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95.5% Utilization Validates Warranty Estimates: Supreme Court Refuses to Interfere with Karnataka HC’s Ruling


The case, Deputy Commissioner of Income-tax v. Apple India (P.) Ltd.[i], concerns the methodology used by a company for computing the provision for warranty expenses. This decision is pivotal as it emphasizes the need for companies to use scientific and historical data-based methodologies for warranty provisions, ensuring transparency and accuracy in financial reporting and preventing the deferral of income through inflated provisions.


  • The assessee, a company engaged in marketing and providing post-sale support services for products of M/s. Apple Co., filed a return of income for the assessment years (‘AYs’) 2013-14 and 2014-15, declaring income of Rs. 1,62,73,33,230/- and Rs. 2,12,12,89,800/- respectively. However, the assessment officer (‘AO’), disallowed the warranty provisions[ii] claimed by the assessee, citing non-compliance with the Supreme Court’s (‘SC’) guidelines from the Rotork Controls India (P.) Ltd. v. CIT[iii] case (‘Rotork case’). Despite the assessee’s detailed explanations, the AO observed an increasing closing balance of provisions for warranty due to non-utilization, inconsistent provision percentages, and a lack of scientific method or historical trend analysis. Consequently, the AO restricted the provision for warranty expenditure to 2.14% of sales, allowing Rs. 64.84 crore against the claimed Rs. 147.74 crore, disallowing Rs. 82.56 crore.

  • On appeal, the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) (‘CIT(A)’) and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (‘Tribunal’) confirmed the order passed by the AO. The High Court of Karnataka (‘HC’) ruled that the orders passed by the AO, CIT(A), and the Tribunal were unsustainable and allowed the assessee’s appeal. Aggrieved by this, the Revenue approached the SC.

  • Before the HC, the assessee argued that their warranty expense provision was based on a global policy consistent with Accounting Standards, ensuring accrual and prudence principles. It was contended that the Tribunal failed to follow the decisions of its own co-ordinate benches and even the HC’s previous decision in favour of the assessee for prior AYs which had allowed the deduction of the warranty provision. The assessee further argued that the Tribunal wrongly noted a significant difference between the provision made and the actual utilization without properly considering the evidence provided. Limiting the warranty provision to 2.14% of sales would result in a permanent disallowance, preventing the assessee from deducting the amount actually utilized.

  • The Revenue contended that the assessee had not followed the guidelines set by the SC in the Rotork case for determining warranty provisions and that the same had not been calculated using a scientific method. It further argued that the assessee’s policy was not robust due to the absence of an established system for evaluating outstanding provisions or reversing excess provisions and the actual utilization of the warranty provision was less than the amount provided.


  • The SC dismissed the Revenue’s appeal on two grounds: first, for the delay in filing the petition, and second, on merits, in view of the decisions already rendered in identical matters, thereby confirming the HC’s order.

  • The HC had referred to its previous decision in the assessee’s own case (ITA No. 204/2008), where the warranty provision was upheld as reasonable as the estimate of 2.14% was based on the assessee’s experience and technical evaluation of post-sale support requirements. The HC while citing the Rotork case, acknowledged that a provision is recognized when there is a present obligation from a past event, a probable resource outflow, and a reliable estimate of the obligation.

  • The HC also noted that the Tribunal had consistently ruled in favour of the assessee for similar issues in previous AYs 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08, and these rulings were upheld by appellate courts. It was observed that the assessee had utilized 95.5% of the total provision for the years between AY 2007-08 and 2016-17, indicating the reliability of the estimate. It was concluded that the AO’s orders were based on direction for AY 2011-12, which had already been set aside by the Tribunal and therefore, the very foundation of the AO’s order did not survive.

Our Analysis

This decision is important because it underscores the necessity for companies to adhere to scientific and historical data-based methodologies when calculating provisions for warranty expenses. It reinforces the standards set by the SC in the Rotork case, emphasizing that provisions must be reliable, reassessed annually, and based on actual utilization trends. The ruling also highlights that disproportionate accumulation of provisions and lack of robust reassessment mechanisms can lead to the disallowance of excess provisions, ensuring that companies do not defer income through inflated provisions. This decision serves as a critical precedent for maintaining transparency and accuracy in financial reporting. It highlighted the need for tax authorities to consider the practical realities of business operations and past judicial pronouncements before making disallowances.

End Notes

[i] [2024] 162 153 (SC)

[ii] A warranty provision refers to the financial estimate set aside by a company to cover future warranty claims for products sold, based on historical data and technical evaluations. It represents a liability recognized to ensure resources are available for potential post-sale support costs.

[iii] 2009 SCC OnLine SC 1119.

Authored by Shivam Mishra, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.


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