Category Archives: Articles

Contract Labour: Principal Employers Responsibilities

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (the “Act”) is one of the most significant labour legislations in India as the objective of the Act is to prevent exploitation of blue-collar workers and ensure facilitation of better conditions of work for them. One of the significant stakeholders, under this legislation, are the ‘principal employers’, who may not always be completely aware of their specific obligations under the legislation. However, the role of principal employers is very important for better implementation of the Act. In view of this, we have attempted to provide a brief overview of how principal employers can be more compliant under the contract labour legislation and ensure effectiveness of the regime.

Some of the important provisions and definitions under the Act are reflected below for ease of reference:-

Applicability of the Act

The Act applies to every establishment in which 20 or more workmen are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months as contract labour and to every contractor, who employs or has employed 20 or more workmen on any day of preceding 12 months[1]. This threshold for applicability, however, varies in certain states. For instance, in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, the Act becomes applicable only if 50 or more workmen are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months as contract labour[2]. In West Bengal, on the other hand, the Act applies to every establishment employing 10 or more workmen[3]. Also, the Act is not applicable to establishments in which work only of an intermittent or casual nature is performed.

Who is a Principal Employer?

As per Section 2 (1) (g) of the Act, a principal employer would mean and include the head of any government or local authority; the ‘owner’ or ‘occupier’ or ‘manager’ of a factory (under the Factories Act, 1948); owner, agent or manager of a mine; or any person responsible for the supervision and control in an establishment. Establishment means any office or department of the Government or local authority or any place where industry, trade, business, manufacture, or occupation is being carried on[4].

Every principal employer to whom the Act becomes applicable has to take registration under the Act. In the event the principal employer does not obtain registration as required under the Act, he shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 3 months or with fine which may extend to Rs. 1,000/- or with both and in case of continuing contravention, there will be an additional fine of Rs. 100/- for every day during which such contravention continues after conviction for the first such contravention. If the principal employer liable to be punished under the Act is a company, the company as well as every person in charge of, and responsible to, the company for the conduct of its business at the time of commission of the offence shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly unless any such person can prove that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence.

Who is a Contractor?

As per Section 2 (1) (c) of the Act, a contractor would mean any person, who supplies contract labour for any work of an establishment and includes a sub-contractor. Every contractor to whom the Act applies has to take license under the Act.

 Who is a Workman and what is Contract Labour?

The definition of ‘workman’ under the Act includes any person employed in or in connection with the work of any establishment to do any skilled, semiskilled or un-skilled manual, supervisory, technical or clerical work for hire or reward, whether the terms of employment be express or implied, but excludes certain categories as such[5]. As per section 2 (1) (b) of the Act, “a workman shall be deemed to be employed as ‘contract labour’ in or in connection with the work of an establishment when he is hired in or in connection with such work by or through a contractor, with or without the knowledge of the principal employer”.

Certain Important Obligations of a Principal Employer

  • With the objective of improving the working conditions of contract labour, the Act has various provisions for providing basic facilities/ amenities to contract labour such as canteens, rest-rooms, first aid facilities, etc. The liability to provide these facilities are on the contractor. However, in the event a contractor does not provide these facilities to the contract workers, the liability is on the principal employer to provide these facilities. Any expenses incurred by a principal employer in providing these facilities to the contract labour can be recovered from the contractor.
  • The Act also imposes an obligation on the contractor to pay the wages to the contract workers within such period as fixed by the Government. However, the principal employer has to nominate a representative duly authorised by him who should be present at the time of disbursement of wages. The duty of such representative of the principal employer shall be to ensure that the wages are being paid to contract labour in accordance with the Act. The contractor has to ensure that the wages are disbursed in the presence of the authorised representative of the principal employer.
  • In the event the contractor fails to make the payment or makes short payment, then the liability is on the principal employer to pay the wages in full or the unpaid balance due. The principal employer can recover the amount so paid from the contractor either by deducting from any amount payable to the contractor or as debt payable by the contractor.

It is important to note here that penalties are sometimes imposable on the principal employer, in case of non-compliance under certain other labour welfare legislations. For instance, non-payment of provident fund contribution, non-maintenance of provident fund records is punishable with respect to a principal employer by imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year, or with fine which may extend to Rs. 4,000/- or with both[6]. Non-maintenance of ESI records by either contractor or principal employer is punishable with simple imprisonment up to 1 year or fine up to Rs. 4,000/- or with both[7].

