Term 'Permanent Establishment' In DTA Agreements

Term Permanent Establishment

One important term that occurs in all the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements is the term 'Permanent Establishment' (PE), which has not been defined in the Income- tax Act.

There is a consensus that the host country can tax income of foreign companies only if it maintains a PE. Normally, a PE includes the following:

  • a place of management.
  • a branch.
  • an office.
  • a factory.

Thus, a PE takes the form of a facility, a construction site or an agency relationship, all of which require a measure of permanence.

India's approach has been to enlarge the definition of PE, so as to get maximum tax revenue. In general terms, a business connection is deemed to exist if there is any continuous relationship between a business carried on in India and, a non-resident person who derives income through this connection. There must be a continuity of transactions so as to establish a business connection. Normally, the time period to constitute a PE in the host country is six months. Another issue is the scope of income earned by a PE in a country, i.e., what is the portion of the income of PE earned in India that can be taxed. Under the 'Attribution Rule', only those profits are taxable which are attributable to the PE, computed on the basis of a hypothesis that the establishment in a country is completely independent of the head office in another country. The profits, which such an independent enterprise might be expected to derive on the amount so ascertained, are taken into account in the computation of the business income of the PE. Under the force of an attraction rule, the income, arising from all sources in a country, where a foreign enterprise maintains a PE is subject to tax in that country. This means that in addition to the profits attribution to the PE, those attributable to the sale of goods or merchandise and activities, similar to those carried on through the PE in another country are also taxable in the source country. Thus, in keeping with India's stand that the country of source has a greater right to tax the profits of all enterprises of the country as compared to what it had in the treaties, based on the OECD model. As an alternative, all income in the source country which is not covered by the PE may be subject to the withholding tax if under the domestic law of the country, the income in question is taxable.