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INDIA: IBC – INCOME TAX FACE-OFF

posted 3 years ago

It is now settled by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that provisions of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) will prevail over provisions of Income Tax Act, 1961 (IT Act) to the extent inconsistent. Of the many interesting aspects emerging as the IBC law matures, a question that often arises is whether tax proceedings can continue during the period of moratorium when the corporate debtor (CD) is under resolution. This is in context of Section 14 of IBC which prescribes that on the insolvency commencement date, the Adjudicating Authority is required to declare moratorium for prohibiting, amongst others, the institution of suits or continuation of pending suits or proceedings against the corporate debtor including execution of any judgement, decree or order in any court of law, tribunal, arbitration panel or other authority during the resolution period. The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), in the matter of Mohan Lal Jain, In the capacity of Liquidator of Kaliber Associates Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Income Tax Officer, has fairly settled that there is no bar in making assessment during the period of moratorium. However, order cannot be enforced-meaning thereby that recovery of tax pursuant to the order cannot be made. The claim of the tax authorities will form part of the claim before the Resolution Professional. This position is logical considering that all parties are required to make their claim before the Resolution Professional as on the insolvency commencement date. Determination of tax claim would thus necessitate conclusion of tax proceedings during the resolution period.

Another interesting tax aspect is regarding applicability of Withholding Tax (WHT) on transfer of property of a CD in liquidation. Ordinarily, transfer of immoveable property entails WHT of 1% under Section 194IA of the IT Act. The NCLAT in case of Om Prakash Agrawal Liquidator-S.Kumars Nationwide Limited Vs. CCIT (TDS), has held that WHT under Section 194IA of IT Act, is an advance capital gain tax, recovered through transferee on priority over other creditors of the company. The priority of distribution of liquidation proceeds amongst the various stake holders is mandated under Section 53 of IBC which is a non-obstante provision overriding any other law enacted by the Parliament or any State Legislature. Hence, no WHT is warranted since it would run contrary to the waterfall mechanism provided under Section 53 of IBC. This principle will hold good for other Income tax deductions, as applicable during liquidation process.

Such developments reinforce the need for a holistic understating of inter-connected laws, oversight of which can have significant legal and financial implications.

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