Section-271-Income-Tax-Act

Section 271 – Income Tax

Section 271 – Income Tax

The law of income tax in India contains certain provisions to penalise defaulting taxpayers. In this article, we discuss Section 271 of the Income Tax Act, which deals with penalties for the concealment of particulars of income or furnishing of inaccurate particulars of income. The penalty can be imposed only when there is ‘clearly objective evidence’ to indicate that the taxpayer has deliberately concealed income with the motive of avoiding tax.

Penalty under Section 271

A penalty under Section 271 of the Income Tax Act would be levied in case of concealment of particulars of income or fringe benefits or furnishing of inaccurate particulars of income or fringe benefits. The minimum penalty for offences charged under Section 271 of the Income Tax Act is 100% of the tax sought to be evaded plus tax payable. The maximum penalty leviable under this section is 300% of tax sought to be evaded in addition to the tax payable.

Calculating Penalty under Section 271

While calculating the penalty under Section 271, the amount of tax sought to be evaded plays an important role. Amount of tax sought to be evaded is the aggregate of tax sought to be evaded under the general provisions and the tax sought to be evaded under the provisions of MAT or AMT. However, if an amount of concealed income is considered both under the general provisions and provisions of MAT or AMT, the amount should not be considered in computing tax sought to be evaded under provisions of MAT or AMT. Further, where provisions of MAT or AMT are not applicable, the computation of tax sought to be evaded under the provisions of MAT or AMT should be ignored.

Applicability of the Section

The penalty under Section 271 (1) will not be imposed on the assessee unless the Assessing Officer opines that the assessee has either concealed the details of income or has furnished incorrect particulars of income. The High Courts and the Supreme Courts have made pronouncements on the applicability of this provision. The pronouncements are summarised as follows:

  • As a primary condition, the Assessing Officer, during the assessment proceedings should be convinced that the assessee has concealed any income.
  • The penalty order will not be sustainable in law if the findings of the Assessing Officer is found to be unclear and unambiguous. Issuance of a penalty without a particular ground will not be found favourable under law.
  • A taxpayer should not be penalized for committing any bonafide mistakes.

What is a Bonafide Mistake?

Bonafide mistakes are those mistakes which escape the attention of the assessee, in contrast to a ‘mala fide’ mistake which was committed with the intention of evading tax. Hence, the applicability of penalty under Section 271 of the Income Tax Act would be dependent on distinguishing between a bonafide mistake and concealment of income for the purposes of avoiding income tax.

Section 271 of the Income Tax Act

Section 271 of the Income Tax Act is reproduced for reference:

Failure to furnish returns, comply with notices, concealment of income, etc.

271. If the Assessing Officer or the Commissioner Appeals or the Principal Commissioner or Commissioner 
in the course of any proceedings under this Act is satisfied that any person:
(a) has failed to comply with a notice under sub-section (2) of section 115WD or under sub-section (2) of 
section 115WE or under sub-section (1) of section 142 or sub-section (2) of section 14345, or
(b) fails to comply with a direction issued under sub-section (2A) of section 142], or
(c) has concealed the particulars of his income or furnished inaccurate particulars of such income, or
(d) has concealed the particulars of the fringe benefits or furnished inaccurate particulars of such 
fringe benefits, he may direct that such person shall pay by way of penalty,—
  • (i) in the cases referred to in clause (b), in addition to tax, if any, payable by him, a sum of 
    ten thousand rupees for each such failure;
  • (ii) in the cases referred to in clause (c) 55 or clause (d), in addition to tax, if any, 
    payable by him, a sum which shall not be less than, but which shall not exceed three times, 
    the amount of tax sought to be evaded by reason of the concealment of particulars of his income or 
    fringe benefits or the furnishing of inaccurate particulars of such income or fringe benefits.

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Post by Sreeram Viswanath

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