Friday, April 6, 2012

S. 32(1)(ii): Business information, contracts, records etc are “intangible assets” & eligible for depreciation

The assessee, vide slump sale agreement, acquired a transmission and distribution business as a going concern for a lump sum consideration of Rs.44.7 crores. The net tangible assets were valued at Rs.28.11 crores and the balance Rs. 16.58 crores was allocated by the transferee towards acquisition of bundle of “business and commercial rights” being business information; business records; contracts; employees etc, compendiously termed as “goodwill”. The assessee claimed that the said “business and commercial rights” were an “intangible asset” and eligible for depreciation u/s 32(1)(ii). The assessee’s claim was rejected by the AO, CIT(A) & Tribunal on the ground that depreciation was not allowable on “goodwill”. On appeal by the assessee, HELD reversing the lower authorities:

S. 32(1)(ii) allows depreciation on “intangible assets” which are defined to mean “know-how, patents, copyrights, trade marks, licences, franchises or any other business or commercial rights of similar nature”. Applying the principle of ejusdem generis, the expression “business or commercial rights of similar nature” need not answer the description of “knowhow, patents, trademarks, licenses or franchises” but must be of similar nature as the specified assets. The specified intangible assets are not of the same kind and are clearly distinct from one another. The nature of “business or commercial rights” cannot be restricted to only the aforesaid six categories of assets but can be of the same genus in which all the aforesaid six assets fall and form part of the tool of trade of an assessee facilitating smooth carrying on of the business.The intangible assets, viz., business claims; business information; business records; contracts; employees; and knowhow, are all assets, which are invaluable and result in carrying on the transmission and distribution business by the assessee without any interruption. These intangible assets are comparable to a license to carry out the existing transmission and distribution business of the transferor. In the absence of the aforesaid intangible assets, the assessee would have had to commence business from scratch and go through the gestation period whereas by acquiring the aforesaid business rights along with the tangible assets, the assessee got an up and running business. Accordingly, the intangible assets acquired under slump sale agreement were in the nature of “business or commercial rights of similar nature” and eligible for depreciation u/s 32(1)(ii) (Techno Shares327 ITR 323 (SC) followed) (Q whether goodwill per se is eligible for depreciation u/s 32(1)(ii) left open).