Prohibition of Contract Labour in Core Activities

The Act prohibits use of contract labour in certain core activities of an establishment if the same has been specifically prohibited through a notification of the Central or State Government. Therefore, the principal employer and the contractor has to ensure that they are not employing contract labour in any of the core activities. For instance, the State of Andhra Pradesh has amended the Act to state that a core activity is one for which an establishment is set up and includes any activity which is essential or necessary to the core activity but activities related to canteen and catering services, sanitation works, loading and unloading operations, etc. does not come under the ambit of core activities unless these activities themselves are not the core activities of such establishment[8]. However, the principal employer may engage contract labour to a core activity if such activity is normally done through contractors or such activity does not require full time workers or if there is a sudden increase in the volume of work in the core activity which needs to be completed in a specified time[9].

 Absorption and Regularisation of Contract Labour

Absorption of contract labour and their status once the contract comes to an end has always been one of the most contentious issues with respect to contract labour. In the case of Air India Statutory Corporations v United Labour Union[10], a three-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the contract workers had a right to be absorbed as permanent workers on abolition of contract labour. However, this decision was overruled by a five-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Steel Authority of India v National Union Water Front Workers and Others[11], where it was held that contract labour does not have a right to get absorbed as regular employees since nothing in this regard has been mentioned explicitly in the Act. The apex court in the case of Secretary, State of Karnataka v Uma Devi[12], inter alia, held that contractual employees does not have a right to be absorbed.

Also, Courts have ordered for regularisation of contract labour, in cases where it has been found that the principal employers employed contract labour where the purpose seems to be to avoid providing benefits available to permanent workers, or if the ultimate control is with the principal employer[13].

Engagement between Principal Employer and Contractor

A principal employer would typically have a contract for service with a contractor whereby the contractor will undertake to provide certain number of contract labour to the principal employer from time to time. Some of the important elements that needs to be considered as a part of these agreements, in view of the above discussions, are as follows:-

  • Scope of work for which contract labour is required (cannot be core activities or of perennial nature[14]);
  • Contractors representation of having complied and obligation to continue to be compliant with all responsibilities and obligations of a contractor under the Act and applicable state rules.
  • Periodic reporting and submission of records and documentary evidences pertaining to contributions made, registers maintained, etc., by the contractor to the principal employer.
  • Payment of service fee to contractor by principal employer;
  • Enabling clause for deductions from service fee payable, in case any expense is incurred by a principal employer on behalf of a contractor (as mentioned briefly above).
  • Zero control of principal employer over contract labour.

Separately, as good governance measures, the agreements between principal employers and contractors may also have provisions for conducting regular awareness programmes for making the contract labour aware of their rights and privileges under the Act. Also, independent committees may be set up which can be approached by contract labour in case of any grievance.

[1] Section 1(4) of the Act

[2] https://www.manupatrafast.com/ba/fulldisp.aspx?iactid=1916 as visited on 16 October 2018

[3] https://wblc.gov.in/clra as visited on 16 October 2018

[4] Section 2(1)(e) of the Act

[5] Section 2(1)(i) of the Act

[6] Section 14(1) of the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 r/w Para 76 of the Employees Provident Fund Scheme, 1952

[7] Section 44 r/w section 85 of the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948

[8] Section 2 (1) (dd) of Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) (Andhra Pradesh) (Amendment) Act, 2003

[9] Section 10 (1), ibid

[10] (1997) 9 SCC 377

[11] (2001) LLR 96

[12] AIR 2006 SC 1806

[13] Hindalco Industries Limited v Association of Engineering Workers – 2008 LLR 449 (SC)

[14] National Federation of Railways Porters, Vendors & Bearers Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors.  – JT ((1995) 4 SC 568)

Author: Paul Albert

 

Advertisements

Mumbai ITAT Provides Further Relief and Clarity on Valuation of Preference Shares

ACIT v Golden Line Studio Pvt. Ltd.

ITAT, Mumbai

I.T.A. No. 6146/Mum/2016 (Assessment Year 2011-12)

Judgment date: 31/8/2018

Factual Matrix of the Dispute

The case revolves around an instance of issuance of non-convertible redeemable preference shares (“RPS”) by a company called Golden Line Studio Pvt. Ltd. (the Assessee) to its holding company. The stance taken by the Assessing Officer (“AO”) in this case was that the RPS were issued at a premium of INR 490/- over the face value (INR 10/-) of the shares which seemed excessive and amenable to tax.

Brief Description AO’s Contentions

The AO in this case contended that there was no basis provided by the Assessee to justify the premium amount on the RPS, and thus had a Net Asset Valuation of the Assessee done, basis which the AO arrived at a fair market value of the RPS INR 38/- per share and contended that the share premium for the RPS also ought not have been more than INR 28/- per RPS.

The CIT(Appeals) in this case took a view that the AO was resorting to the provisions under Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income Tax Act, and since the provisions was only effective from Assesment Year 2013-14, it would not apply to the present instance.

However, the AO clarified before the CIT(A) and also before the ITAT, that the AO sought to assess the income from the share premium received by the Assessee under Section 68 of the Income Tax Act. According to the AO’s contention, under Section 68 of the Act, the Assessee is required to prove the “nature” and “source” of the receipts, otherwise income tax could be levied as unexplained cash credits. The AO implied that the excessive share premium was not accompanied with an appropriate justification as to the ‘nature’ of the receipt.

