Delhi High Court: Information From Property Dealers Or Websites Not Cogent Evidence On Adequacy Of Rent For Invoking Section 13(2)(B) Of Income Tax Act

According to Delhi High Court bench led by; Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla, in the nonappearance of an independent inquiry, the revenue authorities cannot solely rely; on the opinion of property brokers and websites to determine the; adequacy of rent received for invoking section 13(2)(b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

In one assessment year, the Assessee had agreed to lease its property to the Wakf. The Assessing Officer (AO) concluded that; the property  let out to the Wakf at a much lower rate than; the market rate, based on inquiries made to estate agents and information gathered from websites, and thus; invoked the provisions of section 13(2)(b) of the Act. The ITAT ordered that; the AO’s additions be deleted. Against the challenged order, the revenue authorities filed an appeal with the High Court.

The Revenue Department’s counsel argued that; the AO obligated by the Act to investigate whether any part of the; charitable trust’s income or property is utilized for the benefit of a specified person. The Assesses claimed that; it had been leasing its property to the Wakf under a Lease Agreement since 1981, which; the Revenue had previously recognized without invoking section 13(2)(b) of the Act. The Assessee argued that; the ITAT correctly noted that; the rent collected from the Wakf is greater than the benchmark rate under the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958.

The court noted that; the ITAT had found that the material collected by the AO from the Internet and the estate agents could not be considered as collaborative piece of evidence, and that; the law requires the revenue authorities to bring on record cogent evidence to justify the invocation of section 13 of the Act, while allowing the appeal in favour of the Assessee.

The court ruled that; the market rate not the sole criterion for evaluating the adequacy of rent, and that; the tax authorities have the burden of proving that; the rent charged by the Assessee was insufficient.

The court denied the; appeal of the tax authorities, upholding the ITAT’s decision and holding that the invocation of section 13(2)(b) of the Act  manifestly faulty given the absence of any independent investigation by the AO.

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