Urban Agricultural lands Treated As Capital Asset

Urban agricultural lands are treated as capital assets and gain arising on transfer thereof is charged to capital gain tax. If land is not an urban land the gain arising from transfer thereof is not chargeable to capital gain tax. But in such a situation question arises whether the gains can be treated as agricultural income. Recently the third member bench  of  ITAT has answered  the question in the affirmative and held that the gain is agricultural income and thus exempt from tax.

 

    Urban agricultural lands treated as capital asset

 

                  Section 2(14) defines the term capital asset. It provides an inclusive definition of capital asst. As per section 2(14) capital asset does not include agricultural lands in India within its ambit. But all agricultural lands in India are not out of the scope of capital assets. As a consequence the following agricultural lands are treated as capital assets and their transfer will  give rise to capital gains :

 

    Land situated in any area which is comprised within the jurisdiction of a municipality ( whether know as a municipality, municipal corporation, notified area committee, town area committee, town committee, or by any other name) or a cantonment board and which has a population of not less than ten thousand according to the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published before that first day of the previous year; or

 

    In any area within such distance, not being more than eight kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or a cantonment board referred to in items  (a) above as the Central Government may, having regard to the extent of, and scope for urbanisation of that  area and other relevant considerations, specify in this behalf by notification  in the Official Gazette.

 

 

Gain arising from transfer of Agricultural Lands situated as above would give rise to capital gains.

 

The above position held good till the assessement year 2013-14.

 

The Finance Act, 2013 has amended section 2(14) effective from the assessment year 2014-15. Therefore, from assessment year 2014-15 the agricultural land situated:

 

    In any area is comprised within the jurisdiction of a municipality (whether know as a municipality, municipal corporation, notified area committee, town area committee, or by any other name) or a cantonment board and which has of not less than ten thousand. [similar  to item (a) of sub-clause (iii) of clause (14) of section 2 as it existing  upto  assessment year 2013-14 except for the difference that the words according to the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published before the first day of the previous year has been omitted and the term population has been explained in  a separate explanation added to section 2[14] [iii].
    In any area within the distance, measured aerially,---

 

    Not being more than two kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or cantonment board referred to in item (a) and which has a population of more than ten thousand but not exceeding one lakh; or
    Not being more than six kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or cantonment board referred to in item (a) and which has a population of more than one lakh but not exceeding ten lakh; or
    Not being more than eight kilometres, from the local limits of  any municipality or cantonment board referred to in item (a) and which has a population of more than ten lakh

 

Will be  treated  as capital asset and gain arising from transfer of agricultural land situated as above would give rise to capital gain.

 

According  to  Explanation to section 2(14)(iii) “population” means the population according to the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been publishes before the first day of the previous year.

 

    Rural Agricultural land and Treatment of gain arising from Transfer thereof

 

    Position upto assessment year 2013-14

 

If any agricultural land is not a---

 

    Land situated in any area which is comprised within the jurisdiction of a municipality (whether know as a municipality, municipal corporation, notified area committe, town area committee, town committee, or by any other name) or a cantonment board and which has a population of not less than ten thousand according to the last preceding census of which the relavent figures have been published before the first day of the previous year; or
    In any area within such distance not being more than eight Kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or a cantonment board referred to in items (a) above as the Central Government may, having regard to the extent of, and scope for,  urbanisation of that area and other relevant consideration, specify in the behalf by notification in the Official Gazette.

 

Then such land will not be treated as a capital asset. If the agricultural land is not a capital asset, then its transfer of such land will be treated as agricultural income

 

This is borne out Explanation 1 to section 2(1A) which provides that any revenue derived  from transfer will not result in capital gain. Further, the gain arising from transfer of such land will be treated as agricultural income.

