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Time Bar: Relief to Oz Cricketer Lee in I-T Case

The Delhi bench of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) granted relief to former Australian cricketer Brett Lee in a tax case on the grounds that the cricketer was served notice under the Income Tax Act beyond the limitation period. The case pertains to the income tax demand raised by the department for ₹3 crore endorsement fee received by the fast bowler for the assessment year 2013-14 from three Indian entities Reebok India Company, Castrol India Limited and Knight Riders Sport Private Ltd.

The income tax department detected that no income tax has been paid on the endorsement fee and sent a tax notice to the cricketer under Section 148 of the income tax notice. However, the tribunal observed that the notice should have been served on or before March 31, 2021. The Income tax department sent the tax notice a day before the deadline and that also to the wrong e-mail address, which had bounced back. The tribunal ruled that in this scenario, the court will not treat it as valid service of notice under section 148 of the Act on the assessee. “That being the factual position emerging on record, the assessment order passed has to be declared as invalid. Accordingly, we quash the assessment order;” said the appellate tribunal bench of Saktijit Dey and Brajesh Kumar Singh. The assessing officer (AO) had contended that the Income Tax Business Application (ITBA)-generated notice was issued under the Act on March 30, 2021 and the same was served on the assessee. But Lee’s counsel argued that “the notice purportedly issued under the Act was never communicated to the assessee in the correct e-mail ID, but was sent to some unknown e-mail ID.”

The counsel argued that “the assessee had registered his e-mail ID in the ITBA portal only on 31.03.2022.” The tribunal agreed with Lee’s counsel sub-mission that the pacer for the first time registered himself on the e-filing portal on March 31, 2022 and not before that. The tribunal observed that the fast bowler could only have viewed the notice in March 2022 and “the date on which the assessee might have viewed the notice in the efiling portal has to be considered as the date of issuance of notice.”

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