All-About the International Financial Service Centre

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  • Last Updated on 16 July, 2022

An International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) caters to customers outside the jurisdiction of the domestic economy. These centres are ‘international’ in the sense that they deal with the flow of finance and financial products/services across borders which includes banking, insurance, asset management, and most importantly, a well-structured and fully developed capital market for debt, equities, commodities as well as derivatives. The first IFSC in India has been set up at GIFT City, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

All-About the International Financial Service Centre (IFSC)

The Stock Exchanges operating in IFSC may permit dealing in the following types of securities, and products in such securities, in currency other than Indian Rupee, on their trading platform with a specified trading lot size subject to prior approval of the SEBI:

  1. Equity shares of a company incorporated outside India;
  2. Depository Receipt(s);
  3. Debt securities issued by eligible issuers;
  4. Currency and interest rate derivatives;
  5. Index-based derivatives; and
  6. Such other securities may be specified by SEBI.

As per SEBI (International Financial Services Centres) Guidelines, 2015, only the following persons can deal in securities listed in IFSC:

  1. A person not resident in India;
  2. A non-resident Indian;
  3. A financial institution resident in India who is eligible under FEMA to invest funds offshore, to the extent of permitted outward investment;
  4. A person resident in India who is eligible under FEMA, to invest funds offshore, to the extent allowed under the Liberalized Remittance Scheme of Reserve Bank of India, subject to a minimum investment as specified by the Board from time to time.

The Income-tax Act, 1961 contains the following provisions wherein special benefits, exemptions and deductions are allowed to the units located in an IFSC:

1. Concessional tax rate on transfer of specified securities

Section 112A and Section 111A provides concessional tax rates in respect of capital gains arising from the transfer of specified securities subject to certain conditions, inter-alia, the transaction should be subject to the Securities Transaction Tax (STT). This condition has been relaxed where the transfer is undertaken on a recognised stock exchange located in any IFSC and the consideration for such transfer is received or receivable in foreign currency.

2. No tax on dividend

If a domestic company, being a unit located in IFSC, distributes a dividend to its shareholders then no tax shall be chargeable either in the hands of the company or the shareholders.

3. Reduced rate of MAT and AMT

A concessional MAT and AMT rate of 9% shall be applicable to the assessee, being a unit or a company, located in IFSC deriving its income solely in convertible foreign exchange.

4. Exemption from the transfer of certain securities

Section 47(viiab) provides that any transfer of specified securities by a non-resident on a recognised stock exchange located in any IFSC shall not be regarded as a transfer.

5. Benefits available to certain specified fund located in IFSC

Following benefits are available to certain Category III Alternative Investment Funds and investment division of offshore banking unit, located in IFSC:

  1. Exemption in respect of certain income under Section 10(4D);
  2. Concessional tax rates prescribed under Section 115AD;
  3. Non Applicability of AMT provisions; and
  4. Exemption under Section 10(23FF) in respect of income in the nature of capital gains

Further, any income accruing or arising to or received by a unit-holder from such specified fund or on the transfer of units in such fund, shall be exempt from tax under Section 10(23FBC).

6. Exemption in respect of Interest on borrowings

Where a unit located in IFSC has borrowed money on or after 01-09-2019 from a non-resident, interest received or receivable in respect of such borrowings shall be exempt in the hands of such non-resident under Section 10(15)(ix).

7. Relaxation from the filing of return of income

The CBDT[1] has exempted a non-resident or a foreign company from the requirement of filing a return of income if it has any income from any investment in Category-I and Category-II Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) set up in an IFSC located in India subject to fulfilment of certain conditions.

8. Deduction under Section 80LA

Where Gross Total Income (GTI) of an assessee, being a unit of an IFSC, includes any income from the business for which it has been approved for setting up in such centre, the assessee shall be eligible to claim deduction under Section 80LA.

