Slump sale, a supply of goods or service under GST?

By Yutika Lohia (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Introduction

India is en-route to turn itself into a 21st century super-economy fuelled by the unprecedented growth of its business enterprises. Business may grow in two ways – either in an organic way or inorganic. The former refers to the internal forces of the enterprises which are re-organised to bring in development and growth into the business, whereas, in case of inorganic growth, the company goes into corporate restructuring to re-align its external facade to fuel the planned development and growth. In today’s fast moving corporate environment, corporate restructuring happens to be the most ideal tool to win an advantage in this pursuit.

Business restructuring is a comprehensive process, be it financial or technological or market or organisational. Business can be re-arranged by way of mergers, demergers, disinvestments, takeovers, strategic alliance or slump sale.

This article focusses on implications of GST on slump sale.

Concept of Slump Sale

The concept of slump sale comes from the Income Tax Act, 1961. The IT Act, in section 2(42C) defines “slump sale” as – “slump sale” means the transfer of one or more undertakings as a result of the sale for a lump sum consideration without values being assigned to the individual assets and liabilities in such sales.”  Further as per explanation 1 to section 2(19AA), “undertaking” shall include any part of an undertaking or a business activity taken as whole, but does not include individual assets or liabilities or any combination thereof not constituting a business activity.

Therefore, slump sale contains the following conditions:

  • Sale of one or more undertaking,
  • No individual value should be assigned to assets and liabilities, and the same to be sold for a lump sum consideration, and
  • All assets and liabilities of the undertaking must be transferred.

Transfer of all assets and liabilities

One of the major precondition of a slump sale transaction is that all assets and liabilities of the business undertaking must be transferred to the buyer.

As per Section 50B of IT Act, the cost of acquisition of such sale shall be the net worth (book value of assets and liabilities) of the undertaking.

Explanation 1 provides the method of computing the net worth of an undertaking or a division sold on slump sale basis. As per Explanation 1 “For the purposes of this section, “net worth” shall be the aggregate value of total assets of the undertaking or division as reduced by the value of liabilities of such undertaking or division as appearing in its books of account.”  This definition is no different from the meaning of the expression ‘net worth’, as is commonly understood in the accounting parlance.

There are various judicial pronouncements where there is difference of opinion that it is not essential to transfer all assets and liabilities for a transaction to qualify for a slump sale. That is to say, that even if some assets are retained by the transferor and the undertaking after such transfer carries out its business activities without any obstruction, it shall still qualify to be a slump sale. The same has been substantiated by Bombay High Court[1] in its ruling.

Since all assets and liabilities are to be transferred in a slump sale, it is important for one to understand the concept of going concern which is discussed at length below.

Going Concern Concept

The terminology “going concern” is not precisely mentioned in the definition of slump sale. Transfer as a going concern means transfer of a business or a unit which is capable of being carried on by a purchaser as an independent business. To constitute a slump sale, it is not necessary that the business is ongoing at the time of its transfer.

Going Concern is a fundamental accounting assumption and Accounting Standard 1, Disclosure of Accounting Policies defines it as follows:

“The enterprise is normally viewed as a going concern, that is, as continuing in operation for the foreseeable future. It is assumed that the enterprise has neither the intention nor the necessity of liquidation or of curtailing materially the scale of the operations.”

To constitute a slump sale all the assets and liabilities of the undertaking are to be transferred. Therefore it can be said that companies whose operations are shut and is into liquidation may also opt for slump sale provided the conditions mentioned above are met. The intention of such condition is to ensure that the business will continue in the new hands with regularity and a nature of permanency.\

Further it is not necessary that the entity should be a profit making company. The only valid point to be considered for a transfer to constitute as a “going concern” to mean if it constitutes a business activity capable of being run independently for a foreseeable future. Such views were taken In the Matter of M/S. Indo Rama Textiles Ltd[2]

The term “going concern” has no place in the GST Act. However one can refer to the pronouncement of the Advance Authority Ruling in case of Rajashri Foods Pvt Ltd for the same as mentioned below:\

A going concern is a concept of accounting and applies to the business of the company as a whole. Transfer of a going concern means transfer of a running business which is capable of being carried on by the purchaser as an independent business. Such transfer of business as a whole will comprise comprehensive transfer of immovable property, goods and transfer of unexecuted orders, employees, goodwill etc.

The transfer of business assets implies where the part of assets are transferred and not the whole business, i.e. the liabilities remain in the books of the transferor, whereas in transfer of business all assets and liabilities are transferred together. The concept of transfer of going concern comes handy when the business as a whole is transferred, however case laws and analysis do suggest the likelihood of transfer of assets as a going concern.

Slump sale: supply of good or supply of service under GST Act?

To understand the applicability of GST on a slump sale transaction, it is imperative to throw light on the word “supply” under the GST Act. It is explicitly discussed that for GST to be levied, there must be a case of “supply”. Therefore, we shall now refer the scope of supply as mentioned in Section 7 of the (Central Goods and Services Tax Act 2017 (CGST Act) which is as follows:

“(1) For the purposes of this Act, the expression “supply” includes––

  • all forms of supply of goods or services or both such as sale, transfer, barter, exchange, licence, rental, lease or disposal made or agreed to be made for a consideration by a person in the course or furtherance of business;”

XX

Supply includes activities such as sale, transfer, barter etc for a consideration in the course or furtherance of business. From this we can infer that the activities shall take place in the course or furtherance of business. Coming to slump sale, the transaction is neither during the course of business nor in persistence of business. However since the word “includes” has been used in the definition in Section 7 (1) of the CGST Act, the scope of supply goes beyond the course or furtherance of business. Therefore the transfer as a going concern shall also be treated as “supply” under GST.

