Whether capital gain arising  from stock option is liable to capital gain tax?

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ADDITIONAL COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX vs. BHARAT V. PATEL

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 ISSUE

Whether capital gain arising  from stock option is liable to capital gain tax?

Held

In order to bring the perquisite transferred by the employer to the employees within the ambit of tax, legislature brought an amendment under Section 17 of the IT Act by inserting Clause (iiia) in Section 17(2) of the IT Act through the Finance Act, 1999 (27 of 1999) with effect from 01.04.2000, which was later on omitted by the Finance Act, 2000.

The intention behind the said amendment brought by the legislature was to bring the benefits transferred by the employer to the employees as in the instant case, within the ambit of the Income Tax Act, 1961. It was the first time when the legislature specified the meaning of the cost for acquiring specific securities. Only by this amendment, legislature determined what would constitute the specific securities. By this amendment, legislature clearly covered the direct or indirect transfer of specified securities from the employer to the employees during or after the employment. On a perusal of the said clause, it is evident that the case of the Respondent falls under such clause. However, since the transaction in the instant case pertains to prior to 01.04.2000, hence, such transaction cannot be covered under the said clause in the absence of an express provision of retrospective effect. We also do not find any force in the argument of the Revenue that the case of the Respondent would fall under the ambit of Section 17(2) (iii) of the IT Act instead of Section 17(2) (iiia) of the IT Act. It is a fundamental principle of law that a receipt under the IT Act must be made taxable before it can be treated as income. Courts cannot construe the law in such a way that brings an individual within the ambit of Income Tax Act to pay tax who otherwise is not liable to pay. In the absence of any such specific provision, if an individual is subjected to pay tax, it would amount to the violation of his Constitutional Right.

On a perusal of the above, prima facie, it appears that such Circular dealt with the cases where the employer issued shares to the employees at less than the market price. In the instant case, the Respondent was allotted Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs.) by the (P&G) USA which is different from the allotment of shares. Hence, in our opinion such Circular has no applicability on the instant case. Moreover, a Circular cannot be used to introduce a new tax provision in a Statute which was otherwise absent.

Such benefit or perquisite shall have arisen from the business activities or profession whereas in the instant case there is nothing as such. The applicability of Section 28(iv) is confined only to the case where there is any business or profession related transaction involved. Hence, the instant case cannot be covered under Section 28(iv) of the IT Act for the purpose of tax liability.

To sum up, the Respondent got the Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs) and, eventually received an amount on account of its redemption prior to 01.04.2000 on which the amendment of Finance Act, 1999 (27 of 1999) came into force. In the absence of any express statutory provision regarding the applicability of such amendment from retrospective effect, we do not find any force in the argument of the Revenue that such amendment came into force retrospectively. It is well established rule of interpretation that taxing provisions shall be construed strictly so that no person who is otherwise not liable to pay tax, be made liable to pay tax.

Conclusion

Amount received on redemption of Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs) prior to 01.04.2000 taxable as a perquisite under Section 17(2) (iiia).


 

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