9. No restriction on section 80LA deduction

An assessee opting for a concessional tax regime under Section 115BAA, Section 115BAC and Section 115BAD are not allowed to claim deductions prescribed under the heading “C.—Deductions in respect of certain incomes” of chapter VI-A. However, a person having a unit in IFSC is allowed to claim deduction under section 80LA even if it has opted for payment of tax at a concessional tax rate prescribed under these provisions.

Similarly, Section 115A provides special tax rates in respect of the certain income earned by a non-resident (not being a company) or a foreign company. However, no deduction can be claimed from such income under Chapter VI-A. A unit of an IFSC is not restricted from claiming deduction under section 80LA from such income.

10. Certain exemption to non-residents dealing with a unit of IFSC

Following income earned by a non-resident shall be exempt from tax by virtue of Section 10(4E) and Section 10(4F)[2]:

  1. Income from transfer of non-deliverable forward contracts entered into with an offshore banking unit of an IFSC referred under section 80LA(1A);
  2. Income by way of royalty or interest, on account of the lease of an aircraft in a previous year, which is paid by an IFSC referred under section 80LA(1A).

11. Exemption or allowances in case of certain relocations[3]

Following are the allowances and exemptions available in respect of certain relocation:

  1. Any transfer of a capital asset by an original fund to resultant fund in pursuance of its relocation is not regarded as transfer under section Section 47(viiac);
  2. Transfer of shares, unit or interest held by an investor in original fund in consideration of share, unit or interest in resultant fund under Section 47(viiad).
  3. Exemption from provisions of deemed taxability under Section 56; and
  4. Non applicability of Section 79 where change in shareholding has taken place during the year on account of relocation referred under Section 47(viiac) and Section (viiad).

12. Relaxations of conditions to be an eligible investment fund or eligible fund manager

The Central Government has been empowered to specify that any one or more of such conditions specified under Section 9A shall not apply or shall apply with certain modifications specified in this behalf if such fund manager is located in an IFSC, as defined under Section 80LA and has commenced its operations on or before 31-03-2024.

13. Concessional tax rate in case of GDRs issued by certain companies

Where an Indian company or its subsidiary engaged in specified business distributes dividend in respect of Global Depository Receipts (GDRs) issued to its employees under an Employees’ Stock Option Scheme, the dividend and long term capital gains in respect of such GDRs is taxable at a concessional tax rate prescribed under Section 115ACA.

For the purpose of this provision, GDR means any instrument in the form of a depository receipt or certificate (by whatever name called) created by the Overseas Depository Bank outside India or in an IFSC and issued to investors against the issue of Ordinary shares of issuing company, being a company incorporated outside India, if such depository receipt or certificate is listed and traded on any IFSC.

14. Pass-through status to AIFs regulated under IFSC Authority Act, 2019

Category-I and Category-II Alternative Investment Funds regulated under the IFSC Authority Act, 2019 are provided pass-through status under the Income-tax Act as per Section 115UB read with Section 10(23FBA) and Section 10(23FBB).

15. Lower rate of TDS under Section 194LC

Section 194LC provides for deduction of tax at source at a reduced rate of 4% if interest is payable in respect of monies borrowed from a source outside India by way of issue of any long-term bond or rupee-denominated bond on or after 01-04-2020 but before 01-07-2023, which is listed only on a recognised stock exchange located in IFSC.

16. Relaxation from obtaining or Quoting PAN

As per Section 139A read with Rule 114AAB, a non-resident, not being a company, or a foreign company, shall not be required to obtain and quote PAN subject to fulfilment of certain conditions. One of such conditions is assessee has made an investment in Category-I or Category-II AIFs located in IFSC and income from such investment is the only income.

Similarly, where a non-resident entered into a transaction in a capital asset referred under Section 47(viiab), he shall not be required to obtain and quote PAN subject to fulfilment of certain conditions. One of such conditions is that such capital assets are listed on a recognized stock exchange located in any IFSC.

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[1] Notification no. S.O. 2672(e), dated 26-7-2019

[2] Inserted by the Finance Act, 2021, with effect from the assessment year 2022-2023

[3] Inserted by the Finance Act, 2021

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