Whether the payment of provident fund and employees state insurance dues deposited by the Assessee within the grace period would qualify for deduction under Section 43B of the Income Tax Act, 1961?
Delhi High Court: -Commissioner Of Income Tax Del vs M/S Bharat Hotels Ltd. on 6 September, 2018:- ITA 271/2005:-
Second question : (2) Whether the payment of provident fund and employees state insurance dues deposited by the Assessee within the grace period would qualify for deduction under Section 43B of the Income Tax Act, 1961?
HELD in respect of Question No.2
7. The issue here concerns the interplay of Section 2(24)(x) of the Act read with Section 36(1)(va) of the Act alongside provisions of the Employees‟ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (especially Regulation 38 of the Employees‟ Provident Funds Scheme, 1952) and the provisions of the Employees‟ State Insurance Act, 1948. The AO had brought to tax amounts which were deducted by the employer/assessee from the salaries and wages payable to its employees, as part of their contributions. It is not in dispute that the employer‟s right to claim deductions under the main part of Section 43-B of the Act is not an issue. The question the AO had to then decide was whether the amounts deducted from the salaries of the employees which had to be deposited within the stipulated time (in terms of notification/circular dated 19.03.1964 which was modified on 24.10.1973), as far as the EPF contribution went and the period of three weeks as far as the ESI contributions went. The AO made a tabular analysis with respect to the contributions deducted and actually deposited. The cumulative effect of notifications under the Employees‟ Provident Funds Act, 1952 and the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 was that in respect of the EPF Scheme contributions the deductions were to be deposited within 15 days of the succeeding wage period with a grace period of 5 days; for ESI contributions the deposit with the concerned statutory authority had to be made within three weeks of the succeeding wage month/period. The CIT in this case confirmed the additions – made by the AO based on the entire amounts that were disallowed. The ITAT however granted complete relief.
8. Having regard to the specific provisions of the Employees‟ Provident Funds Act and ESI Act as well as the concerned notifications which granted a grace period of 5 days (which appears to have been late withdrawn recently on 08.01.2016), we are of the opinion that the ITAT‟s decision in this case was not correct. The assessee undoubtedly was entitled to claim the benefit and properly treat such amounts as having been duly deposited, which were in fact deposited within the period prescribed (i.e. 15 + 5 days in the case of EPF and 21 days + any other grace period in terms of the extent notification). As far as the amounts constituting deductions from employees‟ salaries towards their contributions, which were made beyond such stipulated period, obviously the assessee was not entitled to claim the deduction from its returns.
9. In view of this discussion, the Revenue‟s appeal is partly allowed. The AO is directed to examine the contributions made with reference to the dates when they were actually made and grant relief to such of them which qualified for such relief in terms of the prevailing provisions and notifications. We also clarify that the assessee would be entitled to deduction in terms of Section 36(1)(va) of the Act.