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Kostub Investment Ltd vs. CIT (Delhi High Court)
February, 28th 2014

Expenditure on foreign education of employee (son of director) is deductible if there is business nexus

(i) The question is whether these twin requirements are said to have been satisfied in the circumstances of this case. The first is what are the materials on record? The assessee furnished its resolution authorizing disbursement of the expenses to fund Dushyant Poddar’s MBA. It secured a bond from him, by which he undertook to work for five years after return within a salary band and he had in fact worked after graduating from the University for about a year before starting his MBA course. In Natco Exports 345 ITR 188 (Del), the student had applied directly when she was pursuing her graduation. There was a seamless transition as it were between the chosen subject of her undergraduate course and that which she chose to pursue abroad. In the present case, the facts are different. Dushyant Poddar was a commerce graduate. The assessee’s business is in investments and securities. He wished to pursue an MBA after serving for an year with the company and committed himself to work for a further five years after finishing his MBA. There is nothing on record to suggest that such a transaction is not honest. Furthermore, the observation in Natco Exports with respect to a policy appears to have been made in the given context of the facts. The Court was considerably swayed by the fact that the Director’s daughter pursued higher studies in respect of a course completely unconnected with the business of the assessee. Such is not the case here. Dushyant Poddar not only worked but – as stated earlier – his chosen subject of study would aid and assist the company and is aimed at adding value to its business;

(ii) Whilst there may be some grain of truth that there might be a tendency in business concerns to claim deductions under Section 37, and foist personal expenditure, such a tendency itself cannot result in an unspoken bias against claims for funding higher education abroad of the employees of the concern. As to whether the assessee would have similarly assisted another employee unrelated to its management is not a question which this Court has to consider. But that it has chosen to fund the higher education of one of its Director’s sons in a field intimately connected with its business is a crucial factor that the Court cannot ignore. It would be unwise for the Court to require all assessees and business concerns to frame a policy with respect to how educational funding of its employees generally and a class thereof, i.e. children of its management or Directors would be done. Nor would it be wise to universalize or rationalize that in the absence of such a policy, funding of employees of one class – unrelated to the management – would qualify for deduction under Section 37(1). We do not see any such intent in the statute which prescribes that only expenditure strictly for business can be considered for deduction. Necessarily, the decision to deduct is to be case-dependent.

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