Interest payable on default in payment in case of a discounted bill of exchange not taxable under Interest Tax Act, 1974

Supreme Court: Dealing with the question that the interest received by banks after bills of exchange have been discounted by them and a party defaults and hence has to pay compensation by way of interest as payment is made after the date stipulated in the bill of exchange is liable to tax under the Interest Tax Act, 1974, the bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and R.F. Nariman, JJ held that the Interest Tax Act, unlike the Income Tax Act, 1961 has focused only on a very narrow taxable event which does not include interest payable on default in payment of amounts due under a discounted bill of exchange.

Interpreting Section 2(7) of the Interest Tax Act, the Court said that interest is chargeable to tax under the Interest Tax Act only if it arises directly from a loan or advance which is clear from the word “on” used in the said Section. Stating that “Loans and advances” has been held to be different from “discounts” and the legislature has kept in mind the difference between the two, it was explained that interest payable “on” a discounted bill of exchange cannot therefore be equated with interest payable “on” a loan or advance.

Regarding the question that whether guarantee fees paid to the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation could be included in the definition of interest in Section 2(7) of the Interest Tax Act, 1974, the Court said that such definition does not include any service fee or other charges in respect of monies borrowed or debt incurred, unlike the definition of ‘interest’ under the Income Tax Act. [State Bank of Patiala v. Comm. Of Income Tax, Patiala, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 1192, decided on 18.11.2015]

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