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06 May 2024

Buyback From Foreign Shareholders | The Process of Buying Back Stocks

06 May 2024
buyback from foreign shareholders

Introduction

In the world of corporate finance, buybacks are a tactical instrument that businesses use to maximize shareholder value and optimize their capital structure. The complexities of buyback transactions, however, increase when foreign shareholders are involved, requiring a careful comprehension of regulatory frameworks and tax ramifications. Such transactions are governed by the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which places stringent compliance measures in place to guarantee legality and transparency in cross-border transactions. A further degree of complexity is added by the tax treatment of repurchase profits, which takes into account dividend income and capital gains. This necessitates careful navigating of tax regulations and double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAA).

In light of this, businesses need to approach buyback from foreign shareholders thoughtfully and strategically. Companies can unlock value for shareholders and ensure compliance with legal demands while navigating the regulatory maze and optimizing tax efficiency by adopting transparency, adhering to compliance standards, and obtaining expert help. Companies and shareholders alike may handle repurchase transactions in the global arena with confidence and clarity by having a thorough awareness of the regulatory subtleties and tax ramifications, which will ultimately encourage sustainable growth and shareholder value.

Buyback by a private company from its shareholders

Private companies can buy back their own shares from foreign shareholders, but the process is subject to specific regulations depending on the jurisdiction. In India, for example, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has streamlined the process, making it automatic for companies to buy back shares from foreign investors under certain conditions.

Section 68 of the Companies Act, 2013

This section outlines the legal framework for buybacks by Indian companies. It specifies requirements such as shareholder approval, funding sources, and limitations on the amount of shares that can be repurchased. Additionally, it mandates disclosures that the company must make to its shareholders and regulatory authorities.

The Buyback Process from Foreign Shareholders in India

Indian companies often utilize share buybacks to enhance shareholder returns and optimize their capital structure. In cases where a company has foreign shareholders, the buyback process is governed by relevant regulations and carries unique complexities.  Let’s break down the steps involved:

1) Determining Eligibility

  • Company Eligibility:
    Indian companies must meet specific criteria outlined by SEBI and the Companies Act, 2013, to conduct a buyback. These include sufficient free reserves, limited debt-to-equity ratio, and compliance with previous buyback conditions.
  • Foreign Shareholder Eligibility:
    Foreign shareholders must confirm their eligibility to participate. Regulations generally permit participation, but there may be specific restrictions depending on the shareholder’s investment structure.

2) Choosing the Buyback method

  • Tender Offer:
    The company makes a direct offer to foreign shareholders to purchase their shares at a predetermined price within a specified time frame. This method is often used for targeted buybacks from a select group of shareholders.
  • Open Market Purchase:
    The company buys back shares through the stock exchange over a period of time. This method offers flexibility, but the company cannot guarantee the number of shares it will repurchase or the price.

3) Regulatory Approvals

  • Board consent:
    To start the repurchase program, the board of directors of the company’s consent. Get shareholder approval for the repurchase program by submitting a special resolution to the shareholders.
  • RBI and FEMA:
    In accordance with the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), clearances from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may be necessary, contingent upon the extent of the repurchase and the characteristics of the foreign shareholders.

4) Execution of the Buyback

  • Tender Offer Execution:
    If using the tender offer method, the company will formally announce the offer to foreign shareholders with details on pricing, timeline, and documentation requirements. Shareholders would need to respond within the stipulated time frame.
  • Open Market Execution:
    If proceeding with the open market route, the company engages brokers to buy back shares on the stock exchange over time.

5) Repatriation of Funds

  • Foreign shareholders can repatriate the proceeds of the buyback after the necessary tax deductions, subject to certain RBI guidelines.
  • Exchange rate fluctuations at the time of repatriation may impact the amount finally received by shareholders in their home currency.

Compliance under FEMA

When a private company in India intends to buy back shares held by foreign shareholders, compliance with the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) becomes crucial. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects:

  • Automatic Route:
    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has placed buybacks from foreign investors on an automatic route, eliminating the need for prior approval. However, this route comes with certain conditions.

  • FEMA Regulations:
    The buyback must comply with the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2017 (FEMA 20(R)/2017-RB). These regulations specify the manner of fund receipt, pricing, and reporting requirements for buybacks involving foreign investors.
  • FDI Policy:
    The buyback should not violate the existing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy applicable to the specific sector in which the company operates. Certain sectors like defense, media, etc., have specific restrictions on foreign shareholding.
  • Form FC-TRS:
    The company must file Form FC-TRS (Transfer of Shares) with an authorized dealer within 30 days of the buyback transaction. This form reports the details of the transaction, including the number of shares bought back, the price paid, and the foreign investor’s information.
  • Additional Considerations:

    a) Valuation:

    The buyback price must be determined based on an independent valuation conducted by a registered valuer. The valuation report should be submitted to the authorized dealer along with Form FC-TRS.

    b) Who needs valuation?

    Valuation is mandatory for all buybacks from foreign investors, regardless of the size of the transaction or the company’s listing status.

    c) Limitations:

    This automatic route is not available for companies with specific restrictions under FEMA or facing any enforcement action by the RBI.

