The meaning of developer and contractor under section 80-IA of the Income Tax Act is not defined in the act itself. But we can take guidance from decisions by various high courts. Here are excerpts of courts orders in which the Hon’ble High Court tried to explain the meaning of developer and contractor.
Meaning of developer and contractor defined by court
The phrase ‘developer and contractor’ used in section 80-IA of the Income Tax Act came up before Hon’ble Ahmedabad High Court in Modern Construction Co. (P.) Ltd. vs. Dy. CIT  42 taxmann.Com 172/149 ITD 71 (Ahd.) and it explained.
Meaning: A developer is a person who undertakes the responsibility to develop a project. A developer is therefore not a civil contractor simplicitor. If one applies the commercial aspect, then a developer has to execute both managerial as well as financial responsibility. The role of a developer is larger than that of a contractor.
When a person is acting as a developer, then he is under obligation to design the project, it is an another aspect that such design has to be approved by the owner of the project, i.E., The government in the present case. He has not only to execute the construction work in the capacity of a contractor but also he is assigned with the duty to develop, maintain and operate such project.
To ascertain whether a civil construction work is assigned on development basis or contract basis can only be decided on the basis of the terms and conditions of the agreement. Only on the basis of the terms and conditions it can be ascertained that whether it is a ‘work contract’ or a ‘development contract’.
In a ‘development contract’ responsibility is fully assigned to the developer for execution and completion of work. Though the ownership of the site or the ownership over the land remains with the owner but during the period of development agreement the developer exercises complete domain over the land or the project.
A developer is not expected to raise bills at every step of construction but he is expected to charge the cost of construction plus mark-up of his profit from the assignee of the contract. A developer is therefore expected to arrange finances and also to undertake risk. He is authorized to raise funds either by private placement or by financial institutions on the basis of the project. These aspects have not been examined by the assessing officer.
The other situation is as prescribed under section 80-ia(4) in (ii) and (iii) sub-clauses. Under these situations, an enterprise carries on the business of operating and maintaining, or developing, operating and maintaining any infrastructure facility. The word ‘and’ has been used between ‘develops’ and ‘begin to operate’.
The use of word ‘and’ clearly brings out that both the conditions need to be cumulatively satisfied by the eligible business. The language has thus clearly indicated that the infrastructure facility should not only be developed but also operated by the assessee so as to make its income qualify for deduction.
The second condition is that the deduction is available from the year when it commences and the enterprise begins to operate such infrastructure facility. Thus, the eligibility of deduction cannot be prior to the commencement of the development as also the operation of the infrastructure facility.
Therefore, in a situation where the agreement is either of the three, i.E., Bot, boot or bolt, then both the twin conditions apply; i.E., Unless the assessee really develops and begins to operate infrastructure facility there is no question of granting any deduction for the reason that the period of deduction cannot commence unless the enterprise develops and begins to operate the infrastructure facility. There is a distinction between ‘developer’ and a ‘contractor’.
In a case of civil contractor, its duty is only of civil construction. After the civil construction is over, he is paid for the job of civil construction as per the bills raised. At that point of time, his contract is over and the agreement ends. After the completion and at the end of the agreement, a civil contractor hands over the site to the owner. A civil contractor constructs as per the specifications given.
A contractor does not involve much of his own money but raises bill of his civil work of his civil construction work from time-to-time to collect the expenditure incurred. A contractor has no domain over the land or the site. His access to the site is restricted and limited from commercial angle. On the basis of the project he cannot raise the funds from the private financial institutions.
Therefore, ‘a contractor’ is not responsible for the development of the project but his responsibility is limited to the job-assigned to him. His duties and responsibilities can only be examined on the basis of the terms and conditions of the contract agreement. Even this aspect whether the assessee acted as a ‘contractor’ had also not been examined by the assessing officer.
Section 80-IA of Income Tax Act
Deductions in respect of profits and gains from industrial undertakings or enterprises engaged in infrastructure development, etc.
