In a big relief to foreign firms, government on Thursday said the I-T Act will be amended with retrospective effect to exempt overseas companies which do not have a permanent establishment in India from paying MAT.

Foreign companies, irrespective of whether they belong to a country with which India has a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), has been exempted from minimum alternate tax (MAT) on profits from April 2001 if they do not have a place of business in India, a Finance Ministry statement said.

The provisions of Section 115JB of Income Tax will not apply to foreign companies with effect from April 1, 2001, if they are resident of a country with which India has Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and they do not have a Permanent Establishment (PE) in India, it said.

In case the companies belong to countries with which India does not have a DTAA, the MAT exemption will apply if they are exempted from registration under Section 592 of the Companies Act 1956, or Section 380 of the Companies Act 2013.

Under these sections, firms are exempted from registration if they do not have a ‘place of business’ in India.

“An appropriate amendment to the Income-Tax Act in this regard will be carried out,” the Finance Ministry said.

Earlier this month, the government had exempted foreign institutional and portfolio investors from payment of MAT on the capital gains made by them before April 1, 2015.

The Budget 2015-16 had already exempted FIIs/FPIs from paying the levy on gains made after April 1.

According to an official, the tax department had earlier this year issued about 200 MAT notices to foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and foreign companies. Majority of notices were issued to FIIs.

These notices were based on a 2012 decision by Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR), which directed Castleton to pay MAT in India on their book profits.

Mauritius-based foreign company Castleton had then approached the Supreme Court against the AAR ruling. The case would come up for hearing on September 29.

KPMG (India) Tax Partner Vikas Vasal said this will further help in building confidence of the foreign investors for doing business in India.