Place of Effective Management in India – A Detailed Legal Analysis

Posted On - 25 May, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

Place of Effective Management (PoEM) is a globally acknowledged criterion for determining the residential status of companies incorporated in foreign jurisdictions. This concept plays a crucial role in the tax treaties India enters into, as it helps prevent double taxation. Indian taxpayers frequently establish entities abroad to tap into international markets. In some cases, however, the strategic and key business decisions for these foreign entities are made in India by the Indian business owners or promoters. Here, the PoEM concept becomes highly significant.

The determination of a foreign entity’s PoEM is essential to ascertain whether its income should be taxed in India. According to the Income-tax Act, 1961, read in conjunction with the CBDT circular, the PoEM of a company is the place where key management and commercial decisions necessary for the conduct of the business as a whole are, in substance, made. This principle helps identify the effective control and management of the company, irrespective of its place of incorporation.

For instance, if the board meetings of a foreign subsidiary are routinely held in India, or if Indian residents are making crucial decisions for the foreign entity, the PoEM might be deemed to be in India. This determination could render the foreign entity a resident of India for tax purposes, subjecting it to Indian taxation laws.

Understanding PoEM is vital for Indian businesses with overseas operations, as an incorrect assessment can lead to significant tax liabilities and legal complications. The guidelines provided by the Income-tax Act, 1961, along with the CBDT circular, serve as a framework for determining PoEM, emphasizing the need for businesses to meticulously document where and how decisions are made to ensure compliance with tax regulations and avoid unintended tax consequences.


The term “Place of Effective Management” (POEM) is pivotal in determining the tax residency status of non-Indian companies operating within India. This comprehensive analysis delves into the intricacies of POEM, its legal ramifications, and the subsequent impact on tax compliance for such entities.

Historical Context

Prior to the introduction of POEM, the determination of a company’s residency under the Income Tax Act, 1961, hinged on the location of its control and management. This method was susceptible to manipulation, with companies shifting control activities outside India to avoid residency status. The Finance Act, 2015, introduced the POEM concept to address these issues and to align with international tax standards. The amendment replaced the words “control and management” with “POEM” in Section 6(3) of the Income Tax Act. The revised provision states:

“A company is said to be a resident in India in any previous year if: (i) it is an Indian company; or (ii) its place of effective management, in that year, is in India.”

Revised Definition Under Indian Tax Law

Following the amendments, the residency criteria for companies are as follows:

  • An Indian company is invariably deemed a resident of India.
  • A foreign company is considered a resident if its POEM is located in India at any point during the financial year.

Understanding POEM

POEM is defined as the place where key management and commercial decisions, crucial for the conduct of the entity’s business as a whole, are made in substance. This concept transcends mere physical presence, focusing instead on the locus of effective management and decision-making.

Applicability of POEM

The POEM guidelines apply specifically to foreign companies with:

  • A turnover or gross receipts exceeding Rs. 50 crores in a financial year.
  • An obligation to ascertain POEM for each financial year, thereby ensuring compliance with Indian tax laws.

Criteria for Determining POEM

Several critical factors are considered in determining a company’s POEM:

  • Board Meetings: The geographic location where board meetings are held and where significant corporate decisions are made.
  • Control and Decision-Making: The place where strategic decisions related to business operations, finance, and investments are formulated and executed.
  • Senior Management: The presence and activities of senior management personnel within India.
  • Operational Control: The locus of day-to-day operational control and management.
  • Policy Formulation: The place where business strategies and policies are developed.

Certainly! Here’s a more detailed redraft of the key criteria for establishing a Place of Effective Management (POEM) outside India, elaborating on each point:

Key Criteria for Establishing a Place of Effective Management (POEM) Outside India

When a company operates globally, it becomes essential to establish where its management and control genuinely reside. In the case of Indian companies, adhering to specific criteria ensures that they are recognized as actively conducting business operations outside India. The following are the key criteria:

Passive Income Less than 50%

Definition: Passive income includes transactions with associated enterprises or income from sources such as royalty, dividends, and capital gains.

Computation: The calculation of passive income should align with the laws of the country of incorporation.

Criterion: To meet this criterion, the company’s passive income must be less than 50% of its total income.

Significance: Demonstrating that the majority of the company’s income is derived from active business operations reinforces its status as a global player.

Less than 50% Assets in India

Definition: Asset computation follows the laws of the country of incorporation.

