Director General of the
Director General of the
THE COURT OF APPEAL OF
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JUDGMENT OF THE LORDS OF THE JUDICIAL
COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL
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Present at the hearing:-
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1. The parties to this case are Mr and Mrs Adhinath Singh Lutchumun and a number of other persons (to whom it will be convenient to refer collectively as “the taxpayers”) on the one hand and the Director General of the Mauritius Revenue Authority, formerly the Commissioner of Income Tax (referred to hereinafter as “the Revenue”) on the other. The central issue is whether a sum which the taxpayers received as compensation for the compulsory acquisition of land which they had acquired with a view to profit is taxable as part of their gross income or is a tax free capital sum because it was not obtained in the normal course of the taxpayers’ business.
“In my judgment it is equally established by authority that to decide whether a particular receipt is in the nature of income or in the nature of capital one has to look at all the circumstances of the particular case and apply judicial common sense in reaching a conclusion as to how the receipt is to be classified.”
In Inland Revenue Commissioners v John Lewis Properties plc  Ch 513, para 16 Arden LJ suggested a classification that might be adopted to discover whether there was a principle by which such cases might be organised. The present case, according to her classification, is a compensation case. In para 45 she set out a series of propositions which she derived from the reported cases as to how a sum received as compensation should be classified. For the purposes of the present case it is necessary to refer to only two of them. First, every case depends on a careful examination of the particular circumstances. Second, the underlying asset from which the sum is derived may have a large influence on whether the payment is capital or income. To these propositions their Lordships would add a third, which has a direct bearing on the way the receipt should be treated in this case. This is that close attention must also be paid to the terms of the taxing statute.
3. The facts of this case are relatively simple. In 1991 the taxpayers obtained a provisional land conversion permit under Part IV of the Sugar Industry Efficiency Act 1988 to convert 50 arpents of agricultural land owned by Medine Sugar Estate at Coromandel to residential. On receipt of the permit they entered into an informal agreement to purchase the land. In 1993 they purchased it by authentic deed jointly and in undivided rights for Rs 50,000,000. At the beginning of October 1993 the parcelling of the land into 419 residential plots was approved by the authorities. But at the end of October 1993 the taxpayers were served with a notice under section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act 1973 (“the 1973 Act”) that it was proposed to acquire two portions of the taxpayers’ land extending in total to 12A52 on behalf of the government. This area was to be excised from the larger portion of 50A. The notice of compulsory acquisition which had been published in the Gazette under section 8 of the 1973 Act was transcribed in January 1994, thus vesting the excised portion of the land in the government.
4. The taxpayers made a claim for compensation under Part III of the 1973 Act. Section 19(3) of that Act provides that the value of any interest in the land shall be the amount which the interest, if sold on the open market by a willing seller, might be expected to realise at the date of the first publication of the notice under section 8. Section 18(6) provides that the Board of Assessment, in awarding compensation, may allow interest at the legal rate, calculated from the date of vesting under section 11 until the date of the award. In August 1995 the Board awarded the taxpayers a sum of Rs 2,805,000 per arpent, to be apportioned among them according to their respective shares, together with interest from the date of vesting. The result of this award was that the taxpayers received Rs 1,805,000 more per arpent than they had paid for it. In February
5. The Revenue decided that the sum received as compensation was taxable in the hands of the taxpayers as part of their gross income within the meaning of section 11(1)(g) of the Income Tax Act 1974. Under that provision a person’s gross income includes:
“any sum or benefit, in money or money’s worth, derived from the sale of any property or interest in property, where the property was acquired in the course of a business the main purpose of which is the acquisition and sale of immoveable property.”
The taxpayers were assessed to income tax in respect of their shares of the profit that resulted from the compulsory acquisition of the 12A52 of excised land on behalf of the government. The assessments were made on
6. The taxpayers appealed against the assessments. Their notices of appeal stated that the ground of the appeal was that amounts received for compulsory acquisition were not taxable. On
7. The Revenue appealed against the determination of the Tax Appeal Tribunal to the Supreme Court. On
“The above factors show that the compensation received was in respect of the amount that they would have received with a profit had they sold part of their trading stock in accordance with their initial project and it cannot therefore be said that the respondents had been compensated for the loss of a capital asset. Hence, the receipt should be credited into the trading account of the respondents as it also includes the amount of profit received and is therefore of an income nature within the ambit of section
Having found that the compensation had the same effect as a trading receipt, it held that the interest should also be considered as earned income. By the date of its decision, as the result of reforms since the date of its determination, the Tax Appeal Tribunal was no longer in existence. The Supreme Court could not remit the case to the Tribunal for the assessments to be adjusted. So it decided to make no order, trusting that its pronouncement would serve as guidance to the parties.
