It was an Indian business valued at $11 billion – and a lawsuit that involved Vodafone Group Plc.’s acquisition of 67% stake in Hutchison Essar from Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. that took place in Cayman Islands way back in 2007.
While the Income Tax department claimed taxes on the grounds of the transaction being a transfer of an Indian asset; Vodafone disputed the claim as a deal between two global companies, even if the assets involved in the deal were located in India.
Finally, the curtains are down – Vodafone wins $2.5 billion tax case, as adjudicated by the Supreme Court. The Government of India can no longer tax the capital gains arising from the transaction that took place in Cayman Islands between the two non-resident companies.
In the words of the Supreme Court of India’s Chief Justise S.H. Kapadia:
“The government has no jurisdiction over Vodafone’s purchase of mobile assets in India as the transaction took place in Cayman Islands between HTIL & Vodafone”
Interestingly, after losing the suit in High Court, this multi-billion dollar tax case has unfolded in Vodafone’s favor in the Supreme Court. Apart from being a big thumbs-up for the British telecom giant, the outcome is a moral victory for similar litigations being faced by foreign companies in India such as GE, Cadbury and Vedanta amongst others.
Though, this set back to the I-T department comes as a big knock on the exchequer’s kitty to the tune of Rs.11000 crore on a deal abroad; this landmark judgment will boost people’s confidence in Indian judiciary and promote Indian shores as attractive investment destination, given that tax regulations play a major role in cross border transactions and investments in a country.
It was one of the rare cases where the Indian I-T department went full throttle to lift the corporate veil, issuing a show-cause notice to Vodafone as to why income tax was not deducted at source at the time of purchase of the Indian JV partnership business and paid to the Government of India.
The apex court ruling has now directed the country’s I-T department to return Rs.2500 crore deposited by the telecom giant within two months, along with 4% interest on the said amount; for an offshore transaction that was ‘bonafide’, hence it was non-taxable.
Huge win for Vodafone – Wide repercussions for I-T dept, isn’t it?