Extracting Honey from Flower: Whether Agricultural Income?

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Extracting Honey from Flower: Whether Agricultural Income?

Whether income by extracting honey by keeping bee is agricultural income? Whether it is taxable or not taxable? It can be classified as income from horticulture?


The term “Agricultural Income“ has been defined u/s 2(1A) of the Act. The definition of ‘agricultural income’ under section 2(1A) provides that the following shall constitute agricultural income:

(i) any rent or revenue derived from land which is situated in India and is used for agricultural purposes [Section 2(1A)(a)]

(ii) any income derived from such land by agricultural operation including processing and sale of the agricultural produce as rent-in-kind so as to render it fit for the market [Section 2(1A)(b)],

(iii) income derived from building or land used for agricultural operation, in certain cases. [Section 2(1A)(c)]

Hon’ble Supreme Court had elaborately explained what constitute the term agriculture in depth in the case of CIT v. Raja Benoy Kumar Sahas Roy (1957) 32 ITR 466 (SC). It is a landmark case for the understanding of agriculture under the Income Tax Act. It was an interesting case wherein assesse was growing tress on a forest land. Growing of trees was inter alia includes of cutting of tress and leaving the stumps to regrow. The Supreme court held such income as agriculture income and held as under:

“ The primary sense in which the term agriculture is understood is agar-field and cultra–cultivation, i.e., the cultivation of the field, and if the term is understood only in that sense agriculture would be restricted only to cultivation of the land in the strict sense of the term, meaning thereby, tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting and similar operations on the land. They would be the basic operations and would require the expenditure of human skill and labour upon the land itself. There are, however, other operations which have got to be resorted to by the agriculturist and which are absolutely necessary for the purpose of effectively raising the produce from the land. They are operations to be performed after the produce sprouts from the land, i.e., weeding, digging the soil around the growth, removal of undesirable under growths and all operations which foster the growth and preserve the same not only from insects and pests but also from depredation from outside, tending, pruning, cutting, harvesting, and rendering the produce fit for the market. The latter would all be agricultural operations when taken in conjunction with the basic operations above described, and it would be futile to urge that they are not agricultural operations at all.

However, the mere performance of these subsequent operations on the products of the land, where such products have not been raised on the land by the performance of the basic operations which have been described above would not be enough to characterize them as agricultural operations. In order to invest them with the character of agricultural operations, these subsequent operations must necessarily be in conjunction with and a continuation of the basic operations which are the effective cause of the products being raised from the land. It is only if the products are raised from the land by the performance of these basic operations that the subsequent operations attach themselves to the products of the land and acquire the characteristic of agricultural operations. The cultivation of the land does not comprise merely of raising the products of the land in the narrower sense of the term like tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting, and similar work done on the land but also includes the subsequent operations set out above, all of which operations, basic as well as subsequent, form one integrated activity of the agriculturist and the term ‘agriculture’ has got to be understood as connoting this integrated activity of the agriculturist. One cannot dissociate the basic operations from the subsequent operations and say that the subsequent operations, even though they are divorced from the basic operations can constitute agricultural operations by themselves. If this integrated activity which constitutes agriculture is undertaken and performed in regard to any land that land can be said to have been used for ‘agricultural purposes’ and the income derived therefrom can be said to be ‘agricultural income’ derived from the land by agriculture. The mere fact that an activity has some connection with or is in some way dependent on land is not sufficient to bring it within the scope of the term and such extension of the term ‘agriculture’ is unwarranted. The term ‘agriculture’ cannot be dissociated from the primary significance thereof which is that of cultivation of the land and even though it can be extended in the manner stated before both in regard to the process of agriculture and the products which are raised upon the land, there is no warrant at all for extending it to all activities which have relation to the land or are in any way connected with the land. The use of the word agriculture in regard to such activities would certainly be a distortion of the term.

It the term ‘agriculture’ is understood as comprising within its scope the basic as well as subsequent operations in the process of agriculture and the raising on the lands of products which have some utility either for consumption for trade and commerce, it will be seen that the term ‘agriculture’ receives a wider interpretation both in regard to its operations as well as the results of the same.

Nevertheless there is present all throughout the basic idea that there must be at the bottom of its cultivation of land in the sense of tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting, and similar work done on the land itself.

This basic conception is the essential sine qua non of any operation performed on the land constituting agricultural operation. If the basic operations are there, the rest of the operations found themselves upon the same. But if these basic operations are wanting the subsequent operations do not acquire the characteristic of agricultural operations”.

Given the definition of “Agricultural Income” in the Act and various other landmark decision of the supreme court & high courts on the issue, following ingredients must be existing in Agricultural Income:

  1. Existence & involvement of direct Land (Ownership of Land is not at all relevant)
  2. Cultivation of land is a pre-condition
  3. Output through basic operation should be products either for consumption or trade.

Though, Bee keeping & honey extraction may be organized activity, it may not involve agricultural by way of cultivation of land. Hence, income may be taxable as business income.

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