Assessing Officer is not bound by registration certificate issued by Registrar of Co-operative Society. AO has toconduct an inquiry into factual situation as to activities of assessee society to determine eligibility of deduction u/s 80P.

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Assessing Officer is not bound by registration certificate issued by Registrar of Co-operative Society. AO has toconduct an inquiry into factual situation as to activities of assessee society to determine eligibility of deduction u/s 80P.

ITAT COCHIN in the case of PERUVEMBA SERVICE CO-OPERATIVE BANK LIMITED vs. INCOME TAX OFFICER has held as under:

 

Jurisdictional High Court in case of Chirakkal Service Co-operative Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT [(2016) 384 ITR 490 (Ker.)] had held that when a certificate has been issued to an assessee by Registrar of Co-operative Societies characterizing it as a Co-operative Society, necessarily, deduction u/s 80P(2) has to be granted to assessee. However, Full Bench of Kerala High Court in case of Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra) had reversed above findings of Kerala High Court in case of Chirakkal Service Co-operative Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra). Larger Bench of Kerala High Court in case of Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT [(2019) 414 ITR 67 (Ker.) (FB) (HC)] held that Assessing Officer has to conduct an inquiry into factual situation as to activities of assessee society to determine eligibility of deduction u/s 80P . It was held by High Court that Assessing Officer is not bound by registration certificate issued by Registrar of Kerala Co-operative Society classifying assessee-society as a co-operative society. High Court held that each assessment year is separate and eligibility shall be verified by Assessing Officer for each of assessment years.

(para 7)

 PERUVEMBA SERVICE CO-OPERATIVE BANK LIMITED vs. INCOME TAX OFFICER

IN THE ITAT COCHIN

CHANDRA POOJARI, AM & GEORGE GEORGE K, JM.

ITA No. 213/Coch/2020 (SA No.119/Coch/2020)

Jun 26, 2020

(2020) 59 CCH 0157 CochinTrib

Legislation Referred to

Section 80P(4)

Case pertains to

Asst. Year 2017-2018

Decision in favour of:

Matter remanded

Assessing Officer had restricted claim of deduction for reason that assessee was essentially doing business of banking and disbursement of agricultural loan by assessee was very less compared to total loans advanced. Further, A.O. was of view that assessee was disbursing loan for non-rural development activities. For above reasons, A.O. restricted claim of deduction u/s 80P . A.O. after perusing narration of loan extracts in Statutory Audit Report for assessment years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, came to conclusion that assessee had not advanced any loan for agricultural purposes. Narration of loan in Statutory Audit Reports by itself may not be conclusive to prove whether loan is agricultural loan or a non-agricultural loan. Gold loans may or may not be disbursed for purpose of agricultural purposes. Necessarily, A.O. has to examine details of each loan disbursement and determine purpose for which loans were disbursed, i.e., whether it is for agricultural purposes or non-agricultural purposes. Further, A.O. had stated that assessee had advanced loans for many non-rural areas. In this context, assessee’s claim is that assessees area of operation is confined to one Taluk, viz., Kanayanur Taluk and bye-laws of assessee permits only advancement of loan for agricultural and rural development purposes. It is further contended by assessee that it does not accept any types of deposits except funds allocated by Kerala State Co-operative Agricultural and Rural Development Bank, which Apex Body of assessee-society. This aspect of matter has not been considered in detail by Assessing Officer. At time of assessment, judgment of jurisdictional High Court in case of Chirakkal Service Cooperative Bank Ltd. (supra) was ruling roost and certificate issued by Registrar of Co-operative Society terming assessee as a primary agricultural credit society would be sufficient for grant of deduction u/s 80P . In light of dictum laid down by Full Bench of Kerala High Court in case of Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra), court is of view that there should be fresh examination by Assessing Officer as regards nature of each loan disbursement and purpose for which it has been disbursed, i.e., whether it for agricultural purpose or not. A.O. shall list out instances where loans have disbursed for non-agricultural purposes etc. and accordingly conclude that assessee’s activities are not in compliance with activities of cooperative society functioning under Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969, before denying claim of deduction u/s 80P(2) . For above said purpose, issue raised in these appeals is restored to files of Assessing Officer. Assessing Officer shall examine activities of assessee-society by following dictum laid down by Full Bench of jurisdictional High Court in case of Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra) and shall take a decision in accordance with law. Needless to state, assessee shall co-operate with A.O. and shall furnish necessary details called for. Further, assessee shall not seek unnecessary adjournment. It is ordered accordingly.

