In the case of ITC Ltd v. CIT (2016) 384 ITR 14, the issue under consideration before the Supreme Court was whether “tips” received by the hotel-company from its customers and distributed to the employees fell within the meaning of “Salaries” to attract tax deduction at source under section 192.
The Supreme Court observed that in respect of tips collected by the company from the customers and distributed to the employees, the person responsible for paying the employee was not the employer at all, but a third person, namely the customer. As income from tips would be chargeable in the hands of the employees as “Income from Other Sources”, on account of such tips being received from customers and not from the employer, section 192 would not get attracted at all.
The Supreme Court further observed that there was no vested right in the employee to claim any amount of tip from his employer. Tips are purely voluntary amounts that may or may not be paid by customers for services rendered to them, and hence, would not fall within the meaning and scope of section 15. Further, the amount of tips collected from the customers by the employer and paid to the employees has no reference to the contract of employment at all. Tips were received by the employer in a fiduciary capacity as trustee for payments that were received from customers which they disbursed to their employees for service rendered to the customer. There was, therefore, no reference to the contract of employment when these amounts were paid by the employer to the employee. Due to this reason the tips received by the employees could not be regarded as profits in lieu of salary in terms of section 17(3). The payments of collected tips included and paid by way of a credit card by a customer, would not be payments made “by or on behalf of” an employer. The contract of employment not being the proximate cause for the receipt of tips by the employee from a customer, such payments would be outside the scope of sections 15 and 17.
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