India is en-route to turn itself into a 21st-century super-economy fuelled by the unprecedented growth of its business enterprises. The business may grow in two ways – either in an organic way or inorganic. The former refers to the internal forces of the enterprises which are re-organised to bring in development and growth into the business, whereas, in case of inorganic growth, the company goes into corporate restructuring to re-align its external facade to fuel the planned development and growth. In today’s fast moving corporate environment, corporate restructuring happens to be the most ideal tool to win an advantage in this pursuit.
Business restructuring is a comprehensive process, be it financial or technological or market or organisational. Business can be re-arranged by way of mergers, demergers, disinvestments, takeovers, strategic alliance or slump sale.
This article focusses on implications of GST on slump sale.
Concept of Slump sale
The concept of slump sale comes from the Income Tax Act, 1961. The IT Act, in section 2(42C) defines “slump sale” as – “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.” Further as per explanation 1 to section 2(19AA), “undertaking” shall include any part of an undertaking or a business activity taken as whole, but does not include individual assets or liabilities or any combination thereof not constituting a business activity.
Therefore, slump sale contains the following conditions:
- Sale of one or more undertaking,
- No individual value should be assigned to assets and liabilities, and the same to be sold for a lump sum consideration, and
- All assets and liabilities of the undertaking must be transferred.
Transfer of all assets and liabilities
One of the major precondition of a slump sale transaction is that all assets and liabilities of the business undertaking must be transferred to the buyer.
As per Section 50B of IT Act, the cost of acquisition of such sale shall be the net worth (book value of assets and liabilities) of the undertaking.
Explanation1 provides the method of computing the net worth of an undertaking or a division sold on slump sale basis. As per Explanation 1 “For the purposes of this section, “net worth” shall be the aggregate value of total assets of the undertaking or division as reduced by the value of liabilities of such undertaking or division as appearing in its books of account.” This definition is no different from the meaning of the expression ‘net worth’, as is commonly understood in the accounting parlance.
There are various judicial pronouncements where there is difference of opinion that it is not essential to transfer all assets and liabilities for a transaction to qualify for a slump sale. That is to say, that even if some assets are retained by the transferor and the undertaking after such transfer carries out its business activities without any obstruction, it shall still qualify to be a slump sale. The same has been substantiated by Bombay High Court in its ruling.
Since all assets and liabilities are to be transferred in a slump sale, it is important for one to understand the concept of going concern which is discussed at length below.
Going Concern concept
The terminology “going concern” is not precisely mentioned in the definition of slump sale. Transfer as a going concern means transfer of a business or a unit which is capable of being carried on by a purchaser as an independent business. To constitute a slump sale, it is not necessary that the business is ongoing at the time of its transfer.
Going Concern is a fundamental accounting assumption and Accounting Standard 1, Disclosure of Accounting Policies defines it as follows:
“The enterprise is normally viewed as a going concern, that is, as continuing in operation for the foreseeable future. It is assumed that the enterprise has neither the intention nor the necessity of liquidation or of curtailing materially the scale of the operations.”
To constitute a slump sale all the assets and liabilities of the undertaking are to be transferred. Therefore it can be said that companies whose operations are shut and is into liquidation may also opt for slump sale provided the conditions mentioned above are met. The intention of such condition is to ensure that the business will continue in the new hands with regularity and a nature of permanency.
Further it is not necessary that the entity should be a profit making company. The only valid point to be considered for a transfer to constitute as a “going concern” to mean if it constitutes a business activity capable of being run independently for a foreseeable future. Such views were taken In the Matter of M/S. Indo Rama Textiles Ltd.
The term “going concern” has no place in the GST Act. However one can refer to the pronouncement of the Advance Authority Ruling in case of Rajashri Foods Pvt Ltd for the same as mentioned below:
A going concern is a concept of accounting and applies to the business of the company as a whole. Transfer of a going concern means transfer of a running business which is capable of being carried on by the purchaser as an independent business. Such transfer of business as a whole will comprise comprehensive transfer of immovable property, goods and transfer of unexecuted orders, employees, goodwill etc.
The transfer of business assets implies where the part of assets are transferred and not the whole business, i.e. the liabilities remain in the books of the transferor, whereas in transfer of business all assets and liabilities are transferred together. The concept of transfer of going concern comes handy when the business as a whole is transferred, however case laws and analysis do suggest the likelihood of transfer of assets as a going concern.
Slump sale: supply of good or supply of service under GST Act?
To understand the applicability of GST on a slump sale transaction, it is imperative to throw light on the word “supply” under the GST Act. It is explicitly discussed that for GST to be levied, there must be a case of “supply”. Therefore, we shall now refer the scope of supply as mentioned in Section 7 of the (Central Goods and Services Tax Act 2017 (CGST Act) which is as follows:
“(1) For the purposes of this Act, the expression “supply” includes––
- all forms of supply of goods or services or both such as sale, transfer, barter, exchange, licence, rental, lease or disposal made or agreed to be made for a consideration by a person in the course or furtherance of business;”
Supply includes activities such as sale, transfer, barter etc for a consideration in the course or furtherance of business. From this we can infer that the activities shall take place in the course or furtherance of business. Coming to slump sale, the transaction is neither during the course of business nor in persistence of business. However since the word “includes” has been used in the definition in Section 7 (1) of the CGST Act, the scope of supply goes beyond the course or furtherance of business. Therefore the transfer as a going concern shall also be treated as “supply” under GST.
