CBDT Clarification on ‘Initial Assessment Year’ under S. 80IA(5) of Income-tax

CBDT Clarification on the term ‘Initial Assessment Year’ in section 80IA (5) of the Income-tax Act, 1961

Section 80IA of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (‘Act’), as substituted by the Finance Act, 1999 with effect from 01.04.2000, provides for deduction of an amount equal to 100 % of the profits and gains derived by an undertaking or enterprise from an eligible business (as referred to in sub-section (4) of that section) in accordance with the prescribed provisions. Sub-section (2) of section 80IA further provides that the aforesaid deduction can be claimed by the assessee, at his option, for any ten consecutive assessment years out of fifteen years (twenty years in certain cases) beginning from the year in which the undertaking commences operation, begins development or starts providing services etc. as stipulated therein. Sub-section (5) of section 80IA further provides as under

“Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, the profits and gains of an eligible business to which the provisions of sub-section (1) apply shall, for the purposes of determining the quantum of deduction under that sub-section for the assessment year immediately succeeding the initial assessment year or any subsequent assessment year, be computed as if such eligible business were the only source of income of the assessee during the previous year relevant to the initial assessment year and to every subsequent assessment year up to and including the assessment year for which the determination is to be made”.

In the above sub-section, which prescribes the manner of determining the quantum of deduction, a reference has been made to the term ‘initial assessment year’. It has been represented that some Assessing Officers are interpreting the term ‘initial assessment year’ as the year in which the eligible business/ manufacturing activity had commenced and are considering such first year of commencement/operation etc. itself as the first year for granting deduction, ignoring the clear mandate provided under sub-section (2) which allows a choice to the assessee for deciding the year from which it desires to claim deduction out of the applicable slab of fifteen (or twenty) years.

The matter has been examined by the Board. It is abundantly clear from sub-section (2) that an assessee who is eligible to claim deduction u/s 80IA has the option to choose the initial/ first year from which it may desire the claim of deduction for ten consecutive years, out of a slab of fifteen (or twenty) years, as prescribed under that sub-section. It is hereby clarified that once such initial assessment year has been opted for by the assessee, he shall be entitled to claim deduction u/s 80IA for ten consecutive years beginning from the year in respect of which he has exercised such option subject to the fulfillment of conditions prescribed in the section. Hence, the term ‘initial assessment year’ would mean the first year opted for by the assessee for claiming deduction u/s 80IA. However, the total number of years for claiming deduction should not transgress the prescribed slab of fifteen or twenty years, as the case may be and the period of claim should be availed in continuity.

The Assessing Officers are, therefore, directed to allow deduction u/s 80IA in accordance with this clarification and after being satisfied that all the prescribed conditions applicable in a particular case are duly satisfied. Pending litigation on allowability of deduction u/s 80IA shall also not be pursued to the extent it relates to interpreting ‘initial assessment year’ as mentioned in sub-section (5) of that section for which the Standing Counsels/D.R.s be suitably instructed.

CBDT Circular 1/2016 dt 15th Feb 2016