8. Both parties have appealed against this decision to their Lordships’ Board. The Revenue submits that the Supreme Court should have allowed its appeal and quashed the determination of the Tax Appeal Tribunal, thus maintaining the assessments. The taxpayers do not oppose this method of disposing of the case, assuming that the Revenue’s arguments are otherwise sound. The issues raised by the taxpayers’ grounds of appeal are more complicated. They may be summarised as follows:
A (1) Whether the tax imposed on the compensation and interest was in breach of section 8 of the Constitution.
(2) Whether the compensation is a tax free capital sum because it was not obtained in the course of business, was not a voluntary sum and was not paid for loss of profit but for the compulsory acquisition of an asset.
(3) Whether the compensation is tax free as there was no “sale” within the meaning of section 11(1)(g) of the Income Tax Act 1974.
(4) Whether the interest awarded under the Land Acquisition Act 1973 is chargeable to income tax.
B Whether the assessments were invalid because they could only have been made under section 11 of the Income Tax Act 1974 which was no longer in force when the assessments were made on
C Whether the assessments are invalid because they were made for the year of assessment
9. The Revenue objected to the raising of issues B and C before the Board because they had not been raised before the Tax Appeal Tribunal or the Supreme Court or in the application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. Mr Pursem for the taxpayers submitted that they should be allowed to raise these issues as they were purely issues of law, there was no unfairness as notice had been given to the Revenue of their intention to raise them and they were of importance in view of their effect on the taxpayers’ tax liability. He said that they had been raised, albeit without success, during the course of the argument in the Tax Appeal Tribunal. But he accepted that no explanation could be given for the fact that they were not raised again when the case came before the Supreme Court and were not mentioned in the application for leave to appeal, other than they had been overlooked.
10. Their Lordships’ normal practice is not to allow issues of law to be raised before the Board which have not been argued before the Supreme Court. This practice may be departed from in exceptional circumstances, but their Lordships were not persuaded that they would be justified in departing from it in this case. The issues which
11. As for the issues included under issue A,
12. This leaves for the Board’s consideration the issue which has always been at the centre of this case. Is the sum that was awarded as compensation for the compulsory acquisition of the land taxable as gross income or is it a tax free capital sum because it was not awarded in the normal course of the taxpayers’ business?
14. Mr Pursem summed up his case by saying that the Revenue were only entitled to charge compensation to tax under section 11(1)(g) of the 1974 Act to the extent that it was awarded specifically for loss of profits or that it could be shown to have constituted income or profit which had been earned in the course of the taxpayers’ business. As that was not so here, because the land was taken away before the taxpayers could take any steps with a view to its morcellement, they were precluded from going ahead with its development as they had planned, so the sum awarded was not taxable.
16. The matter is put beyond all doubt when regard is had to the terms of the taxing statute. As was pointed out by the Board in De Maroussem and others v Commissioner of Income Tax,  UKPC 43,
17. This case cannot properly be described as one where the asset in question has been sterilised, as happened in Glenboig Union Fireclay Co Ltd v Inland Revenue Commissioners. In Inland Revenue Commissioners v Newcastle Breweries Ltd, (1927)12 TC 927, 936, Rowlatt J acknowledged that if the government were to take away all the raw materials of a man’s trade and prevent him from carrying it on and pay him a sum of money, that would be taken not as profit on the sale of the raw materials, which he would never have sold, but as compensation for interfering with the trade altogether. As he pointed out, in Glenboig what was done stopped the trade without taking anything. Here the land was not even the raw material for the making of something else, like the barley used solely as raw material for the manufacture of stout in Arthur Guinness, Son & Co Ltd v Commissioners of Inland Revenue  2 IR 186: see Viscount Cave LC’s observations in Inland Revenue Commissioners v Newcastle Breweries Ltd (1927) 12 TC 927, 953. It was the taxpayers’ stock in trade which they purchased with a view to its being sold, and it was taken from them at its market value. This case is like Newcastle Breweries, where as Viscount Dunedin said at p 954, the payment for the rum that was requisitioned was simply a realisation of a portion of the stock in trade at a rather earlier stage in the process than was the case with ordinary sales. As Viscount Cave LC explained in the same case at p 953, the circumstance that the sale was compulsory makes no difference in principle.
18. For these reasons their Lordships agree with the judges in the Supreme Court that both the compensation and the interest thereon are taxable as gross income and that the determination of the Tribunal to the contrary was wrong. But they do not agree that it follows from the fact that the Tribunal is no longer in existence that no effective order can be made. They propose to make an order giving effect to the decision which they have reached. They will allow the appeal by the Revenue, dismiss the appeal by the taxpayers, set aside the determination of the Tribunal and affirm the assessments. It was agreed that costs must follow the event. The taxpayers must pay the costs of the appeal to the Supreme Court and to their Lordships’ Board.