As slump sale is considered to be a supply under GST, we should now understand if the same constitutes to be goods or services.
The term goods has been defined under section 2(52) of the CGST Act as:
“(52)“goods” means every kind of movable property other than money and securities but includes actionable claim, growing crops, grass and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before supply or under a contract of supply;”
Further definition of “Service” as per section 2(102) of the CGST Act defines the term service as:
“(102)“services” means anything other than goods, money and securities but includes activities relating to the use of money or its conversion by cash or by any other mode, from one form, currency or denomination, to another form, currency or denomination for which a separate consideration is charged.”
Clause 4(c) of Schedule II of CGST Act states that
“(c) where any person ceases to be a taxable person, any goods forming part of the assets of any business carried on by him shall be deemed to be supplied by him in the course or furtherance of his business immediately before he ceases to be a taxable person, unless—
(i) the business is transferred as a going concern to another person; or
(ii) the business is carried on by a personal representative who is deemed to be a taxable person.”
Schedule II of the CGST Act talks about activities to be treated as a supply of good or supply of service wherein Clause 4, transfer of business assets has been considered as supply of goods. In Clause 4(c ) the transfer of a business as a going concern does not constitute a supply of goods.
As per the definition of services, anything other than goods is called a service. Business transferred as a going concern is excluded from the list of supply of goods. Since the schedule specifically excludes this activity, it becomes very obvious that the transfer of a business as a going concern is considered to be a supply of service.
Ministry of Finance vide its notification no 12/2017- Central Tax (Rate) dated 28th June 2017, came out with a list of supply of services and further brought clarity on “service by way of transfer of a going concern, as a whole or an independent part thereof” in serial no 2 of the said notification to constitute undersupply of service. Further, the activity of transfer of a going concern shall have “nil” rate of tax on such supply.
Since the notification talks about the activity of transfer of a going concern as a supply of service and the same is exempt from the purview of GST. Similarly, Schedule II of the CSGT Act excludes the transfer of a business as a going concern as the supply of goods, the same shall be considered as a supply of service and GST shall be levied.
It shall be inferred that transfer of a going concern as a whole or a part there or transfer of a business as a going concern is tax-exempt under GST and transfer of business assets will have GST implications.
The above can be further justified by referring to the judgement passed by the Tax Authority of Advance Ruling in Karnataka in the case of Rajashri Foods Pvt Ltd where it was decided that subject to the condition that the unit being transferred is a going concern, it will be considered as a supply of service and the same shall be exempt from the payment of GST to the extent leviable under subsection (1) of Section (9) of the CGST Act, 2017.
Itemisation of assets for levy of GST
In a slump sale, assets proposed to be transferred consist of both movable and immovable property i.e. land, building, stock, plant and machinery etc. Since these assets and liabilities are sold together for a lump sum consideration it does not tantamount to a “mixed supply” under GST.
Let us first understand the concept of mixed supply under GST
Section 2(74) of the CGST Act defines mixed supply as under:
“(74) “mixed supply” means two or more individual supplies of goods or services, or any combination thereof, made in conjunction with each other by a taxable person for a single price where such supply does not constitute a composite supply.”
To constitute a mixed supply, there has to be two or more supplies of goods or services and they have be in conjunction with each other. Therefore if the item in the bundle are neither goods nor services, it will not be considered a mixed supply under GST.
Let us understand the same with the help of an example. Suppose the assets being transferred to the buyer are plant & machinery, land and stock for a single price. Here there are more than one good transferred in the transaction. The bundle is not exclusively that of goods or services or both. The same will not qualify to be a mixed supply as land being transferred is excluded from the purview of GST (As per Schedule III of the GST Act which enumerates items which are neither supply of good nor supply of services).
Referring to the above example we may say that all legs of the definition should be satisfied for it to become a mixed supply. Merely because multiple items are sold for a single price should not, by the very fact render them as “mixed supply”. In so far as movable assets being concerned, it would be treated as supply of goods and is likely to attract GST.
Slump sale may be of an on-going business/unit or transfer of a stalled business/unit where the intent of the transferee is to run the entity. It can be said that when there is a transfer of business and not of that of assets, in order to insulate from GST, it would require evaluation whether the transfer is as a going concern or not.
The transaction of transfer of a business as a whole of one of the units in the nature of going concern amounts to the supply of service. The notification holds good, but subject to the condition that the unit is a going concern and therefore the same shall be free from the GST purview.
To summarise on the above-discussed concept
- Transfer of business assets: Supply of goods
- Transfer of business: Supply of Service
- Transfer of business/ or a part thereof as a going concern: Supply of service and exempt via notification
The revival of companies will definitely be more cost-effective than setting up a new structure altogether. Also, this will give a push to the investors to take over such companies and create more job opportunities in India.