Tribunal’s Decision

The Tribunal disagreed with the contentions of the AO, and stated that the AO had misdirected himself in assessing the net asset value of the company for the RPS. The Tribunal pointed out that since Section 56(2)(viib) was not in play here, the AO did not have support of any provision of the Income Tax Act to assess the excess premium. The Bombay High Court’s decision in Vodafone India Services P Ltd v Union of India & Ors (2014) had settled that receipt by way of share capital is capital receipt, thus not assessable.

Moreover, the Tribunal observed and held that the ‘nature’ of the ‘share premium’ receipts was also not questionable because of the AO’s misdirected efforts confusing the different footings of equity and preference shares.

The ratio of this order is summarized as below:

Preference Shares and Equity Shares stand on different footing, the net asset value of a company really represents the value of Equity Shares and not the Preference Shares.”

It is so because preference shares are like quasi-debt instruments whereas equity shares are nothing but participating rights of the shareholders in the company. The valuation of equity shares is dependent on the intrinsic value of the company as they have rights in assets/funds of the company. On the other hand, valuation of quasi debt instruments like preference shares is entirely made on the basis of the returns received by the investor of such instruments.

In this case, the investor would receive a return of approx. 10% per annum, as the RPS were redeemable at a price of INR 750/- after 5 years of their issuance. Book value of the company related to the equity shares as such shares reflect the ownership over the assets of the company, but because of the different considerations involved in the quasi-debt nature of RPS, book value of assets cannot justify their pricing.

Important Takeaways

Share Premium as Capital Receipt

The ruling reinforces that share premium is a capital receipt and capital receipts should not be taxed unless a provision of the Act specifically deals with the aspect.

The Statutory Framework reflects the judicial opinion of various tribunals and courts

It is interesting to note that the holding of the Tribunal that net asset value of shares do not apply to preference shares is reflected in the valuation rules under the Income Tax Rules as well. Rule 11UA lays down the formula under the net asset value method for valuation of the fair market value of equity shares. However, for shares other than equity shares, Rule11UA(1)(c)(c) clearly states that open market valuation method will be adopted to determine the fair market value.

Relief for Early Stage Companies

The ruling definitely provides some relief to early stage companies where investments are often raised by issuance of preference shares at premium, on valuations based on DCF method rather than NAV method. However, the ruling is restricted to RPS specifically, where there is a fixed return involved. As such, the principles that could be extended for valuation of compulsorily convertible preference shares, remains to be seen yet.

Authors: Avaneesh Satyang and Sohini Mandal

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Contributions in Incubators

Every company having a net worth of INR 500 crore or more, or turnover of INR 1000 crore or more or a net profit of INR  5 crore or more during the immediately preceding financial year is subject to the provisions related to Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) under the Companies Act, 2013 (the “Act“). The CSR related provisions of the Act are applicable to not just companies incorporated in India, but also to a foreign company that has its branch or project office in India. For a deep dive on the general conditions attached to CSR, and how to structure your CSR activities please refer to our previous post here. In this post, we will focus on the various ways CSR can be taken by incubators.

CSR in Technology Business Incubators located within Academic Institutions:

The most straight forward way is through grants given to government recognised Technology Incubators. Under entry (ix) of Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013, a company is allowed to undertake activity under their CSR Policy for “contributions or funds provided to technology incubators located within academic institutions which are approved by the central govt”.

The process for obtaining approval of the Central Government as Technology Business Incubators (TBI) is captured in brief below:

  • A Host Institute (HI) which is generally an Academic/Technical/R&D Institution or other institutions with proven track record in promotion of technology-based entrepreneurship, is required to submit a proposal to National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • If the HI is not an academic institution, then it should be a legal entity registered in India with clear purpose of promoting research, innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is desirable to have partnership with at least one academic institute of repute.
  • Financial support for establishing a TBI is also extended to a not-for-profit legal entity registered as a trust/society/section 8 company. For-profit incubators are not given financial support by the DST.

A snapshot of the formal requirements and stages involved in constituting a TBI is provided here for ready reference[i]:

Stage Detailed requirements
Stage I – Proposal Two hard copies + soft version in MS word document in prescribed format; necessary enclosures, and consent for Terms and Conditions; must be forwarded by the Head of HI (with necessary endorsements).

Necessary enclosures that must be included:

Registration Certificate of the HI; Memorandum of Association/Bye Laws of HI; Audited Statement of Accounts for the last three years; and, Annual Reports for the last three years.

Stage II – Evaluation by NEAC and in-principal approval Evaluation of proposal is done by National Expert Advisory Committee (NEAC) on the standards innovation, incubation, and technology entrepreneurship which meets at least twice in a year. Proposal must be submitted up to one month before the meeting of NEAC.