80-IA. (1) Where the gross total income of an assessee includes any profits and gains derived by an undertaking or an enterprise from any business referred to in sub-section (4) (such business being hereinafter referred to as the eligible business), there shall, in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this section, be allowed, in computing the total income of the assessee, a deduction of an amount equal to hundred per cent of the profits and gains derived from such business for ten consecutive assessment years.
(2) The deduction specified in sub-section (1) may, at the option of the assessee, be claimed by him for any ten consecutive assessment years out of fifteen years beginning from the year in which the undertaking or the enterprise develops and begins to operate any infrastructure facility or starts providing telecommunication service or develops an industrial park or develops a special economic zone referred to in clause (iii) of sub-section (4) or generates power or commences transmission or distribution of power or undertakes substantial renovation and modernisation of the existing transmission or distribution lines :
Provided that where the assessee develops or operates and maintains or develops, operates and maintains any infrastructure facility referred to in clause (a) or clause (b) or clause (c) of the Explanation to clause (i) of sub-section (4), the provisions of this sub-section shall have effect as if for the words “fifteen years”, the words “twenty years” had been substituted.
(2A) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2), the deduction in computing the total income of an undertaking providing telecommunication services, specified in clause (ii) of sub-section (4), shall be hundred per cent of the profits and gains of the eligible business for the first five assessment years commencing at any time during the periods as specified in sub-section (2) and thereafter, thirty per cent of such profits and gains for further five assessment years.
(3) This section applies to an undertaking referred to in clause (ii) or clause (iv) of sub-section (4) which fulfils all the following conditions, namely :—
(i) it is not formed by splitting up, or the reconstruction, of a business already in existence :
Provided that this condition shall not apply in respect of an undertaking which is formed as a result of the re-establishment, reconstruction or revival by the assessee of the business of any such undertaking as is referred to in section 33B, in the circumstances and within the period specified in that section;
(ii) it is not formed by the transfer to a new business of machinery or plant previously used for any purpose:
Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall apply in the case of transfer, either in whole or in part, of machinery or plant previously used by a State Electricity Board referred to in clause (7) of section 2 of the Electricity Act, 2003 (36 of 2003), whether or not such transfer is in pursuance of the splitting up or reconstruction or reorganisation of the Board under Part XIII of that Act.
Explanation 1.—For the purposes of clause (ii), any machinery or plant which was used outside India by any person other than the assessee shall not be regarded as machinery or plant previously used for any purpose, if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely :—
(a) such machinery or plant was not, at any time previous to the date of the installation by the assessee, used in India;
(b) such machinery or plant is imported into India from any country outside India; and
(c) no deduction on account of depreciation in respect of such machinery or plant has been allowed or is allowable under the provisions of this Act in computing the total income of any person for any period prior to the date of the installation of machinery or plant by the assessee.
Explanation 2.—Where in the case of an undertaking, any machinery or plant or any part thereof previously used for any purpose is transferred to a new business and the total value of the machinery or plant or part so transferred does not exceed twenty per cent of the total value of the machinery or plant used in the business, then, for the purposes of clause (ii) of this sub-section, the condition specified therein shall be deemed to have been complied with.
(4) This section applies to—
(i) any enterprise carrying on the business of (i) developing or (ii) operating and maintaining or (iii) developing, operating and maintaining any infrastructure facility which fulfils all the following conditions, namely :—
(a) it is owned by a company registered in India or by a consortium of such companies or by an authority or a board or a corporation or any other body established or constituted under any Central or State Act;
(b) it has entered into an agreement with the Central Government or a State Government or a local authority or any other statutory body for (i) developing or (ii) operating and maintaining or (iii) developing, operating and maintaining a new infrastructure facility;
(c) it has started or starts operating and maintaining the infrastructure facility on or after the 1st day of April, 1995:
Provided that where an infrastructure facility is transferred on or after the 1st day of April, 1999 by an enterprise which developed such infrastructure facility (hereafter referred to in this section as the transferor enterprise) to another enterprise (hereafter in this section referred to as the transferee enterprise) for the purpose of operating and maintaining the infrastructure facility on its behalf in accordance with the agreement with the Central Government,
State Government, local authority or statutory body, the provisions of this section shall apply to the transferee enterprise as if it were the enterprise to which this clause applies and the deduction from profits and gains would be available to such transferee enterprise for the unexpired period during which the transferor enterprise would have been entitled to the deduction, if the transfer had not taken place:
Provided further that nothing contained in this section shall apply to any enterprise which starts the development or operation and maintenance of the infrastructure facility on or after the 1st day of April, 2017.
