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Netflix prepares to contest substantial tax demand following revenue surge

This decision comes in response to the substantial Rs 196-crore tax demand asserted by the Income Tax department.

In a strategic move indicative of their stance on financial matters, Netflix is poised to file an appeal before the esteemed Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. This decision comes in response to the substantial Rs 196-crore tax demand asserted by the Income Tax department, stemming from alleged tax evasion practices. The backdrop of this legal standoff involves the earlier ruling by the Dispute Resolution Panel (DRP) in favour of the department, validating the tax demand raised by its international taxation wing.

The crux of the matter lies in the department's assertion that Netflix Entertainment Services (India) LLP functioned as a dependent agent permanent establishment (DAPE) of Netflix. The financial landscape under scrutiny reveals that between April 2020 and December 2020, the company amassed a staggering revenue surpassing Rs 1,145 crore. Notably, the profit margin reached a commendable Rs 1,008 crore, with an attribution to Indian operations calculated at Rs 503 crore.

A pivotal argument presented by the department centres around Netflix's Open Connect Appliance (OCA), an innovative content distribution network specifically crafted to seamlessly deliver its array of TV shows and movies while mitigating congestion and associated fees. The core of contention is the OCA's operational base in India, which, according to the department, warrants tax liabilities within the nation's boundaries.

Netflix Entertainment Services India's financial data, curated by Tofler, illuminates the fiscal trajectory, revealing a commendable closure to the financial year 2021 with gross revenue tallying at Rs 1,529.36 crore. This fiscal imbroglio resonates with India's initiation of the 'Google tax' in 2016, primarily targeting digital advertisements, a tax ambit broadened in 2020 to encompass e-commerce supplies or services. This legislative evolution aimed to address the pertinent issue of digital conglomerates amassing substantial revenues from a vast user base while evading national taxation.

Evidencing the growing significance of India in the global over-the-top (OTT) services sector, an EY media report underscores the country's distinction as the largest market based on time spent on these platforms. Experts foresee a substantial surge in subscription revenues for the Indian OTT market, poised to reach a staggering $3 billion by the year 2024. The intricate interplay of tax laws and streaming dynamics underscores a nuanced economic landscape, one where Netflix is determined to assert its position with unwavering resolve.

India's prominence on Netflix's global stage burgeoned significantly in 2022, credited to a robust pricing strategy inaugurated in December 2021. This strategic manoeuvre was buttressed by an impressive portfolio of Indian originals and licensed movies, propelling the nation to record the highest net subscriber additions worldwide.

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