CIT vs. Whirlpool of India Ltd (Delhi High Court)

Transfer pricing of AMP Expenditure: the onus is on the Revenue to demonstrate by tangible material that there is an international transaction involving AMP expenses between the Indian Co and the AE. In the absence of that first step, the question of determining the ALP of such a transaction does not arise. In the absence of a machinery provision it is hazardous for any TPO to proceed to determine the ALP of such a transaction since Bright Line Test has been negatived as a valid method of determining the existence of an international transaction and thereafter its ALP    [S.92CA(3)] 

Jan 1 , 2016

(i) The provisions under Chapter X do envisage a ‘separate entity concept’. In other words, there cannot be a presumption that in the present case since WOIL is a subsidiary of Whirlpool USA, all the activities of WOIL are in fact dictated by Whirlpool USA. Merely because Whirlpool USA has a financial interest, it cannot be presumed that AMP expense incurred by the WOIL are at the instance or on behalf of Whirlpool USA. There is merit in the contention of the Assessee that the initial onus is on the Revenue to demonstrate through some tangible material that the two parties acted in concert and further that there was an agreement to enter into an international transaction concerning AMP expenses.

(ii) The clauses of the TLA which had been referred to in extenso by Mr. Srivastava go to show that Whirlpool USA was protective of its brand. However, it is not discernible from the clauses of the said TLA that WOIL was under any obligation to incur an extent of AMP expense for building the brand or mark of Whirlpool USA. The Revenue has been unable to explain why there should a presumption that as a result of the TLA, there must have been an understanding between Whirlpool USA and WOIL and that WOIL will spend ‘excessively’ on AMP in order to promote the ‘Whirlpool’ brand in India. In other words, it is not clear why a presumption should be drawn that since an incidental benefit might enure to the brand of Whirlpool USA, a proportion of the AMP expenses incurred must be attributed to it.

(iii) It is in this context that it is submitted, and rightly, by the Assessee that there must be a machinery provision in the Act to bring an international transaction involving AMP expense under the tax radar. In the absence of any clear statutory provision giving guidance as to how the existence of an international transaction involving AMP expense, in the absence of an express agreement in that behalf, should be ascertained and further how the ALP of such a transaction should be ascertained, it cannot be left entirely to surmises and conjectures of the TPO.

(iv) Mr. Srivastava submitted that Section 92F (ii) which defines ALP to mean a price “which is applied or proposed to be applied in a transaction between persons other than associated enterprises in uncontrolled conditions” could be construed as a machinery provision. But then that provision refers to ‘price’ and to ‘uncontrolled conditions’. It implicitly brings into play the BLT. In other words, it emphasises that where the price is something other than what would be paid or charged by one entity from another in uncontrolled situations then that would be the ALP. BLT as a determinative tool has been expressly invalidated by the Court in Sony Ericsson (supra).Therefore, it is not possible to view this as a machinery provision. The existence of an international transaction will have to be established de hors the BLT. There is nothing in the Act which indicates how, in the absence of the BLT, one can discern the existence of an international transaction as far as AMP expenditure is concerned.

(v) Recently this Court has in its decision dated 11th December 2014 in ITA No. 110 of 2014 (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income Tax) while interpreting the provisions of Chapter X of the Act observed that the very existence of an international transaction cannot be presumed by assigning some price to it and then deducing that since it is not an ALP, an ‘adjustment’ has to be made. The burden is on the Revenue to first show the existence of an international transaction. Next step is to ascertain the disclosed ‘price’ of such a transaction and thereafter ask whether it is at ALP. If the answer to that is in the negative the TP adjustment should follow. The objective of Chapter X is to make adjustments to the price of an international transaction which the AEs involved may seek to shift from one jurisdiction to another. An ‘assumed’ price cannot form the reason for making an ALP adjustment.”

(vi) As regards allowing the entire expenditure under Section 37 of the Act, there is an obvious contradiction which was attributed to be resolved by the ITAT in the impugned order by asking the TPO to rework the AMP expenses into that which was incurred for building the brand of the foreign AE and that which was incurred wholly or exclusively for the benefit of the WOIL. In Sony Ericsson (supra) this was sought to be explained by stating that Section 37 and Chapter X operate in different domains and merely because an expense was incurred wholly or exclusively for the Indian entity it would not mean that it is also not incurred for the foreign AE. The question then is to what extent the Indian entity should be compensated for the expenses incurred by it on behalf of the foreign AE. What will then be required to be benchmarked is not the AMP expenditure but the extent to which the Indian entity must be compensated.

(vii) As already mentioned, merely because there is an incidental benefit to Whirlpool USA, it cannot be said that the AMP expenses incurred by WOIL was for promoting the brand of Whirlpool USA. As mentioned in Sassoon J David (supra) “the fact that somebody other than the Assessee is also benefitted by the expenditure should not come in the way of an expenditure being allowed by way of a deduction under Section 10 (2) (xv) of the Act (Indian Income Tax Act, 1922) if it satisfies otherwise the tests laid down by the law”.

Conclusion

(viii) For the aforementioned reasons, the Court is of the view that as far as the present appeals are concerned, the Revenue has been unable to demonstrate by some tangible material that there is an international transaction involving AMP expenses between WOIL and Whirlpool USA. In the absence of that first step, the question of determining the ALP of such a transaction does not arise. In any event, in the absence of a machinery provision it would be hazardous for any TPO to proceed to determine the ALP of such a transaction since BLT has been negatived by this Court as a valid method of determining the existence of an international transaction and thereafter its ALP.

 

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