpreted, one established rule is that unless a contrary intention appears, legislation is presumed not to be intended to have a retrospective operation.

The idea behind the rule is that a current law should govern current activities. Law passed today cannot apply to the events of the past. If we do something today, we do it keeping in view the law of today
and in force and not tomorrow’s backward adjustment of it. Our belief in the nature of the law is founded on the bed rock that every human being is entitled to arrange his affairs by relying on the existing law and should not find that his plans have been retrospectively upset. This principle of law is known as lex
prospicit non respicit: law looks forward not backward.

A retrospective legislation is contrary to the general principle that legislation by which the conduct of mankind is to be regulated when introduced for the first time to deal with future acts ought not to change the character of past transactions carried on upon the faith of the then existing law.”

It may appear to be some kind of a dichotomy in the tax legislation but the well settled legal position is that when a legislation confers a benefit on the taxpayer by relaxing the rigour of pre-amendment law, and when such a benefit appears to hav been the objective pursued by the legislature, it would a purposive interpretation giving it a retrospective effect but when a tax legislation imposes a liability or a
burden, the effect of such a legislative provision can only be prospective. We have also noted that the amendment in the scheme of Section 37(1) is not specifically stated to be retrospective and the said Explanation is inserted only with effect from 1st April 2015.

In this view of the matter also, there is no reason to hold this provision to be retrospective in application. As a matter of fact, the amendment in law, which was accompanied by the statutory requirement with regard to discharging the corporate social responsibility, is a disabling provision which puts an additional tax burden on the assessee in the sense that the expenses that the assessee is required
to incur, under a statutory obligation, in the course of his business are not allowed deduction in the computation of income. This disallowance is restricted to the expenses incurred by the assessee under a statutory obligation under section 135 of Companies Act 2013, and there is thus now a line of demarcation between the expenses incurred by the assessee on discharging corporate social responsibility under such a statutory obligation and under a voluntary assumption of responsibility.
As for the former, the disallowance under Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) comes into play, but, as for latter, there is no such disabling provision as long as the expenses, even in discharge of corporate social responsibility on voluntary basis, can be said to be “wholly and exclusively for the purposes of business”. There is no dispute that the expenses in question are not incurred under the aforesaid statutory obligation. For this reason also, as also for the basic reason that the Explanation 2 to Section 37(1)
comes into play with effect from 1st April 2015, we hold that the disabling provision of Explanation 2 to Section 37(1) does not apply on the facts of this case.

Download Complete Judgement on CSR Expenditure

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