Authority for Advance Ruling

The scheme of advance rulings was introduced by the Finance Act, 1993, Chapter XIX-B of the Income-tax Act, which deals with advance rulings, came into force with effect from 1-6-1993. Under the scheme, the power of giving advance rulings has been entrusted to an independent adjudicatory body. Accordingly, a high level body headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court has been set up. This is empowered to issue rulings, which are binding both on the Income-tax Department and the applicant. The procedure prescribed is simple, inexpensive, expeditious and authoritative.

Advance Ruling, means written opinion or authoritative decision by an Authority empowered to render it with regard to the tax consequences of a transaction or proposed transaction or an assessment in regard thereto. It has been defined in section 245N(a) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 as amended from time to time. Under section 245N, a ruling can be obtained by an applicant (who may be either a non-resident or a resident having a transaction with a non-resident) in respect of any question of law or fact in relation to the tax liability of the non-resident arising out of a transaction undertaken or proposed to be undertaken.

Salient features:—
a. Available only for Income-tax: The procedure of advance ruling is available only under the Income-tax Act, 1961.

b. Must relate to a transaction entered into or proposed to be entered into by the applicant. The advance ruling is to be given on questions specified in relation to such a transaction by the applicant.

c. Questions on which ruling can be sought:

i. Even though the word used in the definition is the word "question", it is clear that the non-resident can raise more than one question in one application. This has been made amply clear by Column No. 8 of the form of application for obtaining an advance ruling (Form No. 34C)

ii. Though the word "question" is unqualified, it is only proper to read it as a reference to questions of law or fact, pertaining to the income tax liability of the non-resident qua the transaction undertaken or proposed to be undertaken.

iii. The question may be on points of law as well as on fact; therefore, mixed questions of law and fact can also be included in the application. The questions should be so drafted that each question is capable of a brief answer. This may need breaking-up of complex question into two or more simple questions.

iv. The questions should arise out of the statement of facts given with the application. No ruling will be given on a purely hypothetical question. No question not specified in the application can be urged. Normally a question is not allowed to be amended but in deserving cases the Authority may allow amendment of one or more questions.

v. Subject to the limitations to be presently referred to, the question may relate to any aspect of the non-resident's liability including international aspects and aspects governed by double tax agreements. The questions may even cover aspects of allied laws that may have a bearing on tax liability such as the law of contracts, the law of trusts and the like, but the question must have a direct bearing, on and nexus with the interpretation of the Indian Income-tax Act.

d. Time limit for ruling: - The Authority shall pronounce it advance ruling within 6 months of receipt of the application.

e. Binding nature of advance ruling: - The effect of the ruling is stated to be limited to the parties appear before the authority and the transaction in relation to which the ruling was given. This is because the ruling was rendered on a set of facts before the Authority and can not be of general application.

Question precluded: Under section 245R, certain restrictions have been imposed on the admissibility of an application, if the question concerned is pending before other authorities. According to it, the authority shall not allow an application where the question raised by the non-resident applicant (or a resident applicant having transaction with a non-resident) is already pending before any income-tax authority or appellate Tribunal or any court of law. Further, the authority shall not allow the application where the question raised in it:-

i.  involves determination of fair market value of any property; or

ii. it relates to a transaction or issue which is designed prima facie for the avoidance of income-tax.

Procedure of application for advance ruling: An applicant desirous of obtaining an advance ruling should apply to the Authority in the prescribed form stating the question on which the ruling is sought. The application has to be made in quadruplicate in Form Nos:-

34C  -  applicable for a non-resident applicant
34D - applicable for a resident having transactions with a non-resident.

The application is to be accompanied by an account payee demand draft for 2,500 Indian rupees drawn in favour of the Authority for Advance Rulings and made payable at New Delhi. The application may be withdrawn within 30 days from the date of the application.

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