Rotork Controls vs. CIT (Supreme Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 14, 2009 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (rotork_controls_warranty_expenditure.pdf)

Estimated expenditure towards warranty is allowable u/s 37 (1)

The assessee sold valve actuators. At the time of sale, the assessee provided standard warranty that if the product was defective within the stated period, the product would be rectified or replaced free of charge. For AY 1991-92, the assessee made a provision for warranty at Rs.10,18,800 at the rate of 1.5% of the turnover. As the actual expenditure was only Rs. 5,18,554, the excess provision of Rs.5,00,246 was reversed and only the net provision was claimed. The Tribunal allowed the claim on the basis that the provision had been consistently made and on a realistic manner. The High Court reversed the Tribunal on the basis that the liability was contingent and not allowable u/s 37 (1). HELD, reversing the High Court that:

(1) A provision is a liability which can be measured only by using a substantial degree of estimation. A provision is recognized when: (a) an enterprise has a present obligation as a result of a past event; (b) it is probable that an outflow of resources will be required to settle the obligation; and (c) a reliable estimate can be made of the amount of the obligation. If these conditions are not met, no provision can be recognized;

(2) A Liability is defined as a present obligation arising from past events, the settlement of which is expected to result in an outflow from the enterprise of resources embodying economic benefits;

(3) A past event that leads to a present obligation is called as an obligating event. The obligating event is an event that creates an obligation which results in an outflow of resources. It is only those obligations arising from past events existing independently of the future conduct of the business of the enterprise that is recognized as provision. For a liability to qualify for recognition there must be not only present obligation but also the probability of an outflow of resources to settle that obligation. Where there are a number of obligations (e.g. product warranties or similar contracts) the probability that an outflow will be required in settlement, is determined by considering the said obligations as a whole;

(4) In the case of a manufacture and sale of one single item the provision for warranty could constitute a contingent liability not entitled to deduction u/s 37 of the said Act. However, when there is manufacture and sale of an army of items running into thousands of units of sophisticated goods, the past event of defects being detected in some of such items leads to a present obligation which results in an enterprise having no alternative to settling that obligation;

(5) On facts, the assessee has been manufacturing and selling Valve Actuators in large numbers since 1983-84 onwards. Statistical data indicates that every year some Actuators are found to be defective. The data over the years also indicates that being sophisticated item no customer is prepared to buy the Valve Actuator without a warranty. Therefore, warranty became integral part of the sale price of the Valve Actuator(s). In other words, warranty stood attached to the sale price of the product and a reliable estimate of the expenditure towards such warranty was allowable.