If TBI is not-for-profit entity then, after in-principle approval they are eligible to funding from Govt. subject to these conditions:

·  Registration of TBI as not for profit society/trust or a section 8 company

·  separate bank account in TBI’s name

·  minimum 1000 sq. ft. of furnished space for hosting the TBI

·  minimum lease for land must be 15 years provided by HI

Stage III – Post Approval Conditions After the approval the following conditions must be met by the TBIs:

·  The TBI must be administered by the apex body called Governing Body.

· The Governing Body needs to be chaired by the Head of the Host Institution.

· The Governing Body of the TBI should meet every six months to review progress of TBI and provide policy guidelines for the operations of TBI.

· Each TBI would have a dedicated CEO & a compact team who works full time for TBI.

· Host institution would constitute a selection committee with a DST nominee as a member for the selection of the CEO.

· A suitable incentive mechanism (share of surplus, earning of TBI, equity stake, etc) should be evolved by the host institution for the CEO and his team. HI is free to decide on the remuneration of CEO.

·  TBI should execute appropriate agreement with incubatees. The residency period and the exit policy may also be defined clearly in the agreement.

Stage IV – Monitoring The TBI is expected to attain self-sustenance within five years of its being. However, after the approval, the Department of Science and Technology may constitute teams to monitor the progress of TBIs.

CSR in non-TBI Incubators

As per the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility) Amendment Rules, 2018 dated 19 September, 2018[ii], provisions of the CSR Rules have been amended to widen the definition of CSR. It clarifies that the CSR Policy of the Company must include activities that are related to the ‘area or subjects specified’ in Schedule VII of the Act. Earlier, the provision only mandated activities mentioned in the CSR Policy to be related to the specific activities listed under Schedule VII of the Act. Through this amendment, the MCA has provided more freedom to companies in choosing their preferred CSR engagements under the CSR Policy.

Pursuant to the amendment, funding of activities by incubators not being TBIs approved by Central Govt. is now possible. However, the same should be within the scope of the CSR Rules.

Other important considerations for CSR by foreign companies:

Compliance with Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA):

Under the FCRA, approval and license from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is required for accepting and utilizing grants under CSR from foreign companies (which qualifies as foreign contribution) to non-profit entities. Thus, foreign companies undertaking CSR will have to ensure that any third-party entities that it seeks to engage for its CSR activities have an FCRA license (For our post explaining the issue, read here).

Earlier Indian companies with majority foreign stake holding were also considered as a ‘foreign source’. However, after amendments made by the Finance Act, 2016, contributions made by companies whose foreign shareholding are within the limits specified under the FDI regulations are not be considered as ‘foreign source’. Thus, Indian subsidiaries of foreign companies do not fall within the ambit of FCRA compliances for their CSR activities.

[i] Detailed procedure may be referred to, available at:   http://www.nstedb.com/institutional/Approved%20Revised_guidelines_of_TBI.pdf

[ii] Available at:

 http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesCSRPolicyAmendRules2018_19092018.pdf

Author: Avaneesh Satyang

Data Localisation: India’s policy framework

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (“Bill”) and the Data Protection Committee’s (“Committee”) Report (released on 27 July 2018) contains the framework and the policymakers’ insight on protection of personal data in India. The recent Draft e-commerce policy indicates Government’s thought process on storing data in India. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April this year mandates that all data generated by the payment systems in India, is to be stored in India. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has published the draft legislation called Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act, to safeguard e-health records and patients’ privacy.  Thus, all these new rules/policies/regulations (collectively referred as “the Data Protection Framework”) indicate a very strong direction that the Government wishes to undertake on data localisation, which helps in enforcing data protection, secure nation’s security and protect its citizen’s data, better control on transmission of data outside the country and more.

We believe initial steps were taken when under the Companies Act, 2013, the maintenance of books of account in electronic form, required copies to be kept in servers physically located in India.

Many questions abound that the Government take fast paced measures in enabling the infrastructure to build data-centres, which in-turn requires land clearance, electricity etc., ability to keep the operational costs for SMEs low, jump-starting initiatives on artificial intelligence, delicate balance to be maintained on surveillance and protection.  On a positive note, this provides entrepreneurial opportunities in building data centres, alternative energy/ solar grids etc.