As slump sale is considered to be a supply under GST, we should now understand if the same constitutes to be goods or services.

The term goods has been defined under section 2(52) of the CGST Act as:

“(52)“goods” means every kind of movable property other than money and securities but includes actionable claim, growing crops, grass and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before supply or under a contract of supply;”

Further definition of “Service” as per section 2(102) of the CGST Act defines the term service as:

“(102)“services” means anything other than goods, money and securities but includes activities relating to the use of money or its conversion by cash or by any other mode, from one form, currency or denomination, to another form, currency or denomination for which a separate consideration is charged.”

Clause 4(c) of Schedule II of CGST Act states that

“(c) where any person ceases to be a taxable person, any goods forming part of the assets of any business carried on by him shall be deemed to be supplied by him in the course or furtherance of his business immediately before he ceases to be a taxable person, unless—

            (i) the business is transferred as a going concern to another person; or

             (ii) the business is carried on by a personal representative who is deemed to be a taxable person.”

Schedule II of the CGST Act talks about activities to be treated as a supply of good or supply of service wherein Clause 4, transfer of business assets has been considered as supply of goods. In Clause 4(c ) transfer of business as a going concern does not constitute as supply of goods.

As per the definition of services, anything other than goods is called a service. Business transferred as a going concern is excluded from the list of supply of goods. Since the schedule specifically excludes this activity, it becomes very obvious that transfer of business as a going concern is considered to be a supply of service.

Ministry of Finance vide its notification[3] no 12/2017- Central Tax (Rate) dated 28th June 2017, came out with a list of supply of services and further brought clarity on “service by way of transfer of a going concern, as a whole or an independent part thereof” in serial no 2 of the said notification to constitute under supply of service. Further, activity of transfer of a going concern shall have “nil” rate of tax on such supply.

Since the notification talks about the activity of transfer of a going concern as a supply of service and the same is exempt from the purview of GST. Similarly Schedule II of the CSGT Act excludes transfer of business as a going concern as supply of goods, the same shall be considered as a supply of service and GST shall be levied.

It shall be inferred that transfer of a going concern as a whole or a part there or transfer of business as a going concern is tax-exempt under GST and transfer of business assets will have GST implications.

The above can be further justified by referring to the judgement passed by the Tax Authority of Advance Ruling in Karnataka in the case of Rajashri Foods Pvt Ltd[4] where it was decided that subject to the condition that the unit being transferred is a going concern, it will be considered as a supply of service and the same shall be exempt from the payment of GST to the extent leviable under sub section (1) of Section (9) of the CGST Act, 2017.

Itemisation of assets for levy of GST

In a slump sale, assets proposed to be transferred consist of both movable and immovable property i.e. land, building, stock, plant and machinery etc. Since these assets and liabilities are sold together for a lump sum consideration it does not tantamount to a “mixed supply” under GST.

Let us first understand the concept of mixed supply under GST

Section 2(74) of the CGST Act defines mixed supply as under:

“(74) “mixed supply” means two or more individual supplies of goods or services, or any combination thereof, made in conjunction with each other by a taxable person for a single price where such supply does not constitute a composite supply.”                     

To constitute a mixed supply, there has to be two or more supplies of goods or services and they have be in conjunction with each other. Therefore if the item in the bundle are neither goods nor services, it will not be considered a mixed supply under GST.

Let us understand the same with the help of an example. Suppose the assets being transferred to the buyer are plant & machinery, land and stock for a single price. Here there are more than one good transferred in the transaction. The bundle is not exclusively that of goods or services or both. The same will not qualify to be a mixed supply as land being transferred is excluded from the purview of GST (As per Schedule III of the GST Act which enumerates items which are neither supply of good nor supply of services).

Referring to the above example we may say that all legs of the definition should be satisfied for it to become a mixed supply. Merely because multiple items are sold for a single price should not, by the very fact render them as “mixed supply”. In so far as movable assets being concerned, it would be treated as supply of goods and is likely to attract GST.

Conclusion

Slump sale may be of an on-going business/unit or transfer of a stalled business/unit where the intent of the transferee is to run the entity. It can be said that that when there is a transfer of business and not of that of assets, in order to insulate from GST, it would require evaluation whether transfer is as a going concern or not.

The transaction of transfer of business as a whole of one of the units in the nature of going concern amounts to supply of service. The notification holds good, but subject to the condition that the unit is a going concern and therefore the same shall be free from the GST purview.

To summarise the above discussed concept

  • Transfer of business assets: Supply of goods
  • Transfer of business: Supply of Service
  • Transfer of business/ or a part thereof as a going concern : Supply of service and exempt via notification

Revival of companies will definitely be more cost effective than setting up a new structure altogether. Also this will give a push to the investors to take over such companies and create more job opportunities in India.

