The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has castigated the Income-Tax Department for extending tax exemption amounting to hundreds of crores to several companies by inappropriately extending benefits available for infrastructure projects.
In a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the CAG said the biggest beneficiary was Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL).
“We noticed in eight cases in two States that the ITD [Income-Tax Department] allowed deduction in respect of profits derived from ‘railway sidings/jetties’ constructed and operated by the assesses for their private purposes, which did not qualify to be treated as infrastructure facilities in terms of explanation to Section 80 IA(4). Irregular allowance of deduction in these cases had attracted a tax effect of Rs. 2,066.7 crore,” the report said. Reliance Ports & Terminals Ltd., an arm of the RIL, was allowed an aggregate deduction of Rs. 5,245.38 crore from 2006-07 to 2011-12 “as claimed, without examining the eligibility criteria for allowance of the deduction in the assessment orders”, it said.
The report said the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) had entered into an agreement with the Reliance group on July 28, 1999, for construction of four captive jetties at Port Sikka near its refinery complex in Gujarat, with a condition that captive jetties were meant for landing and shipping of captive industrial raw materials by the Reliance group companies.
“Since jetties were captively used by the assessee company and not for public purposes, the deduction allowed was not in order,” the audit report pointed out.
“The irregular allowance of deduction by the AO has resulted in under-assessment of income of Rs. 5,245.38 crore involving a tax effect of Rs. 1,766.74 crore,” the CAG said.
The CAG dismissed the I-T department’s argument that the I-T Act did not distinguish “public facility” and “private facility” for claiming the deduction under section 80IA.
The audit also pointed out that Essel Mining & Industries Limited, part of the Aditya Birla group, was provided over Rs. 73 crore tax benefits between 2010 and 2013 though the infrastructure it developed was for private use.
The CAG pointed out that Section 80IA deduction is not allowed on private and captive facilities.