Bodh Gaya temple gets income tax notice

Bodh Gaya temple gets income tax notice

In a first of its kind punitive action against the management of one of the holiest shrine of Buddhists, the Income Tax department has served a notice on the Mahabodhi Temple management committee in Bodh Gaya and asked it to explain why it was not filing income tax returns and under what circumstances it had been receiving foreign donations.

 The notice, served on the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) under Section 142 of the IT Act, has asked the BTMC to furnish details if it had been filing annual returns.

The representatives of the temple panel told income tax sleuths that since BTMC was a creation of legislation, hence it was a government body and not required to pay taxes. But the Income Tax department dismissed the arguments and said if it was a government body, under what circumstances it was receiving huge foreign donations.

 Besides, if it was a government body, was it entitled to promote a particular religion? As per the IT Act, trusts are normally exempted from paying taxes, but it is still mandatory for them to file returns.

In the case of the BTMC, it had received a donation of over Rs 6 crore, including cash, in the last financial year from the Buddhist devotees mostly from Japan, China, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The CBDT had recently issued a directive that all trusts, which had received foreign donations of Rs one crore or more, should be scrutinised.  “In the last 64 years, no income tax notice was ever served as it was a government entity and exempted from paying taxes,” he argued.