Voluntary disclosure does not release assessee from mischief of penal proceedings under section 271(1)(c)
UPREME COURT OF INDIA
MAK Data (P.) Ltd.
Commissioner of Income-tax – II
OCTOBER 30, 2013
Under Explanation 1 to s. 271(1)(c), voluntary disclosure of concealed income does not absolve assessee of s. 271(1)(c) penalty if the assessee fails to offer an explanation which is bona fide and proves that all the material facts have been disclosed
The assessee filed a return of income for AY 2004-05 declaring an income of Rs.16 lakhs. During the course of the assessment proceedings, the AO noticed certain documents comprising of share application forms, bank statements, blank share transfer deeds etc had been impounded in the course of s. 133A survey proceedings conducted in the case of the assessee's. The AO sought specific information regarding the documents from the assessee. In reply to the show-cause notice, the assessee made an offer to surrender Rs.40.74 lakhs with a view to avoid litigation and buy peace and to make an amicable settlement of the dispute. The AO assessed the said sum of Rs.40.74 lakhs to tax and levied penalty u/s 271(1)(c) for concealment of income and not furnishing true particulars. This was upheld by the CIT(A) though the Tribunal reversed it on the ground that the surrender was without admitting any concealment. On appeal by the department, the High Court (87 DTR 172 (Del)) reversed the Tribunal on the ground that as there was absolutely no explanation by the assessee for the concealed income of Rs.40.74 lakhs, the first part of clause (A) of Explanation 1 to s. 271(1)(c) is attracted. On appeal by the assessee to the Supreme Court HELD dismissing the appeal:
(i) The Tribunal has not properly understood or appreciated the scope of Explanation 1 to s. 271(1)(c). The AO shall not be carried away by the plea of the assessee like "voluntary disclosure", "buy peace", "avoid litigation", "amicable settlement", etc. to explain away its conduct. The question is whether the assessee has offered any explanation for concealment of particulars of income or furnishing inaccurate particulars of income. Explanation to s. 271(1) raises a presumption of concealment, when a difference is noticed by the AO, between reported and assessed income. The burden is then on the assessee to show otherwise, by cogent and reliable evidence. When the initial onus placed by the explanation, has been discharged by him, the onus shifts on the Revenue to show that the amount in question constituted the income and not otherwise;
(ii) The assessee has only stated that he had surrendered the additional sum of Rs.40.74 lakhs with a view to avoid litigation, buy peace and to channelize the energy and resources towards productive work and to make amicable settlement with the income tax department. The statute does not recognize those types of defences under Explanation 1 to s. 271(1)(c) of the Act. It is trite law that the voluntary disclosure does not release the assessee from the mischief of penal proceedings. The law does not provide that when an assessee makes a voluntary disclosure of his concealed income, he had to be absolved from penalty;
(iii) On facts, the surrender of income is not voluntary in the sense that the offer of surrender was made in view of detection made by the AO in the search conducted in the sister concern of the assessee. In that situation, it cannot be said that the surrender of income was voluntary. AO during the course of assessment proceedings has noticed that certain documents comprising of share application forms, bank statements etc have been impounded in the course of survey proceedings u/s 133A conducted in the case of the assessee's sister concern. The survey was conducted more than 10 months before the assessee filed its return of income. Had it been the intention of the assessee to make full and true disclosure of its income, it would have filed the return declaring an income inclusive of the amount which was surrendered later during the course of the assessment proceedings. Consequently, it is clear that the assessee had no intention to declare its true income;
(iv) It is the statutory duty of the assessee to record all its transactions in the books of account, to explain the source of payments made by it and to declare its true income in the return of income filed by it from year to year. The AO has recorded a categorical finding that he was satisfied that the assessee had concealed true particulars of income and is liable for penalty proceedings u/s 271 read with s. 274 of the Act;
(v) The AO has to satisfy himself whether penalty proceedings be initiated or not during the course of the assessment proceedings. He is not required to record his satisfaction in a particular manner or reduce it into writing. The scope of s. 271(1)(c) has also been elaborately discussed by the Supreme Court in UOI vs. Dharmendra Textile Processors 306 ITR 277 (SC) and CIT vs. Atul Mohan Bindal 317 ITR 1 (SC). The principle laid down by this Court has been correctly followed by the Revenue and there is no illegality in the department initiating penalty proceedings in the instant case.