Goods Involved in Works Contract
‘Goods involved in works contract’ have been included in definition of ‘sale’ w.e.f. 11-5-2002. Note that the CST is on ‘goods involved in works contract’ and not on ‘works contract’ as such. This distinction is vital in deciding aspects of valuation and also whether a particular transaction is inter state sale.
What is works contract – Some contracts are for contracts for labour, work or service and not for sale of goods, though goods are used in executing the contract for labour, work or service e.g. when a contractor constructs a building, the buyer pays for cost of building which includes cost of building material, labour and other services offered by the Contractor. Property in building is passed on to buyer and there is no contract for supply of building material as such.
An air conditioner manufacturer may undertake a ‘works contract’ for designing, fitting and commissioning of air conditioning equipment. This is contract for sale of labour and material and not contract of sale. Property in air conditioning equipment passes as an incidental to the works contract. Here, there is no sale of ‘goods’. It is a ‘works contract’ and not liable to CST. – State of Madras v. Voltas Ltd. (1963) 14 STC 446 and 861 (Mad HC) – also indirectly approved in Batliboi v. STO (2000) 119 STC 583 (Guj HC DB).
Laying of pipe line is yet another example of works contract, where passing of property in the pipe is incidental to works contract.
It is difficult to establish whether a particular contract is ‘contract for work’ or ‘contract of sale’ and rigid and inflexible fast tests cannot be laid down. It depends on main object of the parties, circumstances and custom of trade. Generally, a contract of sale is a contract whose main object is the transfer of the property in, and delivery and possession of, a chattel as a chattel to the buyer. Where the main object of work undertaken by the payee of the price is not the transfer of a chattel qua chattel, the contract is one for labour and work. The aspects like ownership of material, value of skill and labour compared to value of material can be considered, but these are not conclusive. – Halsbury’s Laws of England – quoted with approval in State of Gujarat v. Variety Body Builders – AIR 1976 SC 2108 = (1976) 38 STC 176 (SC). – same view in State of Himachal Pradesh v. Associated Hotels – (1972) 29 STC 474 (SC) = AIR 1972 SC 1131 = 1972(2) SCR 937 = (1972) 1 SCC 472
In Vanguard Rolling Shutters v. CST – (1977) 39 STC 372 (SC) = AIR 1977 SC 1505, it was observed that it is difficult to lay down any rule of universal application to decide whether a contract is a works contract or contract for sale of goods. If the contract is primarily for supply of materials at prices agreed and the work or service is incidental to the execution of contract, it will be contract for sale. On the other hand, where contract is primarily a contract of work and labour and materials are supplied in execution of such contract, it is a works contract.
In Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. v. State of Orissa (1984) 55 STC 327 (SC) = (1984) 1 SCC 706 = 1983(2) SCALE 1090 = AIR 1984 SC 744 (SC 3 members), HAL imported materials and components on behalf of Government of India and manufactured aircrafts on behalf of Government of India. The goods belonged to Government of India but were entrusted to HAL for manufacture of aircraft to be delivered to Air Force. It was held that it is a works contract. It was observed that in contract for work, person producing has no ‘property’ in the thing produced as a whole, even if part or even whole of material used by him may have been his property. In contract of sale, the thing produced as a whole has individual existence as sole property of the party who produces it some time before delivery and the property therein passes only under the contract relating thereto to the other party for a price. In State of Gujarat v. Kailash Engineering Co. (1967) 19 STC 13 (SC) = AIR 1976 SC 2108, it was held that if unfinished goods are held as property of buyer, it is a works contract.
In UOI v. Central India Machinery Mfg Co. Ltd. (CIMMCO) AIR 1977 SC 1537 = (1977) 40 STC 246 (SC), it was held that if property in final article passes only after it is completed, the contract will be of sale, even if raw material is purchased on behalf of buyer.
In State of Tamilnadu v. Anandam Viswanathan – (1989) 1 SCC 613 = (1989) 73 STC 1 (SC), it was observed that nature of contract can be found out only when intentions of parties are found out. The fact that in the execution of works contract some materials are used, and the property in the goods so used, passes to other party, the contractor undertaking the work will not necessarily be deemed, on that account, to sell the materials. – – Primary difference between a contract of work or service and a contract for sale is that in the former, there is in the person performing or rendering service, no property in the thing produced as a whole, notwithstanding that a part or even the whole of the material used by him may have been his property. Where the finished product supplied to a particular customer is not a commercial commodity in the sense that it cannot be sold in the market to any other person, the transaction is only a works contract.
In Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. v. State of Andhra Pradesh 2000 AIR SCW 2582 =(2000) 6 SCC 579 = 119 STC 533 = 2000(5) SCALE 216, after reviewing entire case law, following principles were evolved – (1) It is difficult to lay down any inflexible rule (2) Transfer of property of goods for a price is the linchpin of definition of sale. Main object of parties has to be found out. Substance of the contract and not form is to be looked into. (3) If the thing to be delivered has individual existence before the delivery as sole property of the party who is to deliver it, it is a sale. (4) If bulk of material used belongs to the manufacturer who sells the end product, it is strong pointer that the contract is for sale of goods and not of work and labour. However, the test is not decisive. Relative importance of material qua work is important.
