Concept of revenue and capital receipts

Criteria for determining whether a receipt is capital or revenue in nature

The following are some of the important criteria which may be applied to distinguish between capital and revenue receipts.

Fixed capital or Circulating capital:

A receipt referable to fixed capital would be a capital receipt whereas a receipt referable to circulating capital would be a revenue receipt. The former is not taxable while the latter is taxable. Tangible and intangible assets which the owner keeps in his possession for making profits are in the nature of fixed capital. The circulating capital is one which is turned over and yields income or loss in the process.

Income from transfer of capital asset or trading asset:

Profits arising from the sale of a capital asset are chargeable to tax as capital gains under section 45 whereas profits arising from the sale of a trading asset being of revenue nature are taxable as income from business under section 28 provided that the sale is in the regular course of assessee’s business or the transaction constitutes an adventure in the nature of trade.


Capital Receipts vis-a-vis Revenue Receipts- EXAMPLE-

  1. Transaction entered into the course of business: Profits arising from transactions which are entered into in the course of the business regularly carried on by the assessee, or are incidental to, or associated with the business of the assessee would be revenue receipts chargeable to tax.

    For example, a banker’s or financier’s dealings in foreign exchange or sale of shares and securities, a shipbroker’s purchases of ship in his own name, a share broker’s purchase of shares on his own account would constitute transactions entered and yielding income in the ordinary course of their business. Whereas building and land would constitute capital assets in the hands of a trader in shares, the same would constitute stock-in-trade in the hands of a property dealer.

  2. Profit arising from sale of shares and securities: In the case of profit arising from the sale of shares and securities the nature of the profit has to be ascertained from the motive, intention or purpose with which they were bought. If the shares were acquired as an investor or with a view to acquiring a controlling interest or for obtaining a managing or selling agency or a directorship the profit or loss on their sale would be of a capital nature; but if the shares were acquired in the ordinary course of business as a dealer in shares, it would constitute his stock-in-trade. If the shares were acquired with speculative motive the profit or loss (although of a revenue nature) would have to be dealt with separately from other business.

3. A single transaction – Can it constitute business?: Even a single transaction may constitute a business or an adventure in the nature of trade even if it is outside the normal course of the assessee’s business. Repetition of such transactions is not necessary. Thus, a bulk purchase followed by a bulk sale or a series of retail sales or bulk sale followed by a series of retail purchases would constitute an adventure in the nature of trade and consequently the income arising therefrom would be taxable. Purchase of any article with no intention to resell it, but resold under changed circumstances would be a transaction of a capital nature and capital gains arise. However, where an asset is purchased with the intention to resell it, the question whether the profit on sale is capital or revenue in nature depends upon

(i) the conduct of the assessee,

(ii) the nature and quantity of the article purchased,

(iii) the nature of the operations involved,

(iv) whether the venture is on capital or revenue account, and

(v) other related circumstances of the case.


4. Liquidated damages:Receipt of liquidated damages directly and intimately linked with the procurement of a capital asset, which lead to delay in coming into existence of the profit- making apparatus, is a capital receipt. The amount received by the assessee towards compensation for sterilization of the profit earning source is not in the ordinary course of business. Hence, it is a capital receipt in the hands of the assessee.

5. Compensation on termination of agency: Where an assessee receives compensation on termination of the agency business being the only source of income, the receipt is a capital nature, but taxable under section 28(ii)(c). However, where the assessee has a number of agencies and one of them is terminated and compensation received therefore, the receipt would be of a revenue nature since taking agencies and exploiting the same for earning income is the ordinary course of business and the loss of one agency would be made good by taking another. Compensation received from the employer or from any person for premature termination of the service contract is a capital receipt, but is taxable as profit in lieu of salary under section 17(3) or as income from other sources under section 56(2)(xi), respectively. Compensation received or receivable in connection with the termination or the modification of the terms and conditions of any contract relating to its business shall be taxable as business income.

6. Gifts: Normally, gifts constitute capital receipts in the hands of the recipient. However, certain gifts are brought within the purview of income-tax, for example, receipt of property without consideration is brought to tax under section 56(2).

For example, any sum of money or value of property received without consideration or for inadequate consideration by any person, other than a relative, is chargeable under the head “Income from Other Sources”


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