Sunday, 29 November 2015

Tax implications of setting up overseas subsidiaries - subsidiary company in India

There is a rising trend that many start-ups incorporate their ultimate holding companies abroad, especially in Singapore for various reasons with tax being one of the top 3 factors for such decisions. 

Some of them have restructured the holding structures after few months of direct Indian holding to accommodate requests from investors and VCs. Apart from ease of regulatory environment in the case of overseas companies, the tax implications in such scenarios could be a grey area and potentially a serious cause of concern if not managed amicably. 

A typical overseas structure could be:

Let's now try and understand the tax implications of the above mentioned typical structure: 

- Capital gains on sale of shares of Singapore Holding Company (SHC): This seems to be one of the biggest reasons for such a structure especially where the funds investing are registered overseas. In the case of Singapore, Mauritius, Dubai or similar jurisdictions, there is no domestic tax on capital gains hence the shareholders may not be subject to tax on sale of shares in SHC. 
However consequent to recent amendments in Income tax law, if SHC derives more than 50% of its value from assets in India and that the sale value exceeds Rs. 10 crores, then proportionate capital gains shall still be subject to tax in India irrespective of domestic tax laws in the country of incorporation of SHC. 

The case for concern in this scenario is the conflict of interpretation between Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) and Income tax law - since as per DTAA this transaction would continue to be taxed only in Singapore (where capital gains is taxed @ 0%) and as far as Indian laws are concerned, DTAA always prevails over domestic taxation laws. 

- Royalty income of SHC: Royalty earned and received by SHC from Indian Selling Company (ISC) would be subject to withholding taxes in India @ 10% provided: 

o Tax residency certificates (TRC) of SHC is made available to ISC and o SHC has an Indian PAN 

Where one or both the above conditions are not fulfilled the withholding tax rates could be anywhere between 20-40%. 

Applicability of Transfer Pricing Rules: Any transaction with an Indian entity with its related person overseas shall fall within the ambit of transfer pricing rules. Accordingly all the transactions which are subject to transfer pricing shall be made at fair market values (technically known as arm's length price [ALP]). 

Hence royalties paid by ISC and software development charges received by ISD shall be subject to transfer pricing. Detailed commercial contracts and invoices need to be prepared for these transactions. There are elaborate rules and regulations provided for determining alp which need to be adhered. Non-compliance could lead to serious penalties and tax levies. It is noteworthy to mention that India is one of the popular jurisdictions globally for high value transfer pricing litigations.

- Taxability of Dividends distributed by ISC and ISD: Indian companies are subject to corporate tax @ 30% plus surcharge (7/12%) and cess @ 3% depending on their income levels. Post tax profits, when distributed are subject to 15% distribution plus surcharge and cess. However dividends distributed by ISC and ISD to SHC are not subject to any further tax in India since dividends from Indian companies are fully exempt in India. 

For more information on tax implications You can consult any tax consultancy in Mumbai. They provide support from Company registration to filing e-returns. For company Laws and company incorporation visit link Company Incorporation in India steps

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