 


[1] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1182478/

[2] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/135651533/

[3]http://www.cbic.gov.in/resources//htdocscbec/gst/Notification12CGST.pdf;jsessionid=D5B61ED295EAEE2B9E0361CAE1525D0F

[4] http://gst.kar.nic.in/Documents/General/06_RAJASHREE_LIMITED.pdf

GST on assignment of receivables: Wrong path to the right destination

Team Vinod Kothari Consultants P. Ltd

 

There has been a lot of uncertainty on the issue of exigibility of direct assignments and securitisation transactions to goods and services tax (GST). While on one hand, there have been opinions that assignments of secured debts may be taxable being covered by the circuitous definition of “actionable claims”, there are other views holding such assignments of debts (secured or unsecured) to be non-taxable since an obligation to pay money is nothing but money, and hence, not  “goods” under the GST law[1]. The uncertainty was costing the market heavily[2].

In order to put diverging views to rest, the GST Council came out with a set of Frequently Asked Questions on Financial Services Sector[3], trying to clarify the position of some arguable issues pertaining to transactions undertaken in the financial sector. These FAQs include three separate (and interestingly, mutually unclear) questions on – (a) assignment or sale of secured or secured debts [Q.40], (b) whether assignment of secured debts constitutes a transaction in money [Q.41], and (c) securitisation transactions undertaken by banks [Q.65].

The end-result arising out of these questions is that there will be no GST on securitisation transactions. However, the GST Council has relied on some very intriguing arguments to come to this conclusion – seemingly lost between the meaning of “derivatives”, “securities”, and “actionable claims”. If one does not care about why we reached here, the conclusion is most welcome. However, the FAQs also reflect the serious lack of understanding of financial instruments with the Council, which may potentially create issues in the long run.

In this note[4] we intend to discuss the outcome of the FAQs, but before that let us first understand what the situation of the issue was before this clarification.

Situation before the clarification

  1. GST is chargeable on supply of goods or services or both. Goods have been defined in section 2(52) of the CGST Act in the following manner:

“(52) “goods” means every kind of movable property other than money and securities but includes actionable claim, growing crops, grass and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before supply or under a contract of supply;”

Services have been defined in section 2(102) of the CGST Act oin in the following manner:

““services” means anything other than goods, money and securities but includes activities relating to the use of money or its conversion by cash or by any other mode, from one form, currency or denomination, to another form, currency or denomination for which a separate consideration is charged;”

Money, is therefore, excludible from the scope of “goods” as well as “services”.

Section 7 details the scope of the expression “supply”. According to the section, “supply” includes “all forms of supply of goods or services or both such as sale, transfer, barter, exchange, licence, rental, lease or disposal made or agreed to be made for a consideration by a person in the course or furtherance of business.” However, activities as specified in Schedule III of the said Act shall not be considered as “supply”.

It may be noted here that “Actionable claims, other than lottery, betting and gambling” are enlisted in entry 6 of Schedule III of the said Act; therefore are not exigible to GST.

  1. There is no doubt that a “receivable” is a movable property. “Receivable” denotes something which one is entitled to receive. Receivable is therefore, a mirror image for “debt”. If a sum of money is receivable for A, the same sum of money must be a debt for B. A debt is an obligation to pay, a receivable is the corresponding right to receive.

Coming to the definition of “money”, it has been defined under section 2(75) as follows –

““money” means the Indian legal tender or any foreign currency, cheque, promissory note, bill of exchange, letter of credit, draft, pay order, traveller cheque, money order, postal or electronic remittance or any other instrument recognised by the Reserve Bank of India when used as a consideration to settle an obligation or exchange with Indian legal tender of another denomination but shall not include any currency that is held for its numismatic value.”

The definition above enlists all such instruments which have a “value-in-exchange”, so as to represent money. A debt also represents a sum of money and the form in which it can be paid can be any of these forms as enlisted above.

So, in effect, a receivable is also a sum of “money”. As such, receivables shall not be considered as “goods” or “services” for the purpose of GST law.

  1. As mentioned earlier, “actionable claims” have been included in the definition of “goods” under the CGST Act, however, any transfer (i.e. supply) of actionable claim is explicitly excluded from being treated as a supply of either goods or services for the purpose of levy of GST.

Section 2(1) of the CGST Act defines “actionable claim” so as to assign it the same meaning as in section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, which in turn, defines “actionable claim” as –

“actionable claim” means a claim to any debt, other than a debt secured by mortgage of immovable property or by hypothecation or pledge of movable property, or to any beneficial interest in movable property not in the possession, either actual or constructive, of the claimant, which the civil courts recognise as affording grounds for relief, whether such debt or beneficial interest be existent, accruing, conditional or contingent;”

It may be noted that the inclusion of “actionable claim” is still subject to the exclusion of “money” from the definition of “goods”. The definition of actionable claim travels beyond “claim to a debt” and covers “claim to any beneficial interest in movable property”. Therefore, an actionable claim is definitely more than a “receivable”. Hence, if the actionable claim represents property that is money, it can be held that such form of the actionable claim shall be excluded from the ambit of “goods”.

There were views in the industry which, on the basis of the definition above, distinguish between — (a) a debt secured by mortgage of immovable property, and a debt secured by hypothecation/pledge of movable property on one hand (which are excluded from the definition of actionable claim); and (b) an unsecured debt on the other hand. However, others opined that a debt, whether secured or unsecured, is after all a “debt”, i.e. a property in money; and thus can never be classified as “goods”. Therefore, the entire exercise of making a distinction between secured and unsecured debt may not be relevant at all.