Data Localisation under the Data Protection Committee’s Report and the Bill

Chapter 6 of Committee’s Report provides compelling arguments on ‘Transfer of Personal Data Outside India’, where the Committee notes Laissez Faire economy of data, i.e. where free flow of data is the norm and to restrict as an exception. It also recognizes that an embargo on data crossing borders as curbing personal liberty of people. The Committee recommended that even if the intended destination is across borders, all data to which Indian laws would apply would need to be stored locally as well. The Central Government may decide that certain data may not be permitted to be taken out of the country and requiring its processing to be done locally. To highlight sections 40 and 41:

  • The Central Government shall determine categories of sensitive personal data which are ‘critical’ in nature having regard to strategic interests and enforcement, this personal data can only be processed in India.
  • Transfer of other non-critical personal data will be allowed subject to one serving copy of it being stored in India.
  • Cross border transfers of personal data, other than critical personal data will be through model contract clauses with the data transferor being directly liable to the data principal.

Mandatory Data Localisation being prescribed under different aspects

Localisation of Payment Systems Data mandated by RBI: Even before the release of the Committee’s Report and the Bill, data localisation was touched upon by RBI in its Notification of 9 April 2018, where it directed all payment system providers to ensure that all data relating to the payment systems are to be stored in systems situated only in India. Under the said notification, the RBI includes ‘full end-to-end transaction details’, ‘payment instructions’ and other information collected, processed, carried, etc. to be within the ambit of data which is required to be stored. The maintained are to be annually audited and reported to RBI.

Localisation of Data under the National E-Commerce PolicyThe Draft National Policy Framework (the “National e-commerce Policy”) concerning the ‘Digital Economy’ seeking to regulate the ‘e-commerce’ sector in India, proposes localisation of several categories of data involved in e-commerce. The intent stated is to create a ‘facilitative eco-system’ to promote India’s digital economy through measures such as, data generated by users in India from sources such as e-commerce platforms, social media, search engines, etc., and all community data collected by Internet of Things (IoT) devices in public spaces are to be stored exclusively in India and sharing of such data within the country is proposed to be regulated.

The localisation of data is not absolute and cross-border flow is allowed for a handful of cases, such as for software and cloud-computing services involving technology related data-flow (which are free of any personal or community implications) and other standard exceptions consistent with the views expressed in the Committee’s report.

Localisation under the draft amendment to Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945

The recent draft amendment proposed to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, for regulating e-pharmacies, makes it clear that e-pharmacies web-portals have to be established in India for conducting its business in India and data generated to be stored locally. The draft rules states that under no means the data generated or mirrored through e-pharmacy portal shall be sent or stored by any means outside India.  

Data Centres in India

For the data to be stored locally, data centres need to be established, regulated and function under the law. The demand for companies to host their data in India stemmed from  security perspective. The major issues with data localisation is not only of cyber security but also jurisdiction. Cloud computing softwares have taken advantage of the economies of scale and an infrastructural architecture across the world. Thus when there is a threat presumed in one part of the world, the algorithm would move the data to another location or even in multiple locations. In addition to this the Cyber Security Report, 2017 released by Telstra have reported that businesses in India were most at risk to cyber security attacks. Further the organisation in India have experienced the highest number of weekly security incidents of all Asian countries surveyed.

The Privacy Bill provides that the Central Government to notify categories of personal data for which the data centres have to be established in India and the Authority to be established under the legislation to be responsible for the compliances.  Further for achieving its goal of facilitating India’s ‘Digital Economy’, the National e-Commerce Policy purports to grant “infrastructure status” to data centres and server farms in India. An infrastructure status by getting listed under the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Sub-sectors by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) entails that it’ll be easier to get credit to enter into these operations. This would be accompanied by tax-benefits, custom duties rebates and also 2-year sunset period before localisation becomes mandatory. However, these incentives are only being considered and not promised as of yet.

Cost-Benefit Analysis on Data Localisation

In Chapter 6 of its report, the Committee takes up a detailed analysis of the benefits and repercussions of adopting mandatory data localisation in India. Benefits as stated in the report include:

  • Reduction in the costs of enforcement of India’s own laws because of easier availability of data within its jurisdiction, the cost and time spent on co-ordinating with foreign agencies for access to requisite data being reduced.
  • Overseas transactions of data involve reliance on fibre optic cable networks spread around the world, which are vulnerable to attacks and perhaps localisation of data may reduce this security risk.
  • Having copies of all data collected in India will be a huge boost to the digital infrastructure as the domestic industry will now be able to harness a lot of data. For instance, the report points out that developments in Artificial Intelligence will see a great boost from this.
  • As a matter of national security, the complete localisation of critical data prevents any foreign surveillance of India’s internal affairs.

The report also states that the localisation of data can have its costs too, however it severely downplays them. The report recognizes that to make storing of data mandatory in India, will result in a burden on the domestic enterprises which use foreign infrastructure like cloud computing for running their businesses. The implications include the increased costs of doing business for small and medium businesses, also there may be the danger of monopolization in the digital infrastructure because only a few firms would have the expertise and capital to invest in creating huge data centres in India. However, the Committee states that they are not persuaded by this argument and are confident that the potential of the Indian market will adequately trump the additional cost of setting up the infrastructure.