Requirement: Less than 50% of the company’s total assets should be situated in India.

Rationale: This ensures that the majority of the company’s assets are located outside India, reflecting its global footprint.

Examples of Assets:

  • Tangible assets (e.g., real estate, machinery, inventory)
  • Intangible assets (e.g., patents, trademarks, copyrights)

Less than 50% Employees in India

Definition of Employees: Employees encompass both directly employed personnel and those performing tasks similar to employees. Independent contractors and consultants may also fall under this category.

Threshold: Less than 50% of the company’s employees should be situated or resident in India.

Importance: This criterion emphasizes that the company’s workforce is predominantly based outside India, contributing to its global character.

Payroll Expenses in India Less than 50%

Components of Payroll Expenses: Salaries, wages, bonuses, and all other employee compensation, social costs (e.g., provident fund contributions, health insurance)

Requirement: The payroll expenses incurred on employees in India should be less than 50% of the total payroll expenses.

Reasoning: Allocating a significant portion of the company’s payroll to employees outside India reinforces its active global presence.

Strategic Alignment and Compliance

Adherence to Laws: Rigorous compliance with the laws of the country of incorporation is imperative when calculating income, assets, employees, and payroll expenses.

Favourable POEM Determination: Meeting these benchmarks ensures that the company is recognized as actively conducting business operations outside India.

Housekeeping Recommendations: Regularly review and update financial records. Document board meetings, decision-making processes, and strategic planning. Maintain clear communication channels between management teams across borders.

The above ratios should be analyzed using the average data from the previous year and the two years before that.

Criticism and Legislative Amendments

The initial interpretation of the phrase “at any time” within the POEM context was criticized for potentially including even insignificant instances, such as a single board meeting held in India. Responding to these concerns, the Finance Act, 2015, amended the provision to remove the phrase, thereby ensuring a more balanced and reasonable determination of a company’s residency status.

Tax Implications for Companies

The tax implications based on residency status are as follows:

– Resident Companies: These entities are subject to tax on their global income, irrespective of its source.

– Non-Resident Companies: These entities are taxed solely on income that is sourced within India.

The concept of Place of Effective Management (PoEM) has significant tax implications for companies. Here are the key tax implications for companies due to PoEM:

Tax Residency Status:

If a foreign company’s PoEM is determined to be in India, it is considered a resident of India for tax purposes. This reclassification can subject the company to Indian tax laws, regardless of its country of incorporation.

Global Income Taxation:

A company deemed a resident of India due to PoEM will be taxed on its global income. This means that all income earned worldwide will be subject to Indian taxation, not just the income generated within India.

Double Taxation:

Being subject to tax in both the country of incorporation and India can lead to double taxation. Although tax treaties and the provisions of the Income-tax Act, 1961 may provide relief through mechanisms like foreign tax credits, managing double taxation remains complex and potentially burdensome.

Transfer Pricing Compliance:

PoEM affects transfer pricing regulations, as the company must ensure that inter-company transactions are conducted at arm’s length. The Indian tax authorities may scrutinize these transactions closely to prevent profit shifting and tax evasion.

Increased Compliance Burden:

Companies classified as residents under PoEM must comply with comprehensive Indian tax filing and documentation requirements. This includes filing income tax returns, maintaining books of accounts, and adhering to reporting standards.

Risk of Penalties and Interest:

Non-compliance with PoEM regulations can result in penalties and interest charges. Companies must accurately determine their PoEM to avoid such financial repercussions.

Impact on Group Structure and Operations:

The determination of PoEM may necessitate restructuring of group operations and management practices to mitigate tax liabilities. This could involve relocating key management personnel or altering the decision-making process.

Withholding Tax Obligations:

As a resident, the company may have increased withholding tax obligations on payments made to non-residents. This can affect cash flows and necessitate careful planning to manage these obligations.

Dispute Resolution:

PoEM determinations can lead to disputes with tax authorities, both in India and abroad. Companies may need to engage in prolonged litigation or negotiation processes to resolve such disputes, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Strategic and Financial Planning:

Companies must integrate PoEM considerations into their strategic and financial planning. This includes assessing the potential tax impact on business decisions, such as mergers, acquisitions, and expansions.

Understanding and managing these tax implications is crucial for companies to ensure compliance, optimize tax liabilities, and maintain efficient global operations.