In case it is argued that a receivable which is secured (i.e. a secured debt) shall come within the definition of “goods”, it must be noted that a security granted against a debt is merely a back-up, a collateral against default in repayment of debt.

  1. In one of the background materials on GST published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India[5], it has been emphasised that a transaction where a person merely slips into the shoes of another person, the same cannot be termed as supply. As such, unrestricted expansion of the expression “supply” should not be encouraged:

“. . . supply is not a boundless word of uncertain meaning. The inclusive part of the opening words in this clause may be understood to include everything that supply is generally understood to be PLUS the ones that are enlisted. It must be admitted that the general understanding of the world supply is but an amalgam of these 8 forms of supply. Any attempt at expanding this list of 8 forms of supply must be attempted with great caution. Attempting to find other forms of supply has not yielded results however, transactions that do not want to supply have been discovered. Transactions of assignment where one person steps into the shoes of another appears to slip away from the scope of supply as well as transactions where goods are destroyed without a transfer of any kind taking place.”

Also, as already stated, where the object is neither goods nor services, there is no question of being a supply thereof.

  1. Therefore, there was one school of thought which treated as assignment of secured receivables as a supply under the GST regime and another school of thought promoted a view which was contrary to the other one. To clarify the position, representations were made by some of the leading bankers and the Indian Securitisation Foundation.

Situation after the clarification

  1. The GST Council has discussed the issue of assignment and securitisation of receivables through different question, extracts have been reproduced below:

 

  1. Whether assignment or sale of secured or unsecured debts is liable to GST?

Section 2(52) of the CGST Act, 2017 defines ‘goods’ to mean every kind of movable property other than money and securities but includes actionable claim. Schedule III of the CGST Act, 2017 lists activities or transactions which shall be treated neither as a supply of goods nor a supply of services and actionable claims other than lottery, betting and gambling are included in the said Schedule. Thus, only actionable claims in respect of lottery, betting and gambling would be taxable under GST. Further, where sale, transfer or assignment of debts falls within the purview of actionable claims, the same would not be subject to GST.

Further, any charges collected in the course of transfer or assignment of a debt would be chargeable to GST, being in the nature of consideration for supply of services.

  1. Would sale, purchase, acquisition or assignment of a secured debt constitute a transaction in money?

Sale, purchase, acquisition or assignment of a secured debt does not constitute a transaction in money; it is in the nature of a derivative and hence a security.

  1. What is the leviability of GST on securitization transactions undertaken by banks?

Securitized assets are in the nature of securities and hence not liable to GST. However, if some service charges or service fees or documentation fees or broking charges or such like fees or charges are charged, the same would be a consideration for provision of services related to securitization and chargeable to GST.

 

  1. The fallacy starts with two sequential and separate questions: one dealing with securitisation and the other on assignment transactions. There was absolutely no need for incorporating separate questions for the two, since all securitisation transactions involve an assignment of debt.

 

  1. Next, the department in Question 40 has clarified that the assignment of actionable claims, other than lottery, betting and gambling forms a part of the list of exclusion under Schedule III of the CGST Act, therefore, are not subject to GST. This was apparent from the reading of law, therefore, there is nothing new in this.

 

However, the second part of the answer needs further discussion. The second part of the answer states that – any charges collected in the course of transfer or assignment of a debt would be chargeable to GST, being in the nature of consideration for supply of services.

There are multiple charges or fees associated in an assignment or securitisation transaction – such as  servicing fees or excess spread. While it is very clear that the GST will be chargeable on servicing fees charged by the servicer, there is still a confusion on whether GST will be charged on the excess spread or not. Typically, transactions are devised to give residuary sweep to the originator after servicing the PTCs. Therefore, there could be a challenge that sweep right is also a component of servicing fees or consideration for acting as a servicing agent. The meaning of consideration[6] under the CGST Act is consideration in any form and the nomenclature supports the intent of the transaction.

Since, the originator gets the excess spread, question may arise, if excess spread is in the nature of interest.  This indicates the need for proper structuring of transactions, to ensure that either the sweep right is structured as a security, or the same is structured as a right to interest. One commonly followed international structure is credit-enhancing IO strip. The IO strip has not been tried in Indian transactions, and recommendably this structure may alleviate concerns about GST being applied on the excess spread.

  1. Till now, whatever has been discussed was more or less settled before the clarification, question 41 settles the dispute on the contentious question of whether GST will be charged on assigned of secured debt. The answer to question 41 has compared sale, purchase, acquisition or assignment of secured debt with a derivative. The answer has rejected the view, held by the authors, that any right to a payment in money is money itself. The GST Council holds the view that the receivables are in the nature of derivatives, the transaction qualifies to be a security and therefore, exempt from the purview of supply of goods or supply of services.

While the intent of the GST Council is coming out very clear, but this view is lacking supporting logic. Neither the question discusses why assignments of secured receivables are not transactions in money, nor does it state why it is being treated as derivative.

Our humble submission in this regard is that assignment of secured receivables may not be treated as derivatives. The meaning of the term “derivatives” have been drawn from section 2(ac) of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, which includes the following –

(A) a security derived from a debt instrument, share, loan, whether secured or unsecured, risk instrument or contract for differences or any other form of security;

(B) a contract which derives its value from the prices, or index of prices, of underlying securities.

In the present case, assignment of receivables do not represent any security nor does it derive its value from anything else. The receivables themselves have an inherent value, which get assigned, the fact that it is backed a collateral security does not make any difference as the value of the receivables also factor the value of the underlying.

