Contrary to its name, deferred tax is actually an accounting concept. It is governed by Accounting Standard 22, which is studied as part of course curriculum of most accounting classes.
In reality, deferred tax is not any form of tax expense paid/payable to the government. It represents accounting for difference between tax expense as per books and as per tax return filed by a taxpayer entity.
Differences in tax expense as per books and as per tax return could occur on account of various reasons, for example the rate at which depreciation on certain asset is accounted for in books may be higher/lower than what is permitted as per income tax law. Another example could be donations made by the company – while they are recorded as expense in profit and loss account, they are not an allowable deduction while computing taxable income.
All such differences are to be classified as either timing difference or permanent difference. Timing differences are those which will get reversed in the future. However, permanent differences are those which, as the name suggests, are permanent in nature and will not be reversed in the future. In the above example, while the book depreciation rate may be different than tax depreciation rate, the cost of asset would eventually be depreciated in entirety in both books and tax records. It is merely that the period over which it is depreciated will differ. Hence, it would qualify as timing difference. On the other hand, donation is never allowed as an expense and therefore qualifies as a permanent difference.
Deferred tax is recognised only on timing differences. Depending upon the nature of timing difference, either a deferred tax asset is created or a deferred tax liability is recognized in a financial year. Every year, the position is revisited and the deferred tax asset or deferred tax liability may be reversed depending upon the calculations made.
When there is a disallowance / addition to Profit before tax in tax return, deferred tax asset is created. When additional deduction / allowance is claimed from Profit before tax in tax return, deferred tax liability is created. Instead of mugging it up, whether an asset is to be created or liability, can be understood in logical terms as under:
- When a disallowance / addition is made in tax return vis-a-vis the expense booked in books, it implies that taxable income is higher in current year, i.e. tax paid is higher now, thus lower tax would need to be paid in future, hence recognize an asset now.
- Conversely, when higher deduction is claimed in tax return vis-a-vis the expense booked in books, it implies that taxable income is lower in current year, tax paid is lower now, thus higher tax would need to be paid in future, hence recognize a liability now.
Accounting Standard 22 provides for various other aspects related to deferred tax recognition as well, such as:
- deferred tax is to be recognized at enacted or substantively enacted rate as on balance sheet date
- deferred tax asset is recognized when there is ‘virtual certainty’ that the asset can be reversed in the future
- deferred tax getting reversed within the tax holiday period should not be recognized
This might sound like too complicated and confusing, but if one were to think logically, the concept of deferred tax is pretty simple. Accounting classes at Super 20 Training Institute can help you learn complex accounting concepts such as these with ease.