 

Above view has been upheld in ITO v. Dr. Koshy George & Anr (2010) 31 (II) ITCL 150 (Coch-Trib) : 2009 TaxPub (DT) 1841 (Coch-Trib): (2009) 317 ITR 116 (Coch). In this case the assessing on sale of coffee estates, over and above the registration sale deed, wewe “On Money” is still taxable in the present case. It was held that the property sold by the assessee was agricultural property situated beyond 8 k.m. of any surplus of money arising to an notified either. In such circumstances, any surplus of money arising the registered sale deed is very much agricultural income even though that surplus consideration is tainted with the expression : On Money: the genesis of the :On Money” is definitely the sale of agricultural Land.

 

    Position from asseseement year 2014-15

If any agricultural land is not a:

    Land situated in any area which is comprised within the jurisdiction of a municipality (whether know as a municipality, municipal corporation, notified area committee, town area committee, town committee, or by any other name) or a cantonment board and which has a population of more than ten thousand but not exceeding one lakh; or
    In any area within the distance, measures aerially,--

    Not  being more than two kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or cantonment board referred to in item (a) and which has a population of more than ten thousand but not exceeding one lakh; or
    Not being more than six kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or cantonment board referred to in item (a) and which has a population of more than one lakh but not execeeding ten lakh; or
    Not being more than eight kilometres, from the local limits of any municipality or cantonment board referred to in item (a) nd which has a population of more than ten lakh.

 

Then such land will not be treated as a capital asset. If the agricultural land will not a capital assets, then its transfer will not result in capital gain. Further, the gain arising from transfer of such land will be treated as agricultural income.

 

 

 

    Judicial precedents as to treatment of gain arising on transfer of land situated beyond specified distance

 

In ITO v. Anthony  John Pereira (2008) 24 (II) ITCL 582 (Mum ‘F-Trib);2008 TaxPub (DT) 2048 (Mum-Trib); (2008) 24 SOT 459 (Mum ;F’-Trib) the assessee had produced all evidence he could, by way of certificates from competent Authority Of ULC (Urban Land Celing), State PWD, ect.,, that the agricultural limits. It was held that the said agricultural land in question was not capital asst in terms of section 2 (14). Therefore, the land in question , was not a capital asset, and hence, profit earned on transfer of land to co-operative housing society was also not liable to capital gains tax.

 

In Ronjibhai P. Chaudhry v. Dy. CIT & Asstt. CIT v. Ramji P.

Chaudhry (2009) 29 (II) ITCL 531 (Ahd-Trib); 2009 TaxPub (DT) 696 in non specified urban area could not be treated as capital asset and gain arising on sale thereof could not be chargeable to capital gains tax.

 

It was held in the case of CIT v. Manilal Aomnath (1977) 106 ITR 917 (G uj) as follow:

 

“ Under the Income Tax Act of 1967, agricultural lend situated in India was excluded from the definition of ‘ capital asset’ and any gain from the sale thereof was not to be included in the total income of an assessee tinder the head :capital gains”. In order to determine  whether a particular land is agricultural land or not one has to first find out if it is being put to any use. If it is used for agricultural purpose there is a presumption that it is agricultural land. If it is used for non Agricultural purposes the presumption is that it is non Agricultural land. This presumption arising from actual use can be rebutted by the presence of other factors. There may be cases where agricultural purpose  of the presumption is that it is non agricultural land. This presumption arising from actual use can be rebutted by the presence of other factors. There may be casese where land which is admittedly non agricultural is used temporily or agricultural purpose the determination of the question would  therefore  end on the depend on the facts of each case.

 

‘The   assessee, Hindu, undivided family, had obtained some land on a partition in 1939. From that time, up to the time  of its sale, agricultural operation were carried on in the land. There was no regular road to the and it was with the aid of a tractor that agricultural operation were carried on in the land. There was no regular road to the land and it was within municipal limits or took place. The facts that the land was within municipal limits or that it was included within a proposed town planning scheme was not by itself sufficient to rebut the presumption arising from actual use of the land. The land had been used for agricultural purpose for a long timr and nothing had happened till the date of the sale to change that character of thr land. The potential non-agricultural value of the land  for which a purchaser may be prepared to pay a large price would not detract from its character as agricultural land at the date o fthe sale. The land in question  was  therefore  agricultural  land.