Explanation.—For the purposes of this clause, “infrastructure facility” means—
(a) a road including toll road, a bridge or a rail system;
(b) a highway project including housing or other activities being an integral part of the highway project;
(c) a water supply project, water treatment system, irrigation project, sanitation and sewerage system or solid waste management system;
(d) a port, airport, inland waterway, inland port or navigational channel in the sea;
(ii) any undertaking which has started or starts providing telecommunication services, whether basic or cellular, including radio paging, domestic satellite service, network of trunking, broadband network and internet services on or after the 1st day of April, 1995, but on or before the 31st day of March, 2005.
Explanation.—For the purposes of this clause, “domestic satellite” means a satellite owned and operated by an Indian company for providing telecommunication service;
(iii) any undertaking which develops, develops and operates or maintains and operates an industrial park or special economic zone notified by the Central Government in accordance with the scheme framed and notified29 by that Government for the period beginning on the 1st day of April, 1997 and ending on the 31st day of March, 2006 :
Provided that in a case where an undertaking develops an industrial park on or after the 1st day of April, 1999 or a special economic zone on or after the 1st day of April, 2001 and transfers the operation and maintenance of such industrial park or such special economic zone, as the case may be, to another undertaking (hereafter in this section referred to as the transferee undertaking), the deduction under sub-section (1) shall be allowed to such transferee undertaking for the remaining period in the ten consecutive assessment years as if the operation and maintenance were not so transferred to the transferee undertaking :
Provided further that in the case of any undertaking which develops, develops and operates or maintains and operates an industrial park, the provisions of this clause shall have effect as if for the figures, letters and words “31st day of March, 2006”, the figures, letters and words “31st day of March, 2011” had been substituted;
(iv) an undertaking which,—
(a) is set up in any part of India for the generation or generation and distribution of power if it begins to generate power at any time during the period beginning on the 1st day of April, 1993 and ending on the 31st day of March, 2017;
(b) starts transmission or distribution by laying a network of new transmission or distribution lines at any time during the period beginning on the 1st day of April, 1999 and ending on the 31st day of March, 2017:
Provided that the deduction under this section to an undertaking under sub-clause (b) shall be allowed only in relation to the profits derived from laying of such network of new lines for transmission or distribution;
(c) undertakes substantial renovation and modernisation of the existing network of transmission or distribution lines at any time during the period beginning on the 1st day of April, 2004 and ending on the 31st day of March, 2017.
Explanation.—For the purposes of this sub-clause, “substantial renovation and modernisation” means an increase in the plant and machinery in the network of transmission or distribution lines by at least fifty per cent of the book value of such plant and machinery as on the 1st day of April, 2004;
(v) an undertaking owned by an Indian company and set up for reconstruction or revival of a power generating plant, if—
(a) such Indian company is formed before the 30th day of November, 2005 with majority equity participation by public sector companies for the purposes of enforcing the security interest of the lenders to the company owning the power generating plant and such Indian company is notified before the 31st day of December, 2005 by the Central Government for the purposes of this clause;
(b) such undertaking begins to generate or transmit or distribute power before the 31st day of March, 2011;
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, the profits and gains of an eligible business to which the provisions of sub-section (1) apply shall, for the purposes of determining the quantum of deduction under that sub-section for the assessment year immediately succeeding the initial assessment year or any subsequent assessment year, be computed as if such eligible business were the only source of income of the assessee during the previous year relevant to the initial assessment year and to every subsequent assessment year up to and including the assessment year for which the determination is to be made.
(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (4), where housing or other activities are an integral part of the highway project and the profits of which are computed on such basis and manner as may be prescribed30, such profit shall not be liable to tax where the profit has been transferred to a special reserve account and
the same is actually utilised for the highway project excluding housing and other activities before the expiry of three years following the year in which such amount was transferred to the reserve account; and the amount remaining unutilised shall be chargeable to tax as income of the year in which such transfer to reserve account took place.