Tax Implications

When a buyback transaction occurs, tax implications take place for both the Company as well as the Investors. Here’s a breakdown of the key points :-

Company’s Tax Liabilities

  • Buyback Tax (BT):
    The company is liable to pay Buyback Tax (BT) on the amount paid to shareholders for buyback. The current rate is 20%, with surcharges and cess, resulting in an effective tax rate of 23.296%.
  • No Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT):
    Unlike dividends, BT isn’t subject to Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT). This can be advantageous for the company compared to distributing profits as dividends, especially if the tax rate in the foreign shareholder’s jurisdiction is higher.

Shareholder’s Tax Implications

  • Exemption from Income Tax:
    The amount received by foreign shareholders from the buyback is generally exempt from income tax in India under Section 10(34A) of the Income Tax Act. This exemption aims to avoid double taxation, as the shareholders might be taxed on the gain in their home country.
  • Section 14A:
    However, even though the income is exempt, Section 14A comes into play. This section requires the shareholders to add the exempt income to their total income and adjust their tax liability accordingly. This might not affect their final tax payment if their tax rate in their home country is higher than India’s.

Buyback Gains Tax

  • The exemption under Section 10(34A) applies to both long-term and short-term capital gains arising from the buyback. Therefore, there is no separate buyback gains tax in India

Additional Considerations

  • Foreign shareholders might still be subject to taxes in their home country on the capital gain arising from the buyback, as per the tax laws there.
  • The specific tax implications can vary depending on the individual circumstances and the tax treaty between India and the foreign shareholder’s country. Consulting a tax expert is recommended for accurate and personalized advice.

Tax filings

  • Form 15CA:
    This form is filed by the Indian company purchasing the shares to deduct tax at source (TDS) from the buyback amount payable to foreign shareholders. The applicable tax rate is determined by the India-Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) or other relevant treaties, if applicable.
  • Form 15CB:
    This certificate is issued by the Indian company to the foreign shareholder, certifying the TDS deduction and the applicable tax rate. The foreign shareholder then submits this certificate to their home country tax authorities to claim any tax credit or relief available.

Conclusion

While buybacks offer immense value for companies and shareholders, navigating the complexities associated with foreign involvement requires a cautious and well-informed approach. This blog has explored the key regulatory and tax considerations for private companies in India undertaking buybacks from foreign shareholders.

Key Takeaways:

  • Compliance is paramount:
    Adherence to FEMA regulations, including the automatic route conditions and Form FC-TRS filing, is essential.
  • Tax implications:
    While buyback tax applies for the company, certain exemptions benefit foreign shareholders. Consulting a tax expert is crucial.
  • Transparency and expertise:
    Maintaining transparency throughout the process and seeking expert guidance ensure smooth execution and mitigate potential risks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Q. What are the key regulations governing buybacks involving foreign shareholders in India?

  • FEMA regulations, particularly the automatic route and Form FC-TRS filing.
  • Companies Act, 2013, outlining buyback procedures and limitations.
  • FDI policy relevant to the company’s sector.

Q. What are the conditions for using the automatic route for buybacks from foreign investors?

  • Company eligibility (non-restricted sector, etc.).
  • Pricing compliance with RBI norms.
  • Transaction reporting within 30 days.

Q. What are the tax implications for the company when buying back shares from foreign shareholders?

  • Buyback Tax (BT) applies at 20% with surcharges.
  • No Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT).

Q. Are foreign shareholders taxed on the buyback proceeds in India?

  • Generally exempt under Section 10(34A) of Income Tax Act.
  • Section 14A requires adjusting total income for tax purposes.
  • They might still be taxed in their home country.

Q. What forms need to be filed for tax purposes?

  • Form 15CA for tax deduction at source (TDS) by the company.
  • Form 15CB issued by the company to the shareholder for TDS details.

Q. What are the key steps involved in a buyback from foreign shareholders?

  • Compliance with regulations, including Form FC-TRS.
  • Shareholder approval (if required).
  • Valuation by a registered valuer.
  • Tax considerations and form filings.

Q. What documents are required for a buyback involving foreign shareholders?

  • Board resolution approving the buyback.
  • Shareholder approval documents (if applicable).
  • Valuation report.
  • Form FC-TRS and other regulatory filings.
  • Tax forms (15CA, 15CB).

Q. When is it advisable to seek expert help for a buyback involving foreign shareholders?

  • For complex transactions, regulatory compliance, and tax optimization.

Q. Are there any recent changes or updates to the regulations for buybacks with foreign shareholders?

  • Staying updated on regulatory changes is crucial for compliance.

 Q. What are the potential risks associated with buybacks involving foreign   shareholders?

  • Non-compliance with regulations, inaccurate tax calculations, and disputes.
Posted by
Treelife
Last updated on
May 06, 2024, 12:09pm

Disclaimer:

The content of this article is for information purpose only and does not constitute advice or a legal opinion and are personal views of the author. It is based upon relevant law and/or facts available at that point of time and prepared with due accuracy & reliability. Readers are requested to check and refer to relevant provisions of statute, latest judicial pronouncements, circulars, clarifications etc. before acting on the basis of the above write up. The possibility of other views on the subject matter cannot be ruled out. By the use of the said information, you agree that the Author / Treelife is not responsible or liable in any manner for the authenticity, accuracy, completeness, errors or any kind of omissions in this piece of information for any action taken thereof.

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