Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Commission paid to affiliate on import of furnace oil was illegal as it was purchased in breach of law

Where purchases of furnace oil from sister concern, its storage and consequent sale were in complete breach of Solvent, Raffinate & Slop [Acquisition, Safe, Storage & Prevention of Use in Automobiles] Order, 2000, payment made by assessee to sister concern could not be allowed under section 37(1).


1) The assessee entered into a contract with a foreign company for purchase of furnace oil. It failed to get licence for storage and sale of solvents, as required by the Solvent, Raffinate & Slop [Acquisition, Sale, Storage & Prevention of Use in Automobiles] Order, 2000 (‘SRS order’).

2) After realizing that any import in absence of valid license would attract criminal/penal proceedings, it approached its sister concern who had said licence. It transferred the contract of import in the name of its sister concern and made payment for said purpose by claiming it as commission.

3) The AO disallowed the commission.

4) On appeal CIT(A) allowed said payment which was subsequently reversed by the Tribunal. Further the High Court upheld the order of Tribunal. The assessee filed the Special leave petition before Supreme court against impugned order of High Court.

The Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition against the order of High Court, wherein the High Court held as under:

1) When the SRS order prohibits importation of goods, its acquisition, storage and sale, without a valid licence, assessee could not import such furnace oil without issuance of requisite licence.

2) Even assuming that the sister concern had a licence for importing the furnace oil, the assessee diverted its contractual obligation for averting the payment of damages, yet nothing was brought on the record to explain as to how the sum termed as 'commission' for performing the contractual obligation was needed to be paid to the sister concern.

3) It also emerged from record that not only the assessee got contract executed through its sister concern even by a valid licence held by the sister concern, the subsequent purchases from the sister concern of the very furnace oil, its storage and consequent sale appeared to be in complete breach of the SRS Order.

4) Even the nomenclature used as 'Commission' was not taken into consideration and if the character of payment in substance was to be looked at, nowhere it emerged that there was any valid claim for allowing the impugned sum (paid as commission) which was a consideration for transfer of contractual obligation.

5) Even if there was no loss to the revenue because the revenue had recovered tax on the said amount from the sister concern, then also, when from the record itself, it showed that the transaction was in contravention of SRS order and entire modus was also apparent from the paper book produced by the assessee, disallowance by the Tribunal invoking its statutory power required to be sustained. - Overseas Trading & Shipping Co. (P.) Ltd. v. ACIT [2014] 51 taxmann.com 374 (SC)