Supreme Court in a very old case – State of Madras v. Gannon Dunkerley & Co. – AIR 1958 SC 560 = 1959 SCR 379 = (1958) 9 STC 353 (SC), had held that no tax can be levied on works contract, as tax can be levied only on ‘sale of goods’ as defined in Sale of Goods Act. In an indivisible works contract, there is no sale of goods as there could be no agreement to sell materials as such and moreover, the property does not pass as movables. The material used therein becomes property of the other party on the theory of accretion and, as such, no sales tax can be levied on such material.
‘Works Contract’ was one of the ways of avoiding sales tax. Hence, Constitution was amended on 2nd February, 1983 (46th amendment). Clause 29A was added to Article 366 to cover ‘transfer of property in goods involved in execution of works contract’. Subsequently, most of States have amended their sales tax laws to cover ‘works contract’, but Central Sales Tax Act was not amended till May 2002. Thus, till 11-5-2002, CST was not leviable on indivisible works contracts.
In Builders’ Association of India v. UOI – (1989) 2 SCR 320 = (1989) 1 CLA 332 (SC) = (1989) 73 STC 370 (SC) = (1989) 1 SCALE 770 = (1989) 2 SCC 645 = AIR 1989 SC 1371 (SC 5 member constitution bench), it has been observed : ‘After the 46th amendment, the works contract which was indivisible one, is by a legal fiction altered into one for sale of goods and the other for supply of labour and services. After 46th amendment, it has become possible for States to levy tax on value of goods involved in a works contract in the same way in which the sales tax was leviable on the price of goods and materials supplied in a building contract which had been entered into two distinct and separate parts.’
In Associated Cement Companies Ltd. v. CC 2001(1) SCALE 436 = (2001) 4 SCC 593 = 124 STC 59 = AIR 2001 SC 862 = 2001 AIR SCW 559 (SC 3 member bench), it was held that even if the dominant intention of the contract is rendering of service which will amount to a works contract, after forty-sixth amendment to Constitution, the State would now be empowered to levy sales tax on material used in such contract.
Contract of skill & labour – Some contracts are essentially contracts of skill & labour e.g. tailoring work, printing or cyclostyling etc. These jobs are not covered under ‘works contract’. – – A contract to paint a portrait is a contract for skill and labour and not a contract for sale of goods, as substance of contract is for artist’s skill and it is only ancillary to that there would pass to the customer some materials like paint and canvas. – Robinson v. Graves (1935) 1 KB 579. However, in Lee v. Griffn (1861) 30 LJ QB 252, when a dentist agreed to make set of false teeth for a lady and to fit them into mouth, it was held a contract for sale of goods [There can be two views on the issue].
Mere supply of labour not covered – Taxable event is transfer of property in goods. In case of contract for supply of labour, there is no transfer of property in goods and hence there is no tax liability. – Ashok Kumar Garg v. UOI (2002) 128 STC 442 (P&H HC DB) * Rajiv Gumber v. S. (2002) 128 STC 494 (P&H HC DB).
Contractor need not be owner if he sales flat before construction – The contractor need not be owner of property. He will be liable even if he never had absolute ownership of the flat. – Mittal Investment Corporation v. ACCT (2001) 121 STC 3 (Karn HC DB). The judgment was modified in Mittal Investment Corporation v. ACCT (2001) 121 STC 14 (Karn HC DB) to the extent that it was held that the contractor is not liable if he enters into agreement with buyer after construction of flat, but will be liable if he enters into contract before construction of flat. [Decision as per Karnataka Sales Tax Act, but principle may apply in other cases also.]
Value liable for Works Contract Tax – Some important case law is discussed here.
Builders Association of India v. UOI – This is a landmark judgment of Supreme Court on ‘works contract’. (1989) 2 SCR 320 = (1989) 1 CLA 332 (SC) = (1989) 73 STC 370 (SC) = 1989(1) SCALE 770 = (1989) 2 SCC 645 = AIR 1989 SC 1371 ( 5 member Constitution bench). The background of this case is that after amendment to Constitution in 1983, various State Governments imposed levy on works contract. The tax was levied by some State Governments on full value of contract which included the material cost and other costs like labour, supply of services etc. However, in the judgment, Hon. Supreme Court held that the power of States to levy tax on works contract is subject to limitation of Article 286 i.e. tax cannot be levied by State on (a) Outside the State (b) during import/export. (c) Restrictions placed on ‘declared goods’ are applicable even while levying tax on works contract. Further, tax cannot be imposed on full value of contract. The tax is on ‘transfer of property in goods involved in execution of works contract.’ Thus, tax on works contract can be levied only on ‘value of goods involved’ and not on whole value of works contract.
