Section 115-O provides that, in addition to the income-tax chargeable in respect of the total income of a domestic company, any amount declared, distributed or paid by way of dividends shall be charged to additional income-tax at the rate of 15 per cent. The tax so paid by the company (called DDT) is treated as the final payment of tax in respect of the amount declared, distributed or paid by way of dividend. Such dividend referred to in section 115-O is exempt in the hands of shareholders under clause (34) of section 10. In case of business trust, specific exemption is provided under sub-section (7) of section 115-O, subject to certain conditions. Similarly, exemption is provided for distributed profits of a unit of an International Financial Service Centre, on fulfilment of certain conditions, under sub-section (8) of section 115-O.
Similarly under section 115R, specified companies and Mutual Funds are liable to pay additional income-tax at the specified rate on any amount of income distributed by them to its unit holders. Such income is then exempt in the hands of unit holders under clause (35) of section 10.
The incidence of tax is, thus, on the payer company/Mutual Fund and not on the recipient, where it should normally be.
The dividend is income in the hands of the shareholders and not in the hands of the company. The incidence of the tax should therefore, be on the recipient. Moreover, the present provisions levy tax at a flat rate on the distributed profits, across the board irrespective of the marginal rate at which the recipient is otherwise taxed. The provisions are hence, considered, iniquitous and regressive. The present system of taxation of dividend in the hands of company/ mutual funds was reintroduced by the Finance Act, 2003 (with effect from the assessment year 2004-05) since it was easier to collect tax at a single point and the new system was leading to increase in compliance burden. However, with the advent of technology and easy tracking system available, the justification for current system of taxation of dividend has outlived itself.
In view of above, it is proposed to carry out amendments so that dividend or income from units are taxable in the hands of shareholders or unit holders at the applicable rate and the domestic company or specified company or mutual funds are not required to pay any DDT. It is also proposed to provide that the deduction for expense under section 57 of the Act shall be maximum 20 per cent of the dividend or income from units. Therefore, it is proposed to-
(i) amend section 115-O to provide that dividend declared, distributed or paid after 1st April, 2003, but on or before 31st March, 2020 shall be covered under the provision of this section.
(ii) amend clause (34) of section 10 to provide that the provision of this clause shall not apply to any income, by way of dividend, received on or after 1st April, 2020.
(iii) amend section 115R to provide that the income distributed on or before 31st March, 2020 shall only be covered under the provision of this section.
(iv) amend clause (35) of section 10 to provide that the provision of this clause shall not apply to any income, in respect of units, received on or after 1st April, 2020.
(v) amend clause (23FC) of section 10 so that all dividends received or receivable by business trust from a special purpose vehicle is exempt income under this clause.
(vi) amend clause (23FD) of section 10 to exclude dividend income received by a unit holder from business trust from the exemption so that the dividend income is taxable in the hand of unit holder of the business trust.
(vii) amend sub-section (3) of section 115UA to delete reference to sub-clause (a) so that distributed income of the nature as referred to in clause (23FC) or clause (23FCA) of section 10 shall be deemed to be income of the unit holder and shall be charged to tax as income of the previous year. Thus dividend income distributed by a special purpose vehicle to business trust would be taxed in the hands of unit holder.
(viii) remove reference of section 115-O dividend income in various sections like section 57, section 115A, section 115AC, section 115ACA, section 115AD and section 115C.
(ix) remove the opening line of clause (23D) of section 10, as mutual fund no longer required to pay additional tax.
(x) insert new section 80M as it existed before it removal by the Finance Act, 2003 to remove the cascading affect, with a change that set off will be allowed only for dividend distributed by the company one month prior to the due date of filing of return, in place of due date of filing return earlier.
(xi) amend section 115BBDA which taxes dividend income in excess of ten lakh rupee in the hands of shareholder at ten per cent., to only dividend declared, distributed or paid by a domestic company on or before the 31st day of March, 2020.
(xii) amend section 57 to provide that no deduction shall be allowed from dividend income, or income in respect of units of mutual fund or specified company, other than deduction on account of interest expense and in any previous year such deduction shall not exceed twenty per cent. of the dividend income or income from units included in the total income for that year without deduction under section 57.
(xiii) amend section 194 to include dividend for tax deduction. At the same time the rates of ten per cent. is proposed to be prescribed and threshold is proposed to be increased from Rs 2,500/- to Rs 5,000/- for dividend paid other than cash. Further, at present the mode of payment is given as “an account payee cheque or warrant”. It is proposed to change this to any mode.
(xiv) amend section 194LBA to provide for tax deduction by business trust on dividend income paid to unit holder, at the rate of ten per cent. for resident. For non-resident, it would be 5 per cent for interest and ten per cent. for dividend.
(xv) insert a new section 194K to provide that any person responsible for paying to a resident any income in respect of units of a Mutual Fund specified under clause (23D) of section 10 or units from the administrator of the specified undertaking or units from the specified company shall at the time of credit of such income to the account of the payee or at the time of payment thereof by any mode, whichever is earlier, deduct income-tax there on at the rate of ten per cent. It may also be provided for threshold limit of Rs 5,000/- so that income below this amount does not suffer tax deduction. It is also proposed to defined “Administrator”, “specified company”, as already defined in clause (35) of section 10. It is also proposed to define “specified undertaking” as in clause (i) of section 2 of the Unit Trust of India (Transfer of Undertaking and Repeal) Act, 2002. It is also proposed to provide that where any income is credited to any account like suspense account, in the books of account of the person liable to pay such income, the liability for tax deduction under this section would arise at that time.
(xvi) amend section 195 to delete exemption provided to dividend referred to in section 115-O.
(xvii) amend section 196A to revive its applicability on TDS on income in respect of units of a Mutual Fund. It is also proposed to substitute “of the Unit Trust of India” with “from the specified company defined in Explanation to clause (35) of section 10”and “in cash or by the issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode” with “by any mode”.
(xviii) amend section 196C to remove exclusion provided to dividend under section 115-O. It is also proposed to substitute “in cash or by the issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode” with “by any mode”.
(xix) amend section 196D to remove exclusion provided to dividend under section 115-O. It is also proposed to substitute “in cash or by the issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode” with “by any mode”.
Amendments at clause (i) to (xii) above will take effect from 1st April, 2021 and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the assessment year 2021-22 and subsequent assessment years. Amendments at clause (xiii) to (xix) will take effect from 1st April, 2020.