 Our observations

Digital India and building a thriving Digital Economy in India, building strong competencies in artificial intelligence, protecting nation’s security and data of its citizens are very critical and is now becoming mandatory for India. Establishing a strong domestic infrastructure is a big commitment for the Government, which includes making available vast tracts of land, uninterrupted power supply to the data centres and such other pre-requisites. It is to be seen how India can harvest the long term benefits.

Important reading material:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/draft-ecommerce-policy-champions-india-first/articleshow/65206404.cms

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/as-ministries-argue-draft-ecommerce-policy-lands-with-pmo/articleshow/65495585.cms

https://inc42.com/features/draft-indian-ecommerce-bill-favouring-domestic-players-at-the-cost-of-the-ecosystem/

M & A: Different structures and a comparative

Acquisition of an entity can be undertaken in a number of ways such as an asset transfer, stock purchase, share swap, etc. It is critical to have certainty on the mode or structure of acquisition from the initial stage itself since the definitive agreements and the implementation steps for effectuating the acquisition will largely depend on the mode of acquisition. An acquisition transaction can be structured in different ways depending on the objective of the acquiring entity or the buyer. In this article, we have attempted to provide a brief overview and comparative of some of the different structures of acquisition.

Asset Purchase

  • In an asset purchase transaction, the acquiring entity takes over, either all or certain identified assets of the target entity or the seller. The first step in an asset purchase transaction is to determine what the assets and liabilities being taken over would be. Similarly, the definitive agreements should clearly lay down the assets/ liabilities being taken over and those which are not.
  • One of the major advantages of an asset purchase transaction is that the buyer can pick and choose the assets and liabilities which are to be acquired. The buyer may also choose not to take over any liabilities but purchase only the assets.
  • Another important aspect which has to be taken into consideration is with respect to the employees. In an asset transfer transaction, consent of the employees has to be taken if they are part of the acquisition transaction. Compliance to various labour laws has to be met. If the employees are not part of the transaction, then retrenchment compensation under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 has to be examined. Please see our previous post on Employee Rights in M&A to know more on this.
  • In an asset purchase transaction, tax is calculated basis depreciable assets and non-depreciable assets. Capital gains tax is applicable basis the difference between the cost of acquisition and sale consideration. Depending on the holding period of the asset, either long term capital gains tax or short-term capital gains tax is applicable. In case of depreciable assets, depreciation is allowed as deduction.
  • Stamp duty is levied, in an asset purchase transaction, on the individual assets being transferred. Stamp duty is usually a percentage of the market value of the assets.
  • Losses or any other tax credits cannot be carried forward in an asset purchase transaction, as the target entity itself is not being acquired in this case. After an asset transfer, the shell entity remains and it is often a commercial consideration of whether the promoters of the acquired entity need to compulsorily shut down the shell entity or if it can be used for other business purposes. If the target entity continues to exist, considerations of ongoing business, usage of any remaining intellectual property, etc. become major discussion points between the parties involved.
  • Slump Sale: Slump sale refers to the sale of the entire business of an entity as a going concern without values being assigned to individual assets. As per section 2(42) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, ‘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. In case of a slump sale, the seller is liable to pay tax on the profits derived on the transfer at rates based on the period for which the undertaking is held. If the undertaking is held for more than 36 months, the capital gains will be taxed as long-term capital gains and if the undertaking is held for less than 36 months, capital gains will be taxed as short-term capital gains.

Share Purchase

  • Share purchase is a type of acquisition in which the buyer takes over the target entity by purchasing all the shares of such target entity. The entire liability of the seller is taken over by the buyer in such an acquisition.
  • An advantage of structuring an acquisition as a share purchase, is that there would not be any major disturbances caused to the business of the seller since there is no requirement of entering into fresh contracts, licenses, etc. Losses and other tax credits could also be carried forward.
  • If the shares being sold are held for more than 24 months, capital gains will be taxed as long-term capital gain tax. If the shares being sold are held for less than 24 months, the capital gains will be taxed as short-term capital gains tax. Indexation benefits will be as applicable.
  • In the event of transfer or issue of shares to a non-resident, the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2017 and the pricing guidelines have to be complied with.
  • Determination of fair market value pricing is important in such case, due to the applicability of pricing guidelines (in case of non-resident involvement) and also as per Section 50CA and Section 56(2)(x)(c) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, that provide for deeming provisions and taxation (in the hands of both transferor and transferee) basis full value consideration, in case of transaction price being less than FMV/full consideration.
  • Deferred Consideration: Since in a complete share purchase acquisition, the buyer also takes over the liabilities of the target entity, it is common to have deferred consideration models, in order to set off any future liabilities from the total consideration package. However, in case of such share purchase acquisition coming under the ambit of the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, the Reserve Bank of India, vide Notification No. FEMA 3682016-RB, has mandated that not more than 25% of the total consideration can be paid by the buyer on a deferred basis within a period not exceeding 18 months from the date of the transfer agreement. As mentioned in the said Notification, for this purpose, if so agreed between the buyer and the seller, an escrow arrangement may be made between the buyer and the seller for an amount not more than 25% of the total consideration for a period not exceeding 18 months from the date of the transfer agreement, or, if the total consideration is paid by the buyer to the seller, the seller may furnish an indemnity for an amount not more than 25% per cent of the total consideration for a period not exceeding 18 months from the date of the payment of the full consideration.

