Separate tax on the chargers sold with mobile phones

A bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and Madan B Lokur of Supreme Court while quashing an order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that, making one package of mobile phone and charger will not make it a composite product. Therefore, Supreme Court has held that phone chargers sold with mobile phone should be taxed separately as it is not part of phone but an accessory. Apex court thereby dismissed the plea by Nokia for treating charger and mobile as a composite product.

Apex Court observed that, “If the charger was a part of cell phone, then cell phone could not have been operated without using the battery charger. But in reality, it is not required at the time of operation. Further, the battery in the cell phone can be charged directly from the other means also like laptop without employing the battery charger, implying thereby, that it is nothing but an accessory to the mobile phone.” Court also observed that, Nokia has itself put mobile charger in the category of accessory on its website and upheld the order passed by various authorities including the tax tribunal holding charger as an accessory to be taxed separately.

Upon considering the facts and figures, court opined that, “the Assessing Authority, Appellate Authority and the Tribunal rightly held that the mobile/cell phone charger is an accessory to cell phone and is not a part of the cell phone. Court further hold that the battery charger cannot be held to be a composite part of the cell phone but is an independent product which can be sold separately, without selling the cell phone. Apex Court was of the view that, High Court failed to appreciate the aforesaid fact and wrongly held that the battery charger is a part of the cell phone.”

It was a case from the State of Punjab where, under state Value Added Tax Act, sale of mobile phone is taxed at 4% while charger is taxed at 12.5%.