(para 7.1)

In favour of

Matter remanded

FULL ORDER

PER BENCH :

1. This appeal at the instance of the assessee is directed against the order of the CIT(A) dated 03.03.2020. The assessee has also preferred a stay application seeking to stay the recovery of outstanding tax arrears. The relevant assessment year is 2017-2018.

2. The solitary issue that is raised is whether the CIT(A) is justified in confirming the Assessing Officer’s order in denying the claim of deduction u/s 80P(2)(a)(i) of the I.T.Act.

3. The brief facts of the case are as follow:

The assessee is a co-operative society registered under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969. For the assessment year 2017-2018, return was filed after claiming deduction u/s 80P of the I.T.Act. The assessment order was passed for assessment year 2017-2018, wherein the Assessing Officer disallowed the claim of deduction u/s 80P of the I.T.Act. The reasoning of the Assessing Officer to disallow the claim of deduction u/s 80P(2)(a)(i) of the I.T.Act was that the assessee was essentially doing the business of banking, and therefore, in view of insertion of section 80P(4) of the I.T.Act with effect from 01.04.2007, the assessee will not be entitled to deduction u/s 80P of the I.T.Act.

4. Aggrieved by the order passed by the Assessing Officer disallowing the claim of deduction u/s 80P(2) of the I.T.Act, the assessee preferred appeal before the first appellate authority for assessment year 2017-2018. The CIT(A) placing reliance on the judgment of the Full Bench of the Hon’ble jurisdictional High Court in the case of The Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT [(2019) 414 ITR 67 (Ker.) (FB) (HC)] held that the Assessing Officer had made elaborate findings and has come to a factual finding that agricultural credit provided by the assessee is only minuscule and assessee cannot be termed as primary agricultural credit society. Accordingly disallowance of claim of deduction u/s 80P of the I.T.Act made by the Assessing Officer was upheld by the CIT(A). In the result the appeal filed by the assessee was rejected by the CIT(A) for assessment year 2017-2018.

5. Aggrieved by the order passed by the CIT(A), the assessee has preferred this appeal before the Tribunal, raising following grounds:-

“1. The order of the Learned Commissioner of Income Tax(Appeals), Thrissur in so far as it is prejudicial to the interests of the appellant is opposed to law, facts and circumstances of the case.

2. It is submitted that the appellant is clearly eligible for deduction u/s 80P(2)(a)(i) of the Income Tax Act 1961 and the observation or finding to the contrary by the lower authorities are illegal and unsustainable. It is further submitted that on a harmonious and combined reading of all the applicable provisions of law in this connection along with the scheme of the Act, the appellant is clearly eligible for the deduction. A detailed note in support of this ground shall be filed on or before the hearing of this appeal.

3. It is submitted that the denial of deduction u/s 80P( 4) of the Act by the lower authorities is illegal and unsustainable in law on a harmonious and combined reading of all the applicable provisions of law in this connection. A detailed note in support of this ground shall be filed on or before the hearing of this appeal.

4. The learned CIT(A) had passed the order based on the decisions of Chirakkal and Perinthalmanna case alone and failed to consider the other important grounds raised by the appellant. The CIT(A) is duty bound to decide all the issues/grounds raised in the appeal, Therefore the said order violates the natural justice principles besides being illegal.

5. In the facts and circumstances of the case, the appellant is clearly eligible for deduction of the whole profit attributable to the activities of giving credit facilities to its members under section 80P. The denial of the said deduction by the CIT(A) is illegal, unwarranted and unreasonable.