However, this brings in difficulties in transactions where for commercial reasons, the buyer and the seller may mutually agree to tranche based or deferred consideration, which as per the mentioned Notification, can only done within certain specified parameters.

Share-Swap

  • Another method of structuring an acquisition deal is through a share swap arrangement. In a share swap arrangement, if one entity wants to acquire another entity, instead of cash consideration, the shares of the buyer entity may be exchanged for the shares of the seller entity. An acquisition can be structured such that the entire consideration is through share swap or it can also be partly through share swap and partly through cash consideration.
  • If a foreign entity is involved in a share swap deal, the FDI and ODI Regulations become applicable. One of the most important consideration to be mindful of, is that the FDI regulations states that the price of shares offered should not be less than the fair market value of shares valued by SEBI registered Merchant Banker. Please refer to our previous post on M&A through Share Swap/Stock Swap Arrangements for more details in this regard.
  • The taxation in a share swap transaction works such that the shareholders swapping the shares are subject to taxation, basis the difference between the value of the shares being swapped. The concern here is that the shareholders will have to pay taxes when they have not received any actual cash consideration, but only shares of another entity by exchanging the existing shares they held.

Acqui-hire

  • In an acqui-hire transaction, typically, a relatively bigger entity, acquires the talent pool of a relatively smaller entity and this has gained significant prominence in the early stage ecosystem in India over the last couple of years. An acqui-hire may also be combined with an asset purchase transaction. The consideration in an acqui-hire is usually based on the talent of the employees, seniority, etc.
  • One of the main advantages of an acqui-hire transaction, from the perspective of the buyer, is that the employees already have experience, the buyer need not spend time, effort and energy in training them.
  • Another advantage of an acqui-hire is that the employees are usually subject to non-compete clauses with their employer and therefore, lateral hiring of employees may not be always possible especially when the acquirer is in a competing business as that of the target company. In an acqui-hire, the non-compete clauses would typically get waived.
  • Shares held by the existing investors of the target company and the way it is dealt varies on a case to case basis and it is mostly a function of discussion between the promoters, the existing investors and the potential buyer, given the economic condition and sustainability of the target company, if the acquisition does not go through.
  • Since the main objective of an acqui-hire is to acquire the employees, the employment agreement entered into with the acquired employees becomes very important. Adequate precaution needs to be taken to ensure that all important clauses such as earn out, non-compete, stock options granted to employees, etc. are included in the employment agreement.
  • Some of the consideration points of an acqui-hire deal would be conducting interviews of the employees selected to be acquired, and assess suitability. Also, there is always the possibility of the acquired employees leaving upon the expiry of the earn-out period, which then needs to be structured in a very balanced manner. This requires a very evaluated cost benefit analysis of the earn out versus the minimum time period for which an employee would be required to continue in the purchasing entity.

Cross-Border Merger

  • Cross-border mergers are one of the ways adopted by entities to expand their operations to a foreign country and entering into new markets. A cross-border acquisition means acquisition of one entity by a foreign entity.
  • Cross border mergers in India are mainly dealt with under the Companies Act, 2013 and the Foreign Exchange Management (Cross Border Merger) Regulations, 2018 (“Merger Regulations”). As per the Merger Regulations, the separate approval of RBI is no longer required as long as the cross-border merger is undertaken in accordance with the Merger Regulations.
  • Cross-border merger may be either ‘inbound merger’ or ‘outbound merger’. Inbound merger means a cross-border merger, where the resultant company is an Indian company. An outbound merger means a cross-border merger where the resultant company is a foreign company. A resultant company means an Indian company or a foreign company which takes over the assets and liabilities of the companies involved in the cross-border merger. There are separate set of compliances required for inbound merger and outbound merger under the Merger Regulations. For example, in case of an inbound merger, the compliances with respect to pricing guidelines, sectoral caps, reporting requirements, etc. under the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2017 ought to be adhered to. Also, subject to the foreign exchange management regulations, the Indian entity is allowed to hold assets in the foreign country. Also, the Merger Regulations give both the Indian entities and foreign entities a time period of 2 years to comply with the foreign exchange management compliances. Please refer to our previous post on Cross-Border Mergers-Key Regulatory Aspects to Consider for further details regarding the regulatory aspects to be considered in case of cross border mergers.
  • One of the major concerns regarding cross-border mergers is with respect to taxation. While an inbound merger, where the resulting entity is an Indian company, is exempt from capital gains tax as per Section 47 (vi) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, there is no such exemption given in case of outbound mergers. Also, in case of outbound mergers, the branch office in India may be considered as a branch office of the foreign entity. In such a scenario, the branch office in India may be considered as a permanent establishment of the foreign entity in India and global income of the foreign entity may become be subject to tax in India.