Even though the logic is not coming out clear, the intent of the Council is coming out clearly and the efforts made by the Council to clear out the ambiguities is really commendable.

 


[1] Refer: GST on Securitisation Transactions, by Nidhi Bothra, and Sikha Bansal, at  http://vinodkothari.com/blog/gst-on-securitisation-transactions-2/; pg. last visited on 06.06.2018

[2] At the recently concluded Seventh Securitisation Summit on 25th May, 2018, one leading originator confirmed that his company had kept transactions on hold in view of the GST uncertainty. It was widely believed that the dip in volumes in FY 2017-18 was primarily due to GST uncertainty.

[3] http://www.cbic.gov.in/resources//htdocs-cbec/gst/FAQs_on_Financial_Services_Sector.pdf

[4] Portions of this note have been adopted from the article – GST on Securitisation Transactions, by Nidhi Bothra and Sikha Bansal.

[5] http://idtc-icai.s3.amazonaws.com/download/pdf18/Volume-I(BGM-idtc).pdf; pg. last visited on 19.05.2018

[6] (31) “consideration” in relation to the supply of goods or services or both includes––

(a) any payment made or to be made, whether in money or otherwise, in respect of, in response to, or for the inducement of, the supply of goods or services or both, whether by the recipient or by any other person but shall not include any subsidy given by the Central Government or a State Government;

(b) the monetary value of any act or forbearance, in respect of, in response to, or for the inducement of, the supply of goods or services or both, whether by the recipient or by any other person but shall not include any subsidy given by the Central Government or a State Government:

Provided that a deposit given in respect of the supply of goods or services or both shall not be considered as payment made for such supply unless the supplier applies such deposit as consideration for the said supply;

GST on Securitisation Transactions

Nidhi Bothra

Sikha Bansal

finserv@vinodkothari.com

Transitioning into GST, assessing its impact on business and taking appropriate measures to bring about tax neutrality/ efficiency are the prime concern for all and sundry. GST also has an impact on the securitisation transactions in India which now happens to be Rs. 84,000 crores odd industry. In this Chapter we are broadly trying to deal with GST impact on securitisation of standard as well as non-performing assets and its various facets.

In India, securitisation is undertaken through the PTC route (issuance of pass-through certificates or direct assignments. The distinction is not relevant when we talk about securitisation of non-performing assets through asset reconstruction companies.

A.  GST implications on PTC transactions

The implications of GST will have to be mulled over at each stage of the securitisation  transaction. A securitisation transaction will have the following facets:

  1. Assignment of receivables by the originator to an SPV
  2. SPV acquiring receivables on discount
  3. SPV issuing PTCs to investors and servicing PTCs over the term
  4. Originator receives servicing fees for collections/ recovery of receivables
  5. Originator receives excess interest spread (EIS) in the transaction after servicing of the investors with the receivables collected.

There is one more issue of whether the SPV will be considered as a related person as defined under the CGST Act.

Below is a detailed analysis.

i.          Requisites of Taxability under GST

Section 9 of the CGST Act provides for levy and collection of CGST on all intra-State supplies of goods or services or both.

Hence, there must be “goods” or “services” or “both”, and the same shall be supplied.

“Goods” are defined in section 2(52) as –

“(52) “goods” means every kind of movable property other than money and securities but includes actionable claim, growing crops, grass and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before supply or under a contract of supply;”

“Services” are defined in section 2(102), as –

““services” means anything other than goods, money and securities but includes activities relating to the use of money or its conversion by cash or by any other mode, from one form, currency or denomination, to another form, currency or denomination for which a separate consideration is charged;”

Money, is therefore, excludible from the scope of “goods” as well as “services”.

Section 7 details the scope of the expression “supply”. According to the section, “supply” includes “all forms of supply of goods or services or both such as sale, transfer, barter, exchange, licence, rental, lease or disposal made or agreed to be made for a consideration by a person in the course or furtherance of business.” However, activities as specified in Schedule III of the said Act shall not be considered as “supply”.

It may be noted here that “Actionable claims, other than lottery, betting and gambling” are enlisted in entry 6 of Schedule III of the said Act; therefore are not exigible to GST.

The discussion below studies the nature of “receivables” and seeks to determine whether assignment of receivables will be treated as a supply of goods or services within the purview of the GST law.

Nature of “Receivables”

There is no doubt that a “receivable” is a movable property. “Receivable” denotes something which one is entitled to receive. Receivable is therefore, a mirror image for “debt”. If a sum of money is receivable for A, the same sum of money must be a debt for B. A debt is an obligation to pay, a receivable is the corresponding right to receive.

A “debt” is a sum of money which is now payable or will become payable in the future by reason of a present obligation, depitum in praesenti, solvendum in future.  See, Web v. Stendon, (1883) 11 Q.B.D. 518, 572; Kesoram Industries and Cotton Mills Ltd. v. CWT, 1966 AIR 1370 : 1966 SCR (2) 688.

Coming to the definition of “money”, it has been defined under section 2(75) as follows –

“money” means the Indian legal tender or any foreign currency, cheque, promissory note, bill of exchange, letter of credit, draft, pay order, traveller cheque, money order, postal or electronic remittance or any other instrument recognised by the Reserve Bank of India when used as a consideration to settle an obligation or exchange with Indian legal tender of another denomination but shall not include any currency that is held for its numismatic value.”