 

In  Smt. T. Urmilav. ITO (2013) 50 (II) ITCL 370 (HYd ‘A’-Trib): 2013 TaxPub (DT) 845 (Hyd-Trib) the assessee had purchased 20.07 acres of land in Srinagar village in Maheswaram  Mandal. During the relevant land in Srinagar village in Maheswaram Mandal. During the relavant previous year, the said land was sold to R. The receipt was not offered  assessing officer noticed that the impugned land was situated in the  village which was included in the Hyderabad Airport Development of Andhra Pradesh had issued a land acquisition notigication under the land Acquisition Act for the acquisition of the above said lans . it may be noted that the land and there was no dispute regarding come was declared in the return of income filed by the assesse for the past several years as agricultural income. It was also an admitted fact that the assessee had not applied for conversion of this agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose and the assessee had not put the land to any purpose other than agricultural purposes. It was also an admitted subjected to any developmental activities.

 

It was observed that it is important to mention that mere inclusion of impugned property in the HADA cannot change the character of the property. Mere inclusion of the property in the HADA by State Government notification does not change the character of the property if the property still continues to be agricultural land at the point of sale of said property. Nothing had been brought on record to show that in this village of Srinagar (Maheswaram Mundal) any infrasture development had taken place. In the present case during the relevant  point of sale of the land in question the surimpugned of the land for non agricultural purpose would not change the character of the land into non-agricultural purpose would not change the character of the land into non agricultural land at the relevant point of sale of land by the assessee.

 

    Facts of the case in Supriya Kanwar v. ITO (2015) 61 (II) ITCL 219 (Job- Trib) (TM): 2014 TaxPub (DT) 2468 (Job-Trib) (TM)- (2014) 163 TTJ (job-Trib)(TM)1

 

The assessee purchased certain agricultural  land and sold in the previous year relevant to assessment year under consideration. The case of the assessee was that the income arose from the transaction of agricultural land and hence, it was exempt under section 10(1) read with swction 2[1A](a) of the Act. Even otherwise the income arising therefrom  was not assessable to capital gains tax in the view of the provision of section 2(14)(iii)(a)/(b). On the other hand the case of the Revenue was that it was an adventure in the nature of trade and the  income from the impugned land was business income.  The assessing officer as well as the by the assessee on sale  of the impugned land deserve to be treated as profit from adventures in the nature of trade and assessable as business income. When the case was heard land was purchase on 7-2-2006 and it was sold on 23-03-2007 (b) the land was situated beyond the prescribed municipal limits (beyond 8 kms. From the municipal limits) in a village of Alwar District, Rajasthan, and (c) it being agricultural land the sale proceeds thereon were not assessable to tax as business income wherein agricultural income on sale of standing crops was shown. He had also taken into consideration the plea of the assessee that at no point of time the assessee sought for conversion of land use by making an application with the respective authorities. Though the assessee was dealing in sale and purchase of plots in urban areas, so far as this land was concerned, the intention was not to convert into plots and in fact the agricultural land with standing crops was sold to single party, i.e. Vedic Village Developers (P) Ltd.

 

The case of the assessee was that no steps had taken to change the character of the land and hence it continued to remain as agriculture land till the date of sale to Vedic Village Developers (P) ltd. And the assessee did not make any effort to locate the buyer and because of the attractive price which was offered by Vedic Village Developers (P) Ltd. Assessee was persuaded to sell the land.

 

The assessee submitted that only such land which falls within the description of agricultural land under section 29(14) (iii), upon sale thereof, gives rise to income which cannont be considered as agricultural land which is situated beyond eight kilometres (specified distance for the A.Y 2014-15) from the local limits of any municipality, the sale proceeds thereof has to be considered as ;agricultural income’, in which event section 1091) comes into play, i.e., whether it is o capital account or revenue account, agricultural income cannot be included in the total income. It was also submitted that the assessee had also included the impugned sale proceeds for rate purpose.