Gannon Dunkerley and Co. v. State of Rajasthan – This is also an important judgment on ‘Works Contract’ (1993) 66 Taxman 229 = (1993) 10 CLA 56 (SC) = 1992 (3) SCALE 173 = 1993 AIR SCW 2621 = (1993) 1 SCC 364 = (1993) 88 STC 204 (SC – 5 member bench judgment)]. Here, it was held that taxable event is the transfer of property in the goods involved in the execution of a works contract. The said transfer of property takes place when goods are incorporated in the works. Hence, value of goods at the time of incorporation in the works can constitute measure for levy of tax. However, cost of incorporation of the goods in works contract cannot be made part of measure for the levy of tax. It was held that value of goods involved in works contract would have to be considered for taxation on works contract. Charges for labour and services have to be deducted from total value of works contract. Moreover, tax cannot be levied on goods which are not taxable under sections 3, 4 and 5 of CST and goods covered under sections 14 and 15 of CST. If contractor is not able to give detailed break up, legislature can prescribe scales for deductions permissible on account of cost of labour and services for various types of works contract. It is permissible to have a uniform rate for works contract. This rate may be different from the rates applicable to individual goods.
The judgment in this case was subsequently followed in Builders’ Association of India v. State of Karnataka – (1993) 88 STC 248 = AIR 1993 SC 991 = (1993) 1 SCC 409 = 1993 AIR SCW 152 (SC – 5 member bench).
In Daelim Industrial Co. v. State of Assam (2003) 130) STC 53 (Gau HC), it was held that in case of works contract, tax is payable only of value of goods and not on cost of design and engineering.
State of Kerala v. Builders Association – In State of Kerala v. Builders Association of India – 1996 (8) SCALE 730 = (1997) 104 STC 134 = (1997) 2 SCC 183 = AIR 1997 SC 3640 = 1997 AIR SCW 977 (SC), the position was that a convenient, hassle-free and simple method, which was ‘rough and ready method’ was evolved by State Government for collection of sales tax on Works Contract. This was optional to assessee. It was held that legislature can evolve such alternate, simplified and hassle-free methods of assessment, making it optional to assessee. – . – In the field of taxation, legislation must be allowed greater ‘play in joints’. Allowance must be made for ‘trial and error’ by the legislature. – – In Mycon Construction v. State of Karnataka 2002 AIR SCW 2156 = 127 STC 105 (SC), it was held that a simplified composition scheme instead of regular assessment, can be evolved, if it is on optional basis. Validity of such provision has been upheld.
Other judgments – In Cooch Bihar Contractors Assn v. State of West Bengal (1996) 103 STC 477 (SC), it was observed that State Legislature can tax all the goods involved in works contract at a uniform rate which may be different from the rates applicable to individual goods which are involved in execution of works contract.
Government can make a provision allowing contractors option to opt for composition by paying a sum based on total consideration of contract. – Mytcon Construction v. State of Karnataka (1998) 111 STC 322 (Karn HC).
Royalty payable can be included for purpose of works contract tax – If contractor has to pay royalty and property gets transferred to him, it can be included for purpose of works contract tax. – Cooch Bihar Contractors Assn v. State of West Bengal (1996) 103 STC 477 (SC) – followed in B Seenaiah v. CTO (2001) 124 STC 248 (AP HC DB). However, in ACTO v. R K Constructions (2001) 124 STC 701 (Raj HC), it was held that if material is supplied by Government to contractor for use in Government contract, there is no ‘transfer of property in goods’ to contractor and no sales tax is leviable, even if Government had collected royalty.
Sale price for purpose of CST – So far, no specific provision has been made in CST and hence ‘sale price’ will have to be determined on basis of definition of ‘sale price’ as contained in section 2(h) of CST Act. As per this definition, freight or delivery or the cost of installation is not includible when separately charged. Thus, value of goods involved will have to be calculated excluding these charges.
‘C’ form can be supplied/ received for purchases / sales for works contract – Many High Courts have held that ‘C’ form can be issued for purchase of goods which are used in works contract. The dealer is entitled to registration and he can receive sales tax forms in respect of his sales. See the discussions under ‘C Form’ in a later chapter. These judgments pertain to period prior to 11-5-2002.
After amendment of definition of ‘sale’ w.e.f. 11-5-2002, now C form can certainly be issued as ‘works contract’ has been specifically included in definition of ‘sale’.
CST on works contract – Central Sales Tax will be payable on goods involved in works contract, if goods move from one State to another on account of such works contract from 11th May 2002 onwards.
Works contract of movable property – There can certainly be inter State works contract in case of movable property e.g. printing contracts. In fact, Central sales tax can be levied on any goods involved in works contract in case of movable property.
Works contract in case of immovable property – One interesting question that is likely to arise is whether there can be ‘goods involved in works contract’ if finally the article becomes immovable property in other State. For example, if a dealer undertakes supply and erection of machinery in other State, whether it will be a ‘inter State works contract’. In the opinion of author, it will be held so, as the movement of goods from one State to another certainly occasions on account of the works contract. – – It must be remembered that in case of works contract, the sales tax is on ‘goods involved in the execution of contract’ whether the property passes as goods or in some other form. There is no CST on ‘works contract’ as such. Thus, CST on works contract is really only on goods involved, which certainly move from one State to another.
It may be noted that a ‘sale’ can be inter-State even if property in goods is transferred in other State.