The definition above enlists all such instruments which have a “value-in-exchange”, so as to represent money. A debt also represents a sum of money and the form in which it can be paid can be any of these forms as enlisted above.

So, in effect, a receivable is also a sum of “money”. As such, receivables shall not be considered as “goods” or “services” for the purpose of GST law.

ii.  Receivables vis-à-vis Actionable Claims

As mentioned earlier, “actionable claims” have been included in the definition of “goods” under the CGST Act, however, any transfer (i.e. supply) of actionable claim is explicitly excluded from being treated as a supply of either goods or services for the purpose of levy of GST.

Section 2(1) of the CGST Act defines “actionable claim” so as to assign it the same meaning as in section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, which in turn, defines “actionable claim” as –

“actionable claim” means a claim to any debt, other than a debt secured by mortgage of immovable property or by hypothecation or pledge of movable property, or to any beneficial interest in movable property not in the possession, either actual or constructive, of the claimant, which the civil courts recognise as affording grounds for relief, whether such debt or beneficial interest be existent, accruing, conditional or contingent;”

It may be noted that the inclusion of “actionable claim” is still subject to the exclusion of “money” from the definition of “goods”. The definition of actionable claim travels beyond “claim to a debt” and covers “claim to any beneficial interest in movable property”. Therefore, an actionable claim is definitely more than a “receivable”. Hence, if the actionable claim represents property that is money, it can be held that such form of the actionable claim shall be excluded from the ambit of “goods”.

There are views which, on the basis of the definition above, distinguish between — (a) a debt secured by mortgage of immovable property, and a debt secured by hypothecation/pledge of movable property on one hand (which are excluded from the definition of actionable claim); and (b) an unsecured debt on the other hand. However, the author opines that a debt, whether secured or unsecured, is after all a “debt”, i.e. a property in money; and thus can never be classified as “goods”. Therefore, the entire exercise of making a distinction between secured and unsecured debt may not be relevant at all.

In case it is argued that a receivable which is secured (i.e. a secured debt) shall come within the definition of “goods”, it must be noted that a security granted against a debt is merely a back-up, a collateral against default in repayment of debt.

iii.   Assignment of receivables as “Supply”

Though, the fact that a debt is merely a representation of “money” and therefore there is no question of any “supply” under the GST law, yet it is important to study the scope of the word “supply” in this context.

In one of the background materials on GST published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India[1], it has been emphasised that a transaction where a person merely slips into the shoes of another person, the same cannot be termed as supply. As such, unrestricted expansion of the expression “supply” should not be encouraged:

“. . . supply is not a boundless word of uncertain meaning. The inclusive part of the opening words in this clause may be understood to include everything that supply is generally understood to be PLUS the ones that are enlisted. It must be admitted that the general understanding of the world supply is but an amalgam of these 8 forms of supply. Any attempt at expanding this list of 8 forms of supply must be attempted with great caution. Attempting to find other forms of supply has not yielded results however, transactions that do not want to supply have been discovered. Transactions of assignment where one person steps into the shoes of another appears to slip away from the scope of supply as well as transactions where goods are destroyed without a transfer of any kind taking place.”

A simple example of assignment of receivable is – A sells goods to B. B owes a certain sum of money to A. This sum of money is “receivable” in the hands of A. A has the right to get that sum from B. A decides to pass that right to C. He therefore, assigns the receivable to C, for a certain consideration. Therefore, A is actually passing on the benefits under the contract with B, to C. C is merely stepping into the shoes of A. There is no separate supply as such.

Also, as already stated, where the object is neither goods nor services, there is no question of being a supply thereof.

iv.     Servicing Fees

Typical to a securitisation transaction is that the originator continues to do the collection of receivables from the obligors for and on behalf of the SPV. The originator, therefore acts as a servicing agent and charges a servicing fees.

Under the current tax regime, servicing fees was subject to 15% service tax, charged by the originator to the SPV. The SPV would typically not be able to claim set off and this would be a sunk cost.

This cost under the GST regime goes up to 18%. Therefore if the servicing fee is 50 basis points, the increase in cost is 9 basis points. Since SPV cannot claim the set off, the GST is a dead loss.

In India, the typical servicing fee charged is 25 basis points. Whether or not the consideration for taxable supply of service is reasonable would depend upon the type of a pool. For instance, if the pool is a microfinance pool or a granular pool, it may not seem reasonable to charge a servicing of 25 bps as against a car loan pool. Therefore, where the servicing fee does not seem at arm’s-length, it may be challenged that servicing fees is not adequate consideration or the only consideration for collection of receivables.

Further, if it was to be contested that the SPV is a related person to the originator as defined under the CGST Act, then the servicing fees charged could be subject to valuation rules which will subject the servicing fees to reasonable determination of value of such supply of service by the assessing officer.

v.   SPV a related person?

One of the issues during securitisation transaction structuring is to ensure that an SPV is a distinct entity from legal and accounting perspective. It would be relevant to have independence established of the SPV from tax perspective as well.

