Taxation of Business Process Outsourcing Units in India

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The provisions containing taxation of IT-enabled business process outsourcing units are not contained in the Income-tax Act, 1961 but are given in Circular No.5/2004 dated 28.9.2004 issued by CBDT. The provisions are briefed hereunder –

  • A non-resident entity may outsource certain services to a resident Indian entity. If there is no business connection between the two, the resident entity may not be a Permanent Establishment of the non-resident entity, and the resident entity would have to be assessed to income-tax as a separate entity. In such a case, the non-resident entity will not be liable under the Income-tax Act, 1961.
  • However, it is possible that the non-resident entity may have a business connection with the resident Indian entity. In such a case, the resident Indian entity could be treated as the Permanent Establishment of the non-resident entity.
  • The non-resident entity or the foreign company will be liable to tax in India only if the IT enabled BPO unit in India constitutes its Permanent Establishment.
  • A non-resident or a foreign company is treated as having a Permanent Establishment in India if the said non-resident or foreign company carries on business in India through a branch, sales office etc. or through an agent (other than an independent agent) who habitually exercises an authority to conclude contracts or regularly delivers goods or merchandise or habitually secures orders on behalf of the non-resident principal. In such a case, the profits of the non-resident or foreign company attributable to the business activities carried out in India by the Permanent Establishment becomes taxable in India.
  • If a foreign enterprise carries on business in another country through a Permanent Establishment situated therein, the profits of the enterprise may be taxed in the other country but only so much of them as is attributable to the Permanent Establishment.
  • Profits are to be attributed to the Permanent Establishment as if it were a distinct and separate enterprise engaged in the same or similar activities under the same or similar conditions and dealing wholly independently with the enterprise of which it is a Permanent Establishment.
  • In determining the profits of a Permanent Establishment there shall be allowed as deduction, expenses which are incurred for the purposes of the Permanent Establishment including executive and general administrative expenses so incurred, whether in the State in which the Permanent Establishment is situated or elsewhere.
  • The expenses that are deductible would have to be determined in accordance with the accepted principles of accountancy and the provisions of the Income-tax Act, 1961.
  • The profits to be attributed to a Permanent Establishment are those which that Permanent Establishment would have made if, instead of dealing with its Head Office, it had been dealing with an entirely separate enterprise under conditions and at prices prevailing in the ordinary market. This corresponds to the “arm’s length principle”.
  • Hence, in determining the profits attributable to an IT-enabled BPO unit constituting a Permanent Establishment, it will be necessary to determine the price of the services rendered by the Permanent Establishment to the Head office or by the Head office to the Permanent Establishment on the basis of “arm’s length principle”.
Suraj R Agarwal

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