6. The order suffers from serious legal infirmities in so far as the learned officer failed to deal with many important objections raised against the denial of deduction u/s 80P(4) of the Act. The predisposition and the lack of application of mind are plain and glaring. There is a clear violation of natural justice in this case.

7. The learned Commissioner of Income Tax(Appeals) acted illegally while ignoring the submission of the appellant that the society falls under the definition of Co-operative credit society u/s 5 (ccii) of the Banking Regulation Act 1949.

8. It is submitted that if the department is treating the appellant as a Cooperative Bank then all the other deductions and reliefs provided to the said bank should also be made available to the appellant including the deduction u/s 36(1)(viia).

9. The appellant is eligible for complete exemption from tax on application of the doctrine of mutuality.

10. The status of the appellant as AOP as fixed by the AO is not correct with the result that the order passed in the status of AOP is liable to be quashed.

11. It is submitted that the the Special Leave Petition challenging the full bench decision of the Hon’ble Kerala High court in Mavilayil case ITA No: 97/2016 has been admitted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the matter is pending.

12. It is submitted that the Chirakkal case is applicable to the appellant in view of the binding decision of the Hon supreme court in Vadilal Chemicals ltd Vs State of AP where it is stated that no tax authorities can reject a binding certificate. It is submitted with utmost respect to the Hon court that the decision to the contrary in Mavilayil case is to be reconsidered as one rendered per incurium.

13. The appellant is eligible for deduction of Rs 50,000/- u/s 80P(2)(c) of the Act in case all the above grounds are found rejected.

For these amongst other grounds that may permitted to be raised and evidences adduced at the time of hearing it is prayed that the justice be done to the appellant by quashing or modifying the impugned order of assessment.”

6.1 The learned AR relied on the grounds raised. The learned Departmental Representative, on the other hand, strongly supported the order passed by the Income Tax Authorities.

7. We have heard the rival submissions and perused the material on record. The Hon’ble jurisdictional High Court in the case of Chirakkal Service Co-operative Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT [(2016) 384 ITR 490 (Ker.)] had held that when a certificate has been issued to an assessee by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies characterizing it as primary agricultural credit society, necessarily, the deduction u/s 80P(2) of the I.T.Act has to be granted to the assessee. However, the Full Bench of the Hon’ble Kerala High Court in the case of The Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra) had reversed the above findings of the Hon’ble Kerala High Court in the case of Chirakkal Service Co-operative Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra). The Larger Bench of the Hon’ble Kerala High Court in the case of The Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra) held that the Assessing Officer has to conduct an inquiry into the factual situation as to the activities of the assessee society to determine the eligibility of deduction u/s 80P of the I.T.Act. It was held by the Hon’ble High Court that the Assessing Officer is not bound by the registration certificate issued by the Registrar of Kerala Co-operative Society classifying the assessee-society as a co-operative society. The Hon’ble High Court held that each assessment year is separate and eligibility shall be verified by the Assessing Officer for each of the assessment years. The finding of the Larger Bench of the Hon’ble High Court reads as follows:-

“33. In view of the law laid down by the Apex Court in Citizen Co-operative Society [397 ITR 1] it cannot be contended that, while considering the claim made by an assessee society for deduction under Section 80P of the IT Act, after the introduction of sub-section (4) thereof, the Assessing Officer has to extend the benefits available, merely looking at the class of the society as per the certificate of registration issued under the Central or State Co-operative Societies Act and the Rules made thereunder. On such a claim for deduction under Section 80P of the IT Act, the Assessing Officer has to conduct an enquiry into the factual situation as to the activities of the assessee society and arrive at a conclusion whether benefits can be extended or not in the light of the provisions under sub-section (4) of Section 80P.

33. In Chirakkal [384 ITR 490] the Division Bench held that the appellant societies having been classified as Primary Agricultural Credit Societies by the competent authority under the KCS Act, it has necessarily to be held that the principal object of such societies is to undertake agricultural credit activities and to provide loans and advances for agricultural purposes, the rate of interest on such loans and advances to be at the rate to be fixed by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies under the KCS Act and having its area of operation confined to a Village, Panchayat or a Municipality and as such, they are entitled for the benefit of sub-section (4) of Section 80P of the IT Act to ease themselves out from the coverage of Section 80P and that, the authorities under the IT Act cannot probe into any issues or such matters relating to such societies and that, Primary Agricultural Credit Societies registered as such under the KCS Act and classified so, under the Act, including the appellants are entitled to such exemption.