The definition of related persons under CGST is as follows:

For the purposes of this Act,––

(a) persons shall be deemed to be “related persons” if––

(i) such persons are officers or directors of one another’s businesses;

(ii) such persons are legally recognised partners in business;

(iii) such persons are employer and employee;

(iv) any person directly or indirectly owns, controls or holds twenty-five per cent. or more of the outstanding voting stock or shares of both of them;

(v) one of them directly or indirectly controls the other;

(vi) both of them are directly or indirectly controlled by a third person;

(vii) together they directly or indirectly control a third person; or

(viii) they are members of the same family;

(b) the term “person” also includes legal persons;

(c) persons who are associated in the business of one another in that one is the sole agent or sole distributor or sole concessionaire, howsoever described, of the other, shall be deemed to be related

One of the ways of establishing that the SPV and the originator are related persons, is by establishing control by the originator. The term control has not been defined under CGST and therefore, one may have to rely on accounting tests for control.

As per the accounting standards, if the originator is controlling the SPV, it would lead to consolidation thereby frustrating the purpose of doing securitisation itself.

So, to avoid consolidation it is pertinent to avoid control by the originator over the SPV. If there is no control, the other parameters for falling into related person definition could be meandered.

However, if the transaction structure was such that control could be established then the transaction is subject to arm’s-length test and valuation rules.

vi. Treatment of EIS component

Another critical issue in structuring securitisation transactions is how the excess interest spread or EIS will be swept by the originator from the transaction. Typically, transactions are devised to give residuary sweep to the originator after servicing the PTCs. Therefore there could be a challenge that EIS is also a component of servicing fees or consideration for acting as a servicing agent. The meaning of consideration[2] under the CGST Act is consideration in any form and the nomenclature supports the intent of the transaction.

Since, the originator gets excess spread, question may arise, if excess spread is in the nature of interest. Therefore it is important to structure excess spread as IO strip.

Going forward it would be rather recommendable that the sweep of excess spread is structured as IO strip. Since it is interest only.

vii.  Servicing of PTCs

Another facet of securitisation transaction that needs attention from GST perspective, is taxability of servicing of coupon and repayment of PTCs. PTCs being securities, servicing of securities is exempt from applicability of GST.

viii.   GST on Securitisation – Global Overview

Since the Indian GST law is largely inspired by EU VAT laws, it would be quite relevant to go through UK and EU precedents pertaining to securitization and factoring transactions. It is important to understand that in every loan sale, securitization, factoring or assignment of receivables, the common thread is the assignment of receivables. Hence, if the assignment of receivables is taken as a “supply”, then, in each of these cases, there would be a question of applying VAT on the entire turnover, that is, the entire consideration involved in the supply of receivables.

In UK, a distinction is drawn between “sale of debt” and “assignment of debt”. The sale of a debt is a financial transaction, whereby the purchaser acquires ownership of debts from a creditor, at a nominal sum to the face value of the debts. The purchaser assumes all the rights and obligations of the original creditor and all legal and beneficial or equitable interest passes to the buyer to whom full title and risk is transferred. However, in an assignment only the equitable interest is passed to the assignee and the assignor retains the legal interest in the debt and any liability to obligations arising from the original contract. Often it will not be possible for the assignee to sell that which has been assigned.

The distinction is akin to the distinction between “assignment of a contract” and “assignment of benefits under contract” as pointed out in the article titled, “Law of Assignment of Receivables”, Vinod Kothari[3].

The sale of a debt is exempt from VAT under the VAT Act 1994, Schedule 9, Group 5, item 1. And, the assignment or re-assignment of a debt is not a supply for VAT purposes[4].

In Finanzamt Gross Gerau v. MKG Kraftfahrzeuge Factory GmbH[5], the European Court of Justice had to examine whether, in case of factoring transaction, VAT was applicable on the entire turnover of receivables, or was it applicable only on the commission charged by the factor for the assumption of the risk of default or other services of the factor. In this ruling, the ECJ held factoring to be an economic activity, by way of exploitation of the debts to earn an income by providing a service to the factor’s clients; however, it is not the debt itself which is a supply, but the commission charged by the factor.

In MBNA Europe Bank v. Revenue and Customs Commissioners[6], (2006) All ER (D) 104 (Sep); [2006] EWHC 2326 (Ch) , the Chancery Court discussed whether a credit card securitization amounts to a taxable supply for VAT purposes.  After elaborate discussion on the nature of securitization, and referring to findings of lower authorities that securitization is nothing but a sophisticated form of borrowing, the Chancery Court held that the assignment of receivables in a securitization was not a supply at all.

The position thus held by Courts is well accepted by the administration itself. UK HMRC’s Internal Manual clearly puts the tax position on securitization as follows:

The assignment of the assets by the originator

The assignment of the receivables by the originator to the SPV is not a supply for VAT purposes. It is simply the fulfilment of a pre- condition so that the SPV can provide its ‘securitisation’ service.

The issue of securities to fund the purchase of the assets

The issue of a security for the purposes of raising capital is not a supply for VAT purposes (see VATFIN4250).

The administration of the assets

The servicer is the entity that deals with the receivables on a day to day basis, administering and collecting them and transferring the funds to the SPV, normally whilst maintaining the original contract with the underlying debtors.  The servicer will receive a fee for this service from the SPV which is generally set at a percentage of the aggregate balance of the loans/receivables or the funds collected. The servicer services are supplies to the SPV in the course of an economic activity and the servicer fee is consideration for that supply.

B.  GST implications on Direct Assignment transactions

In case of direct assignment, as in case of PTCs transaction, the assignment of receivables will be tax exempt (going by the same rationale, as in case of securitisation transactions).