 

    Opinion of Judicial Member

The  JM observed that the assessee purchased five pieces of agricultural  land adjoining  each other through different sale deed and the tural  land was registered on different  dates from 7-2-2006 to 5-4-2006. The assessee showed the purchase of agricultural land as ‘fixed asset’. In the preceding year the assessee earned Rs.70000 on sale of crop which was accepted by the Revenue. In this year Rs. 22,000 was declared on sale of outstanding crop and accepted by to assessing officer. In fact on sale of standing at the time of sale which was passes. If the intention of the assessee was to carry on an adventure in the nature of trade she would have applied ffor conversion of land use and drawn up the requisite plotting scheme, engaged professional architects for preparing site plan approval and would have commenced preliminarily development works whereas no such activity was undertaken by the assesse which shows that the intention of the assessee at the time of purchase of land was only to retain the land and it was not purchased for the purpose of resale as an adventure in the nature of trade. He also observed that undoubtedly the land was situated beyond 8 kms. From the municipal limit and hence the land has to be considered as agricultural land. So long as the land is capable  of agricultural operations, the sale of agricultural land by itself would not make it business income. He also relied upon several precedents apart from analysing the facts of the case to come to the  conclusion that the impugned land is Barani land admeasuring only seven Bighas with standing crop which it itself prove that it was not purchased with an intension to utilise the land for the purview of the definition of ‘capital assets’ and hence  income therefrom cannot be assessed to tax by treating it as adventure in the nature of trade.

 

    Opinion of Accountant Member

The AM was not agreeable with the view taken by the JM. Having regard  to the peculiar factual matrix of the case, which was highlighted in his order, he order, he concluded that the assessee sold the land to make profit. He observed that the assessee was not having any agricultural background since she was deriving income b way of salary from Ashapurna land and also on fencing the land. The land was purchased along with standing crop and he said standing crop was sold in the earlier year. It was claimed that two  crops were raised in this year and the first  crop fact that both the lower authorised have given concurrent finding that the transaction of purchase  and sale of agricultural land and purchase deriving a huge return of 558 percent, he also observed that the land was situated at a distance of more than 500kms. From the place where the assessee usually resided and therefore he drew a conclusion that these lands were not purchased for the purpose of cultivation. Since she was engaged in the business of real estate development the impugned purchase was with the full knowledge that the values are likely to appreciate rapidly as these fall within thw new town of National Capital Region (NCR) the global city, on national highway No.8 he also observed that the investment was made out of borrowed funds.

 

    Adventure in trade vis-a-vis of sale

The issue as to whether a particular transaction amount to mere sale of investment or an adventure in the nature of trade was subjected matter of several judicial decisions and the Apex Court have time and again observed that no principal can be evolved which would govern the decision of all cases in which the character of the impugned transaction falls to be considered. In the case of Venkataswami Naidu & Co. (supra) the Court observed that even an isolated transaction can safisy the description of adventure in the nature of trade may partake of the character of an adventure in the nature of trade but at the same time cautioned that the ‘ single plunge must be in the waters of trade.’ The Hon’ble Court observed that it is impossible to evolve any formula which can be applied in determining the character of isolated transaction; if a person invests  money in land intending to hold it, enjoys its income for some time, and then sells it at a profit derives from an adventure in the nature of trade. These factore were taken into consideration to come to the conclusion that it was an adventure in the nature of trade. The Apex Court as well as various High Court  have reiterated the basic principal and observed that it is impossible to evolve any formula which can be applied in determining the character of an isolated transaction and a holistic view has to be taken, by taking into consideration the circumstances of the case.