Disclaimer: Structuring an M&A transaction is complex and requires a case to case evaluation of objectives, consideration, taxation at each stakeholder level, etc. The purpose of this article is to disseminate information only and readers are requested to seek profession advice shall for any individual requirement.

 We do not practice in tax matters. Any reference to tax matters herein is indicative and for reference purpose only.

Fund raising and valuation: Company can choose the methodology

The recent ruling by the income tax appellate tribunal (“Appellate Tribunal”) of Jaipur dated 12 July 2018 in the case of Rameshwaram Strong Glass Private Limited v ITO has come as a significant relief for tax payers. In this matter, the Appellate Tribunal has held that the income tax laws in India gives an option to the assessee under rule 11UA of the Income Tax Rules, 1962 (“Rules”) to adopt either the break-up value method or the Discounted Free Cash Flow (“DCF”) method for valuation purposes.

Brief facts of the case: Rameshwaram Strong Glass Private Limited (the “Company”) incorporated on 31 January 2011, is a closely held company manufacturing toughened glass. There was no business conducted by the Company from assessment years 2011-2012 to 2013-2014 except for purchase of land. During the assessment year 2013-2014, the Company issued shares at a premium as per the valuation report prepared by a chartered accountant as per the DCF valuation method. The assessing officer (“AO”) claimed that the break-up value method was to be adopted by the Company instead of the DCF method for the purposes of valuation. As per the AO, since the DCF method was adopted instead of the break-up value method, the Company received additional money through the issue of these shares. Also, the AO claimed that the valuation report was incorrect and not justified and the actual premium of the shares should have been lower than what was mentioned in the valuation report. The Company submitted a revised valuation report to the commissioner of income tax, appeals (“First Appellate Authority”) in which a bona-fide error in the earlier report was corrected. The Company also contended that the amount of share premium is a commercial decision which does not require justification under law and the shareholders has the discretion to subscribe to the same. However, the First Appellate Authority directed the Company to prepare the valuation report based on the actual figures and not on estimates. Based on this revised report, the First Appellate Authority held that the earlier valuation report prepared was incorrect, based on imaginary figures and without any basis.

The Company appealed against the order of the First Appellate Authority to the Appellate Tribunal. One of the contentions of the Company was that the Rules allow the Company to choose between the DCF method or the break-up value method. The valuation method adopted by the Company cannot be challenged by the AO as long as it is a recognized method of valuation. Also, the Company contended that the requirement of the tax authority to give valuation report based on the actual figures and then comparing the same with the valuation report prepared through DCF method is not correct since the valuation under DCF method is based on future estimates based on revenue, expenses, investment, etc. The value is derived from the future profitability or cash flows of the Company. Also, since this is a newly formed company, the DCF valuation method had to be used as the capital base of the Company would be very less.

The Appellate Tribunal agreed with the contention of the Company stating that the assessee has the right to choose the method of valuation.  The Rules clearly provide an option to the assesse to follow either the DCF valuation method or the break-up value method. The only condition cast upon an assessee is that the valuation report has to be given by a merchant banker or a chartered accountant using the DCF method who have expertise in valuation of shares and securities. When a particular method of valuation is provided under law and when the assessee has chosen a particular method, directing the assessee to follow a particular method is beyond the powers of the income tax authority. The AO can scrutinize the valuation report if there are arithmetical errors and make necessary adjustments or alterations. However, if the assumptions made in the report are erroneous or contradictory, the authority may call for independent valuer’s report or invite his comments as the AO is not an expert. Also, the First Appellate Authority’s direction to the Company to give the valuation based on actual figures and then comparing such valuation report with that of the earlier report is contrary to the provisions of law since the DCF valuation method is based on future estimates. Therefore, the Appellate Tribunal held that the valuation report prepared by the chartered accountant using the DCF method was proper and the action of the AO and the First Appellate Authority was invalid.

It remains to be seen whether the judgment of the Appellate Tribunal goes up to the Supreme Court. However, as of now, this comes as a relief, in light of the many nuances that we discussed in our earlier post on Early Stage Valuations: Legislative Context and Continuing Saga of Angel Tax.

Note: The Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) issued a notification on 24 May 2018, whereby the word “or an accountant” from Rule 11UA was omitted. Therefore, if a company is issuing equity shares to resident individuals, merchant banker valuation would be mandatory.

Author: Paul Albert