Strategies for Risk Mitigation

Mitigating the risks associated with the Place of Effective Management (PoEM) requires a comprehensive strategy to ensure compliance and minimize potential tax liabilities. Here’s a strategy for risk mitigation:

Detailed Documentation:

  • Maintain thorough records of all board meetings, including locations, participants, and minutes.
  • Document the roles and responsibilities of key decision-makers, emphasizing where strategic decisions are made.

Geographical Diversification:

  •  Conduct board meetings and key management activities outside India when possible.
  •  Ensure that strategic decisions and day-to-day operations are managed in the country of incorporation.

Independent Decision-Making:

  •   Empower local management teams to make strategic decisions independently.
  •  Limit the involvement of Indian management in the operational and strategic decisions of the foreign entity.

Clear Separation of Entities:

  •  Establish clear functional and operational boundaries between the Indian parent company and the foreign subsidiary.
  •  Ensure that the subsidiary has its own distinct management team and decision-making processes.

Regular Reviews and Audits:

  • Conduct periodic reviews and internal audits to ensure compliance with PoEM guidelines.
  • Identify and rectify any practices that might indicate effective management in India.

Consult Professional Advisors:

  •  Engage tax advisors and legal experts to review the company’s structure and operations regularly.
  •  Seek professional advice to stay updated on changes in PoEM regulations and compliance requirements.

Training and Awareness:

  • Train senior management and board members on PoEM regulations and the importance of compliance.
  • Promote awareness about the implications of PoEM on the company’s tax status.

Advance Rulings and Clarifications:

  • Where uncertainty exists, seek advance rulings from tax authorities to clarify the PoEM status of the company.
  • Use these rulings to guide business practices and ensure compliance.

By implementing these measures, businesses can effectively manage and mitigate the risks associated with PoEM, ensuring compliance with tax laws and minimizing potential liabilities.


Example 1:

  • Scenario: DEF Ltd has its head office in Germany, and its board of directors meets in Paris. The senior management, including the CEO and CFO, are based in India and make all major strategic decisions from there.
  • PoEM Determination: In this case, DEF Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, as the key management and commercial decisions necessary for the conduct of the company are made there.

Example 2:

  • Scenario: GHI Ltd has its headquarters in Japan, where it also conducts its board meetings. However, the executive committee responsible for major decisions consists of members located in India and the UK, with the majority based in India.
  • PoEM Determination: GHI Ltd’s PoEM would be in India because the majority of the key decision-makers are based there, even though the board meetings are held in Japan.

Example 3:

  • Scenario: JKL Ltd, involved in software development, has its head office in Singapore. The board meets in Hong Kong, but the company’s COO and CTO are in India, where they make critical operational and strategic decisions.
  • PoEM Determination: JKL Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, as the place where crucial decisions affecting the company’s management and operations are made is in India.

Example 4:

  • Scenario: MNO Ltd has its head office in Canada and conducts its board meetings there. However, the strategic and commercial decisions are delegated to a management team based in India.
  • PoEM Determination: MNO Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, given that the delegated management team, which makes essential decisions for the company, operates from India.

Example 5:

  • Scenario: PQR Ltd has its main office and board meetings in Australia. The company’s CEO, who lives in India, makes all major business decisions from there.
  • PoEM Determination: PQR Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, as the CEO’s location, from where key business decisions are made, determines the PoEM.

Example 6:

  • Scenario: STU Ltd has manufacturing units in Brazil and South Africa, with its head office and board meetings in South Africa. The CEO, CFO, and other key executives live in India, directing the company from there.
  • PoEM Determination: STU Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, where the key executives make vital business decisions.

Example 7:

  • Scenario: VWX Ltd operates globally with its head office in the UK and board meetings in France. The crucial strategic decisions are made by an executive committee, the majority of whom are based in India.
  • PoEM Determination: VWX Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, as the majority of the executive committee making critical decisions resides there.

Example 8:

  • Scenario: YZA Ltd, a consulting firm, has its registered office in Dubai, with board meetings held in various global locations. The firm’s senior management, including the Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer, are based in India and handle all strategic planning.
  • PoEM Determination: YZA Ltd’s PoEM would be in India, since the strategic decisions that drive the company are made from India.


The concept of POEM is integral to the tax compliance framework and residency determination for foreign companies operating in India. A nuanced understanding of POEM is crucial for businesses to navigate the Indian legal and tax landscape effectively. While this analysis provides a detailed overview, consulting legal experts or referring to official government documentation is advisable for specific cases.

King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

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