 

    Agricultural land situated within specified distance vis-a-vis agricultural land situated beyond specified distance

If it is not considered as adventure in the nature of trade the next issue that arises for consideration is whether sale of agricultural land gives rise to ‘agricultural income’ or it is assessable to tax under the head ;capital gains’. Admittedly, the expression “agricultural income” is not comprehensively defined in the Income Tax Act, though it was explained under section 2(1A) , that any revenue derived from land, which is situated in the India, can be considered as agricultural income. Section 2(14) of the Act defines capital asset, which substituted by Finance Act, 1970 and thereafter in 1989 whereby only such agricultural land which is located within eight kilometres from the municipal limit should be treated as capital assets. In other words, agricultural land situated beyond eight kilometres from the nearest municipal limits not be treated as capital assets and sale proceeds thereof may be treated as revenue derived from land which is situated in India and is used for agricultural purpose. The Apex Court in the case of Singhal Rakesh Kumar v. Union of India & Ors. (2001)247 ITR 150 (SC) explained the meaning of the expression ‘agricultural income’ as well as the expression ;capital asset’. In the said case the issue was whether the profit arising out of sale of agricultural land gives rise to capital gains, within the meaning of income Tax Act, 1961. Awrit petition was filed by the assessee  asking the High Court to declare as unconstitutional the Explanation to clause (1A) and sub clause (iii) of clause (12) of s. 2 of income Tax Act, 1961 to declare that  capital gains arising from sale of agricultural land within the municipal area were not liable to capital gains tax under the Income Tax Act.1961. the Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh having dismissed the writ petition the matter came up before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Apex Court observed that the parliament is empowered to legislate to say what “agricultural income “ means. What Parliament says  in this regard is that the meaning given under Income Tax Act should be taken as the correct meaning of the expression ‘agricultural income’ and in regard to such agricultural income the State may legislated in the aforementioned case the court observed that the Land being situated within the municipal limits income arising from transfer of agricultural land falls within the terms of items (a) and (b) of sub-clause  (iii) of clause  (14) of section 2 and falls outside the ambit of revenue derived from land, therefore, outside the ambit of ‘agricultural income’ and consequently liable to capital gains tax under section 45 of the Act. The assessee placed reliance upon the aforecited decision to submit that the impugned land sold by the assessee  was situated beyond eight kilometres from the nearest municipal limt and hence, the income arising from transfer of agricultural land falls within the ambit of revenue derived from transfer of agricultural land falls as agricultural income in which event it has to be considered for rate purposes only.

 

The Hon’ble Bombay High Court in the the case of Gopal C. Sharma v. CIT (1994) 209 ITR 946 (Bom), on the other hand, observed that the expression agricultural land is not defines in the Income Tax Act and going by the Intention of the legislature, i.e. encouraging cultivation sale of agricultural land gives rise to capital gains. It may be noticed that the Court was not concerned with the case of agricultural land situated outside the municipal limit and had not specifically dealt with the provisions of section 2(1A) read with section 2(14) (iii)(a) and (b). On the contrary, the Apex Court in the case of Singhai Rakesh Kumar v. Union of India  & Ors. (supra) observed that agricultural land situated within eight kilometres from the municipal limits

 

    Land situated beyond specified distance cannot be treated as capital assets and gain arising on sale thereof gives rise to agriculture income

The Third Member held that the impugned land cannot be treated aas capital assets since it was situated beyond eight kilometres from the municipal limits and it was purchased as agricultural land and sold accordingly without making any change such as cconversion in the land records, plotting of land, ect. In facts the assessee stated that even at the time of purchase of the land cannot be inferred that the assessee intended to make enormous profit by selling the land within a short spam It was also submitted that National Capital Region masters plan was prepared in 2002 and notified in 2010 and it was to come into effect from 2031 whereas the land was purchased. There was nothing  on record to suggest that the assessee has done any act to convert the land for non-agricultural use. It was not even the case of the Revenue that the assessee advertised for sale of the land the case of the assessee, on the other hand, was that the Vedic Village Developers (P) Ltd. Offered tempting pric and the assessee decided to take the benefit out of it though there was no intention to carry on trade

 

It is thus clear that it was a case of sale of agricultural land and the land being situated to tax under the Income Tax Act either as business income or capital gains. In the light of  the  latest decision of the Apex Court in the case of Snghai Rakesh Kumar v. Union of India & Ors (2001) 247 ITR 150 (SC) the only interpretation permissible is that the land situated outside the municipal limits stands excluded from the expression ‘capital Assets’ from the inception and the sale proceeds have to be treated as revenue received from agricultural land.