The servicing fees charged to the buyer, would be subject to GST. The only reprieve here being that the buyer would be a bank or an NBFC and would be able to claim set off on the GST levied.

C.  GST implications on sale of Non-Performing Loans (NPLs)

In case of sale of NPLs to an asset reconstruction company (ARC), the receivables are acquired by a trust floated by an ARC. The receivables usually are not on the books of the ARC directly.

In case of ARCs, it would be a very strong contention that the trust of the ARC is a related person to the ARC and therefore the management fees, the carry amount etc charged by the managers would be subject to valuation rules.

With regard to the security receipts (SRs) issued by the ARCs, the taxability of such SRs would be the same as in case of PTCs, as both are securities and therefore not falling under taxable supply.

D. Conclusion

It is established that the GST regime requires mollification in the existing transaction structures such that tax inefficiency in the change of regime can be avoided.

It is important that we understand these nuances to avoid tax litigations at a later stage.

The securitisation industry as gone through several rounds of regulatory changes – some favourable and some not. From change in the regulatory guidelines of RBI to distribution tax applicability and subsequent roll-over. There have been several seasons of changes to come to some momentum as on date.

Therefore it is important to take cognizance of the changes and make the appropriate stitch now to save the nine later!

 

[1] http://idtc-icai.s3.amazonaws.com/download/pdf18/Volume-I(BGM-idtc).pdf; pg. last visited on 19.05.2018

[2] (31) “consideration” in relation to the supply of goods or services or both includes––

(a) any payment made or to be made, whether in money or otherwise, in respect of, in response to, or for the inducement of, the supply of goods or services or both, whether by the recipient or by any other person but shall not include any subsidy given by the Central Government or a State Government;

(b) the monetary value of any act or forbearance, in respect of, in response to, or for the inducement of, the supply of goods or services or both, whether by the recipient or by any other person but shall not include any subsidy given by the Central Government or a State Government:

Provided that a deposit given in respect of the supply of goods or services or both shall not be considered as payment made for such supply unless the supplier applies such deposit as consideration for the said supply;

[3] http://vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Law-of-Assignment-of-Receivables-Vinod-Kothari.pdf; pg. last visited on 19.05.2018

[4] https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/vat-finance-manual/vatfin3215; pg. last visited on 19.05.2018

[5]http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/EUECJ/2003/C30501.html; pg. last visited on 19.05.2018

[6] http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2006/2326.html; pg. last visited on 19.05.2018

Despite economic slowdown due to GST, the Indian securitization market performed fairly well

25th GST Meeting- Making GST Business-compliant

By Mayank Agarwal (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The 25th meeting of the GST Council held on 18th January, 2018 has shown that the Government has not turned a blind eye to the pleas of the industry and is willing to cooperate with them to make GST a more simplified and business-compliant structure of the Indirect Taxation System.

The amount of GST revenue for the month of December reflected a reversal in trend for the first time since its inception, recording an increase in the revenue generated. However, there were still widespread concerns about the alarmingly low collection under the Composition Scheme. Hence, amendments to the Composition Scheme structure and the guidelines relating to the implementation of E-Way Bill took the centre stage during the meeting.

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GST Council brings down the rate of GST on used cars, besides others

By Abhirup Ghosh, (abhirup@vinodkothari.com, finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The GST Council met for the 25th time on 18th January, 2018 to modify the GST law in order to tackle the difficulties being faced in the market. The Council recommended several changes to the law among and one of the change that has can cause a significant impact on the vehicle industry is reduction of rate of tax on sale or purchase of used motor vehicles. Read more

Major rejig in the GST law with respect to car leasing/ renting business

GST Division, (gst@vinodkothari.com)

 

Introduction

Vehicle leasing business in India has been gaining popularity ever since its inception in the year 2005. In the past few years, the industry has picked up pace and become the preferred mode of procuring a vehicle given its temporary and simplistic structure. The vehicle leasing market in India is estimated to be worth around Rs. 1500 crores, with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 15-20%.[1] Although the market is scattered in nature, with around 30 companies in India carrying out the business of vehicle leasing, companies such as LeasePlan, Tranzlease, Orix India are some of the established players in this market. With a high percentage of working age population of around 925 million by 2020, and 70% of compact car owners belonging to an age group of below 35 years, the Indian vehicle leasing market has the potential to double its value in the coming 3 to 5 years.[2] While the core business of leasing companies in India involves leasing to corporations who provide the vehicles to their employees, the booming cab sector is also another area forms a chunk of their portfolio. Read more

GST and CSR Expenditure

Vallari Dubey

finserv@vinodkothari.com

 

Introduction

Indian companies, especially public and listed companies are actively engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) activities. Moreover, since the introduction of Companies Act, 2013, the law has mandated compulsory CSR expenditure for a specific class of companies. In the recent months, with the advent of GST, life of corporates has experienced all sorts of challenges in terms of operational flexibility and cost. One such aspect that has not been shed much light on, is the impact of GST on CSR activities and expenditure thereon by the companies. To understand this better, we take a scenario of donating water purifiers as part of a Company’s CSR policy. In this article, we try to detail out the analysis of such scenario by studying the provisions of GST and Companies Act, 2013. Read more

GST Rates on services relating to Motor Vehicles

By GST Division (gst@vinodkothari.com)

 

The GST rates assigned for transaction in relation to motor vehicle is summarized in the below table:

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