34. In Chirakkal [384 ITR 490] the Division Bench expressed a divergent opinion, without noticing the law laid down in Antony Pattukulangara [2012 (3) KHC 726] and Perinthalmanna [363 ITR 268]. Moreover, the law laid down by the Division Bench in Chirakkal [384 ITR 490] is not good law, since, in view of the law laid down by the Apex Court in Citizen Co-operative Society [397 ITR 1], on a claim for deduction under Section 80P of the Income Tax Act, by reason of sub-section (4) thereof, the Assessing Officer has to conduct an enquiry into the factual situation as to the activities of the assessee society and arrive at a conclusion whether benefits can be extended or not in the light of the provisions under sub-section (4) of Section 80P of the IT Act. In view of the law laid down by the Apex Court in Citizen Co-operative Society [397 ITR 1] the law laid down by the Division Bench Perinthalmanna [363 ITR 268] has to be affirmed and we do so.

35. In view of the law laid down by the Apex Court in Ace Multi Axes Systems’ case (supra), since each assessment year is a separate unit, the intention of the legislature is in no manner defeated by not allowing deduction under Section 80P of the IT Act, by reason of sub-section (4) thereof, if the assessee society ceases to be the specified class of societies for which the deduction is provided, even if it was eligible in the initial years.”

7.1 In the instant case, the Assessing Officer had denied the claim of deduction u/s 80P of the I.T.Act for the reason that assessee was essentially doing the business of banking and disbursement of agricultural loans by the assessee was only minuscule. Therefore, the Assessing Officer concluded that the assessee is not entitled to deduction u/s 80P(2) of the I.T.Act. The Assessing Officer after perusing the narration of the loan extracts for the financial period 2016-2017, came to the conclusion that out of the total loan disbursement, only a minuscule portion has been advanced for agricultural purposes. The narration in loan extracts / audit reports by itself may not conclusive to prove whether loan is a agricultural loan or a non-agricultural loan. The gold loans may or may not be disbursed for the purpose of agricultural purposes. Necessarily, the A.O. had to examine the details of each loan disbursement and determine the purpose for which the loans were disbursed, i.e., whether it is for agricultural purpose or non-agricultural purpose. In this case, such a detailed examination has not been conducted by the A.O. Further, the A.O. has not examined to what extent loans, if any, has been disbursed to non-members. There is a passing statement in the assessment order that there have been disbursement of loans to non-members as well. In the light of the dictum laid down by the Full Bench of the Hon’ble Kerala High Court in the case of The Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra), we are of the view that there should be fresh examination by the Assessing Officer as regards the nature of each loan disbursement and purpose for which it has been disbursed, i.e., whether it for agricultural purpose or not. The A.O. shall list out the instances where loans have disbursed to non-members of assessee-society, for non- agricultural purposes etc. and accordingly conclude that the assessee’s activities are not in compliance with the activities of primary agricultural credit society functioning under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969, before denying the claim of deduction u/s 80P(2) of the I.T.Act. For the above said purpose, the issue raised in this appeal is restored to the files of the Assessing Officer. The Assessing Officer shall examine the activities of the assessee-society by following the dictum laid down by the Full Bench of the Hon’ble jurisdictional High Court in the case of The Mavilayi Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. CIT (supra) and shall take a decision in accordance with law. Needless to state, the assessee shall co-operate with the A.O. and shall furnish the necessary details called for. Further, the assessee shall not seek unnecessary adjournment. It is ordered accordingly.

8. Since we have disposed of the appeal, the stay application filed by the assessee is dismissed as infructuous.

9. In the result, the appeal filed by the assessee is allowed for statistical purposes and the stay application is dismissed.

Order pronounced on this 26th day of June, 2020.

 

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