Lottery distribution is not liable to service tax-Sikkim High Court

Activity of buying and selling of lottery is not service. Department cannot demand service tax on said activity on basis of Rule 6(7C) of Service Tax Rules since it is an optional scheme of payment of tax and does not create a charge of service tax

(1) Assessee was engaged in business of sale of paper and online lottery tickets organized by Government of Sikkim.

(2) Section 65B(44) defines service. It excludes transaction in money or actionable claim. An Explanation was inserted vide Finance Act, 2015 to restrict the meaning of transaction in money or actionable claim. Explanation excluded, from purview of transaction in money or actionable claim, activity carried out by a lottery distributor or selling agent in relation to promotion, marketing, organising, selling of lottery or facilitating in organising lottery of any kind.

(3) Section 66D provides negative list of services. Any service listed under Section 66D is outside the ambit of service tax net. An Explanation was inserted in Section 66D to exclude aforesaid activity from purview of negative list of services.

(4) The effect of aforesaid amendments was: said activities in relation to lottery became subjected to service tax. Department demanded service tax from assessee on the basis of aforesaid amendments.

(5) The assessee challenged said levy of service tax.

The High Court held in favour of assessee as under:
(a) Section 65B(44) defines service. Principal requirements of said provision is that the activity should be carried out by a person for another and that such activity should be for a consideration. Activity of assessee did not establish the relationship of principal and agent but rather that of a buyer and a seller on principal to principal basis. Nature of transaction being bulk purchase of the lottery tickets by the assessee from the State Government on full payment of price as a natural business transaction. There is no privity of contract between State and assessee. It was held in an earlier case of assessee and this position is not changed even after Finance Act, 2015.

(b) Department demanded service tax on the strength of Rule 6(7C) the Service Tax Rules, 1994. In earlier case of assessee it was held that Rule 6(7C) only provides an optional composition scheme for payment of service tax which by itself does not create a charge of service tax. This Rule is only a piece of subordinate legislation framed under the rule making power provided in the Finance Act, 1994 and, therefore, in view of the position of law that Subordinate Legislation cannot be override the statutory provisions, Rule 6(7C) cannot go beyond the provision of the Finance Act, 1994. This provision has not changed even now.

(c) Assessee in buying and selling the lottery tickets was not rendering service to the State and, therefore, their activity does not fall within the meaning of 'service' as provided under Section 65B(44) and, therefore, outside the purview of impugned Explanation as well.

(d) Hence levy of service tax on activities carried out by assessee is invalid.
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