Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trust activities couldn't be tainted as commercial even if it had earned profits from its charitable activities

Assessee-trust was not hit by proviso to section 2(15) if its aims and objects were charitable and profit earned from said activities was incidental in nature.
Facts:
a)  The assessee-trust was created with object to breed the cattle and to improve the quality of the cows and oxen.
b)  During the course of assessment, the Assessing Officer (‘AO’) denied benefit of section 11 to assessee-trust on ground that considerable income was generated from the activity of milk production and sale and therefore, trust was directly hit by the proviso to section 2(15).
c)  On appeal, the CIT (A) had confirmed the order of the AO. On further appeal, the Tribunal held in favour of assessee. The aggrieved-revenue filed the instant appeal.
The High Court held in favour of assessee as under:
1)  The proviso to section 2(15) applies only to cases of advancement of any other object of general public utility, if the conditions provided under the proviso are satisfied. However, for the application of the proviso, what is necessary is that the entity should be involved in carrying on activities in the nature of trade, commerce or business.
2)  Many activities of genuine charitable purposes, which are not in the nature of trade, commerce or business, may still generate marketable products. The law does not expect the trust to dispose of its produce at any consideration less than the market value;
3)  If there is any surplus generated at the end of the year, that by itself would not be the sole consideration for judging whether any activity is trade, commerce or business particularly if generating 'surplus' is wholly incidental to the principal activities of the trust; which is otherwise for general public utility, and therefore, of charitable nature.
4)  The objects of the trust clearly established that the same was for general public utility and were for charitable purposes. Profit making was neither the aim nor object of the Trust. Merely because while carrying out the activities for the purpose of achieving the objects of the Trust, certain incidental surpluses were generated, it would not render the activity as in the nature of trade, commerce or business;

5)  The proviso aims to attract those activities which are truly in the nature of trade, commerce or business but are carried out under the guise of activities in the nature of 'public utility'. Thus, the Tribunal had not committed any error in directing the Assessing Officer to provide exemption under section 11 and holding that the proviso to section 2(15) was not applicable to this case. – DIT (Exemption) v. Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust [2014] 44 taxmann.com 141 (Gujarat)
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