(7) The deduction under sub-section (1) from profits and gains derived from an undertaking shall not be admissible unless the accounts of the undertaking for the previous year relevant to the assessment year for which the deduction is claimed have been audited by an accountant, as defined in the Explanation below sub-section (2) of section 288, 31[before the specified date referred to in section 44AB and the assessee furnishes by that date] the report of such audit in the prescribed form32 duly signed and verified by such accountant.
(8) Where any goods or services held for the purposes of the eligible business are transferred to any other business carried on by the assessee, or where any goods or services held for the purposes of any other business carried on by the assessee are transferred to the eligible business and, in either case, the consideration,
if any, for such transfer as recorded in the accounts of the eligible business does not correspond to the market value of such goods or services as on the date of the transfer, then, for the purposes of the deduction under this section, the profits and gains of such eligible business shall be computed as if the transfer, in either case, had been made at the market value of such goods or services as on that date :
Provided that where, in the opinion of the Assessing Officer, the computation of the profits and gains of the eligible business in the manner hereinbefore specified presents exceptional difficulties, the Assessing Officer may compute such profits and gains on such reasonable basis as he may deem fit.
Explanation.—For the purposes of this sub-section, “market value”, in relation to any goods or services, means—
(i) the price that such goods or services would ordinarily fetch in the open market; or
(ii) the arm’s length price as defined in clause (ii) of section 92F, where the transfer of such goods or services is a specified domestic transaction referred to in section 92BA.
(9) Where any amount of profits and gains of an undertaking or of an enterprise in the case of an assessee is claimed and allowed under this section for any assessment year,
deduction to the extent of such profits and gains shall not be allowed under any other provisions of this Chapter under the heading “C.—Deductions in respect of certain incomes”, and shall in no case exceed the profits and gains of such eligible business of undertaking or enterprise, as the case may be.
(10) Where it appears to the Assessing Officer that, owing to the close connection between the assessee carrying on the eligible business to which this section applies and any other person, or for any other reason, the course of business between them is so arranged that the business transacted between them produces to the assessee more than the ordinary profits which might be expected to arise in such eligible business,
the Assessing Officer shall, in computing the profits and gains of such eligible business for the purposes of the deduction under this section, take the amount of profits as may be reasonably deemed to have been derived therefrom:
Provided that in case the aforesaid arrangement involves a specified domestic transaction referred to in section 92BA, the amount of profits from such transaction shall be determined having regard to arm’s length price as defined in clause (ii) of section 92F.
(11) The Central Government may, after making such inquiry as it may think fit, direct, by notification in the Official Gazette, that the exemption conferred by this section shall not apply to any class of industrial undertaking or enterprise with effect from such date as it may specify in the notification.
(12) Where any undertaking of an Indian company which is entitled to the deduction under this section is transferred, before the expiry of the period specified in this section, to another Indian company in a scheme of amalgamation or demerger—
(a) no deduction shall be admissible under this section to the amalgamating or the demerged company for the previous year in which the amalgamation or the demerger takes place; and
(b) the provisions of this section shall, as far as may be, apply to the amalgamated or the resulting company as they would have applied to the amalgamating or the demerged company if the amalgamation or demerger had not taken place.
(12A) Nothing contained in sub-section (12) shall apply to any enterprise or undertaking which is transferred in a scheme of amalgamation or demerger on or after the 1st day of April, 2007.
(13) Nothing contained in this section shall apply to any Special Economic Zones notified on or after the 1st day of April, 2005 in accordance with the scheme referred to in sub-clause (iii) of clause (c) of sub-section (4).
Explanation.—For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that nothing contained in this section shall apply in relation to a business referred to in sub-section (4) which is in the nature of a works contract awarded by any person (including the Central or State Government) and executed by the undertaking or enterprise referred to in sub-section (1).
In this article, you can get guidance from high courts on the meaning of developer and contractor under section 80-IA of the Income Tax Act.
Updated up to Finance Act 2021