Understanding Dividend Distribution Tax

Dividend Distribution Tax

Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) is a tax levied by the Indian government on dividends, which a company pays its shareholders out of its profits. It is a form of tax paid by the company distributing the dividend, not by the shareholder receiving it. DDT is levied at a fixed rate, currently set at 15% (plus surcharge and cess) of the gross amount of dividend declared by the company. 

The tax applies to all companies, including domestic companies, foreign companies, and mutual funds. The company deducts the tax at source before the dividend is paid to the shareholder.

The calculation of DDT is based on the gross dividend amount declared, and no deduction is allowed for any expenses or costs incurred by the company. This means the company has to pay tax on the entire dividend declared, even if it has incurred losses during the year.

It is important to note that the tax treatment of dividends received from a company differs from the tax treatment of other forms of income, such as interest income or capital gains. Dividends received from an Indian company are exempt from tax up to Rs. 10 lakhs in a financial year. However, any dividend income above this limit is taxable at 10% (plus surcharge and cess) under the head ‘Income from Other Sources’.

What is Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT)?

  • Definition of DDT: DDT (Dividend Distribution Tax) is a tax the government imposes on companies that issue dividends to their shareholders. The tax is levied on the company’s distributable profits and is calculated at a fixed rate. Its purpose is to encourage companies to retain their profits instead of distributing them as dividends, allowing them to invest in their business and grow over time.
  • Purpose: The Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) is a tax levied on the distributed profits of companies. The primary aim of this tax is to collect revenue from the shareholders of a company by taxing the profits distributed to them as dividends at the source itself. In other words, the DDT is levied on the company that distributes the dividend rather than the shareholders who receive it. This helps avoid the need for the shareholders to pay tax on their dividend income, as the tax is already deducted at the source. The DDT rate may vary depending on the type of company and can be subject to changes in government policies and regulations.
  • Abolishment and Changes: It’s important to note that, as of my last update in April 2023, DDT was abolished in India for the fiscal year 2020-21 onwards. Before its abolition, companies were required to pay DDT on dividends distributed to their shareholders. Post-abolition, dividends are taxed in the hands of the recipients at their applicable income tax rates.

Rates and Calculations

  • Pre-Abolishment DDT Rate: DDT in India was charged 15% on dividends paid before its abolishment. However, with surcharge and cess, the effective rate was approximately 20.56%.
  • Post-Abolishment Scenario: After the abolishment of DDT, dividends are taxed at the individual tax rates of the shareholders. There is no standard rate, and it varies according to the tax slab of the recipient.
  • Calculation Method (Pre-Abolishment): The DDT was calculated on the gross dividend amount. For example, if a company planned to distribute ₹100 as dividends, it had to gross up the amount to cover the DDT and pay the tax before distributing the net amount to shareholders.

What is Dividend?

  • Dividends are the profits distributed to the company’s shareholders during the year or from the reserves. As per the Income Tax Act section 2 (22), the following activities are also included in the dividend.
    • When a company makes a profit, it can distribute some or all of that profit to its shareholders. This process involves releasing the company’s assets to its shareholders.
    • Distributing debentures or deposit certificates to shareholders from accumulated profits and issuing bonus shares to preference shareholders. 
    • A company may distribute its accumulated profits to shareholders when it is liquidated. This payment type is made to shareholders as part of the company’s winding-up process.
    • Distribution of accumulated profits to shareholders upon capital reduction by the company and
    • When a closely held company grants a loan or advances to its shareholders using its accumulated profits, it is considered a dividend paid.

Tax Treatment of Dividend Received from Company

  • For Individual Shareholders: Post-abolishment of DDT, dividends are taxed at the individual’s applicable income tax rate. The dividend income must be reported under the “Income from Other Sources” head in the individual’s tax return.
  • TDS on Dividends: Companies must now deduct tax at source (TDS) on dividend payments exceeding a certain threshold. This rate can vary, and shareholders need to provide their PAN to avoid a higher rate of TDS.
  • Corporate Shareholders: For corporate shareholders, dividend income is taxable at the corporate tax rate applicable to their income. Specific provisions, such as deductions or exemptions, may apply depending on the jurisdiction and tax laws.
  • Non-Resident Shareholders: Dividends paid to non-resident shareholders are subject to TDS. The rate of TDS can vary based on the provisions of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and the shareholder’s country of residence.

Section

Assessee

Particulars

Tax Rate

Section 115AC

Non-resident

Dividend on GDRs of an Indian Company or Public Sector Company (PSU) purchased in foreign currency

10%

Section 115AD

FPI

Dividend income from securities (other than units referred to in section 115AB)

20%

 

Investment division of an offshore banking unit

Dividend income from securities (other than units referred to in section 115AB)

10%

Section 115E

Non-resident

Dividend income from shares of an Indian company purchased in foreign currency.

20%

Section 115A

Non-resident or foreign co

Dividend income in any other case

20%

Conclusion

  • The shift from taxing dividends at the company level (DDT) to taxing them in the hands of shareholders aligns with global practices. It aims to make taxing dividends more equitable.
  • This change necessitates that shareholders and companies adjust their tax planning and compliance strategies accordingly.
  • Both corporate and individual shareholders must understand these changes and consult tax professionals to ensure compliance and optimise their tax liabilities.

This overview provides a foundation for understanding DDT, its rates and calculations, and the tax treatment of dividends post-DDT abolishment. Tax laws frequently change, and it’s essential to stay updated with the latest regulations and consult with tax professionals for specific advice.

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