Reasons for equalisation levy and rate of equalisation levy in Budget 2016

By | March 4, 2016

Finance Bill 2016

Equalisation Levy

With the expansion of information and communication technology, the supply and procurement of digital goods and services have undergone exponential expansion everywhere, including India. The digital economy is growing at ten per cent per year, significantly faster than the global economy as a whole.

Currently in the digital domain, business may be conducted without regard to national boundaries and may dissolve the link between an income-producing activity and a specific location. From a certain perspective, business in digital domain doesn’t seem to occur in any physical location but instead takes place in the nebulous world of “cyberspace.” Persons carrying business in digital domain could be located anywhere in the world. Entrepreneurs across the world have been quick to evolve their business to take advantage of these changes. It has also made it possible for the businesses to conduct themselves in ways that did not exist earlier, and given rise to new business models that rely more on digital and telecommunication network, do not require physical presence, and derives substantial value from data collected and transmitted from such networks.

These new business models have created new tax challenges. The typical direct tax issues relating to e-commerce are the difficulties of characterizing the nature of payment and establishing a nexus or link between a taxable transaction, activity and a taxing jurisdiction, the difficulty of locating the transaction, activity and identifying the taxpayer for income tax purposes. The digital business fundamentally challenges physical presence-based permanent establishment rules. If permanent establishment (PE) principles are to remain effective in the new economy, the fundamental PE components developed for the old economy i.e. place of business, location, and permanency must be reconciled with the new digital reality.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has recommended, in Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project under Action Plan 1, several options to tackle the direct tax challenges which include modifying the existing Permanent Establishment (PE) rule to include that where an enterprise engaged in fully de-materialized digital activities would constitute a PE if it maintained a significant digital presence in another country’s economy. It further recommended a virtual fixed place of business PE in the concept of PE i,e creation of a PE when the enterprise maintains a website on a server of another enterprise located in a jurisdiction and carries on business through that website. It also recommended to impose of a final withholding tax on certain payments for digital goods or services provided by a foreign e-commerce provider or imposition of a equalisation levy on consideration for certain digital transactions received by a non-resident from a resident or from a non-resident having permanent establishment in other contracting state.

Considering the potential of new digital economy and the rapidly evolving nature of business operations it is found essential to address the challenges in terms of taxation of such digital transactions as mentioned above. In order to address these challenges, it is proposed to insert a new Chapter titled “Equalisation Levy” in the Finance Bill, to provide for an equalisation levy of 6 % of the amount of consideration for specified services received or receivable by a non-resident not having permanent establishment (‘PE’) in India, from a resident in India who carries out business or profession, or from a non-resident having permanent establishment in India.

Further, in order to reduce burden of small players in the digital domain, it is also provided that no such levy shall be made if the aggregate amount of consideration for specified services received or receivable by a non-resident from a person resident in India or from a non-resident having a permanent establishment in India does not exceed one lakh rupees in any previous year.

To provide certainty and to avoid interpretational issues, it is also proposed to define certain terms and expressions used therein. Further it also proposes to provide for the procedure to be adopted for collection and recovery of equalisation levy.

In order to provide for the administrative mechanism of the equalisation levy, it also proposes to provide for statutory authorities and also prescribes the duties and powers of the authorities to administer the equalisation levy. In order to ensure effective compliance, it also proposes to provide for interest; penalty and prosecution in case of defaults with sufficient safeguards.

Further, it also proposes to confer the power on the Central Government to make rules for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this Chapter and further provides that every rule made under this Chapter shall be laid before each House of Parliament

In order to avoid double taxation, it is proposed to provide exemption under section 10 of the Act for any income arising from providing specified services on which equalisation levy is chargeable.

In order to ensure compliance with the provisions this Chapter, it is further proposed to provide that the expenses incurred by the assessee towards specified services chargeable under this Chapter shall not be allowed as deduction in case of failure of the asseseee to deduct and deposit the equalisation levy to the credit of Central government.

This Chapter will take effect from the date appointed in the notification to be issued by the Central Government.

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