Jago Grahak Jago

Jago Grahak Jago Logo

Supreme Court delivers Split Verdict on chargeability of Service Tax on Card-Issuing Bank For Interchange Fees

The Supreme Court delivered the split Verdict on chargeability of Service Tax on Card-Issuing Bank For Interchange Fees.

Justice Joseph, in his judgement, was in agreement that the respondent­ Citibank, as issuing bank, was providing service, as found by the Commissioner. However, this service was a part of a single unified service– of settling transactions – which is provided by both the acquiring and issuing bank (which in some circumstances may well be the same bank).

“I am in agreement with J. Joseph that prior to 01.07.2012, the service of issuing bank fell within Section 65 (33a) (iii); interchange fee cannot be treated as interest, as argued by Citibank; and lastly the case that credit card transaction, being a transaction in money and therefore excluded from the definition of “service” in Section 65B (44) is unacceptable,” said Justice Ravindra Bhat.

Justice Bhat further added that the question of remand to the tribunal does not arise. The only point of contention seems to be whether they were reflecting the payment of service tax separately in their ledgers, as issuing and acquiring bank. However, as a result of the reasons already elaborated, this is rendered to be a purely academic question. A question of returns should not detain this Court, because the business reality is that every bank is both an issuing bank and an acquiring bank, and it is nobody’s case that the banks are not filing their returns on service tax.

However, Justice KM Joseph allowed the appeals filed by the Revenue Department and remanded the matter back to the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal.

The judgement of Joseph, J. with respect, is mainly concerned by the fact that Citibank retains ₹ 2 before crediting the rest of the money towards settlement of the transaction; and therefore, in the absence of proof that acquiring bank has paid service tax on amount including the interchange fee, it is liable to pay for the specific service provided by it, as a distinct service provider.

As explained in the earlier portion of this judgment, the activity or part played by the issuing bank is undoubtedly a service. However, it is part of the service; by itself, and without the role of the acquiring bank, it becomes a pure advance or loan transaction. However, the provision of service by the issuing bank and the acquiring bank together, triggers the levy. In other words, the component of service by the issuing bank is just that – a part of a single unified service, which for business convenience is structured in a manner, that the issuing bank retains ₹ 2, and tax is paid on the overall service, in the hands of the acquiring bank.

There is no revenue leakage. The manner in which the credit card transaction, particularly the inter se transaction between the issuing bank and the acquiring bank is fashioned is such that instead of releasing the entire amount, in the first instance, and claiming the interchange fee later, the issuing bank retains the component of interchange fee. Source: https://www.taxscan.in/supreme-court-delivers-split-verdict-on-chargeability-of-service-tax-on-card-issuing-bank-for-interchange-fees/144327/