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Oracle India Pvt. Ltd vs. CIT (Delhi High Court)
December, 02nd 2013

S. 37(1): Expenditure on acquiring master copy of software subject to obsolescence is deductible as revenue expenditure

The assessee entered into a license agreement with Oracle Corp under which it acquired a non-exclusive & non-assignable right to duplicate software products which were owned by Oracle Corp and to sub-license the same to parties in India. The assessee paid recurring royalty of 30% for the said right. In addition to the royalty, the assessee periodically paid an amount towards “expenditure on import of software master copy”. The said master copy was used to replicate the software. The assessee claimed that the said master copies were versions of Oracle’s new product offerings which had very accelerated obsolescence and that at any point of time it was not possible to say whether the version will be current for one day or one month. The AO allowed a deduction for the recurring royalty but held that the expenditure for acquiring the software master copy was capital expenditure. On appeal, the CIT(A) reversed the AO on the ground that owing to obsolescence, there was no enduring benefit as there were frequent corrections and up-gradation of the software. On appeal by the department, the Tribunal reversed the CIT(A) and held that the expenditure was capital in nature on the ground that the master copy was an asset of enduring benefit. On appeal by the assessee, HELD reversing the Tribunal:

The assessee’s claim that the master copies had high accelerated obsolescence and that even at the point of time of import it was difficult to say whether the version would be replaced by a new or updated version after one day or a month had not been disproved. Also the facts showed that there were periodical imports of the master copies and that the average price per copy was minimal. This was not a case where the master copies contained operating or system software, which normally did not require frequent up-gradation or changes. It is also not the case of an assessee which is the end user of software. It is a case where the assessee is required to repeatedly pay for the master copy media in view of frequent newer or updated versions of the application software from time to time. Once newer or better version of the application software is available, the earlier version is not saleable and does not have any market value for the seller i.e. the assessee. Also, as per the “matching concept” in accountancy, while determining whether expenditure is capital or revenue in nature, the question whether the expenditure would create an asset which is of value in further assessment periods and should be amortised (i.e. depreciated) as long as it has value (subject to the statutory provisions) requires to be considered. If the expenditure does lead to creation of an asset but of a limited or short life, it has to be treated as a liability and not as a fixed asset. The said expenditure cannot be valued for price for future financial years (Oracle Software 320 ITR 546 (SC), Ashahi India Safety Glass 346 ITR 329 (Del), G.E. Capital Services 300 ITR 420 (Del), O.K. Play 346 ITR 57 (P&H), IAEC Pumps 232 ITR 316 (SC) referred)

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