The I-T department claims it has only requested the committees to deduct taxes (or implement TDS) while making payments to people and firms.
The Trinamool is staging a dharna in Kolkata today (Tuesday) against Income Tax notices allegedly sent to Durga Puja organising committees.
Party chief Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the Union government, alleging that taxing pujas was unfair and religious festivals should be exempt from taxes. The Bengal CM had, in January, asked Durga Puja organisers to ignore the ‘I-T notices’ and summons from the I-T authorities.
The truth, however, is that the Income Tax department has no intention of collecting taxes from the Puja committees or assessing the income of the committees.
While the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has sought a clarification from the I-T authorities in Kolkata, the latter have explained that they have only sent advisories to the top 40 Durga Puja organising committees in Kolkata to deduct taxes from the payments they make to suppliers, contractors, designers, decorators, caterers, consultants and technicians.
“These big puja committees have huge budgets running into crores of rupees and pay lakhs to suppliers, designers and contractors. We have just requested them to deduct taxes (or implement TDS) while making payments to these people and firms,” said a senior I-T officer.
Representatives of the 40 puja committees who received the notices did meet the I-T authorities.
“We explained our difficulties in deducting taxes while paying our suppliers, contractors, designers, etc. Puja committees don’t have the infrastructure and the means to deduct taxes and deposit the same with the I-T department.”
“A puja committee is made up of volunteers only and no one has the time and expertise to deduct taxes at the prescribed rates and then deposit the amount with the I-T department,” said Saswata Basu, secretary of Forum For Durgotsav (a body of community Durga Puja organisers).
But the I-T department says it is ready to help the organisers with this work and it will not impose any additional burden on them.
But such details have not deterred the Trinamool chief from raising the bogey that the Union government is targeting Durga Pujas and wants to tax the puja committees.
She has been repeating this allegation, which the I-T department says is blatantly false, and had even made it part of her campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.
Mamata may fear that I-T probes into the accounts of the Durga Puja committees patronised by Trinamool ministers and senior functionaries (most of the community Durga Pujas have Trinamool leaders as their patrons) would expose the nexus between Trinamool leaders and the ponzi firms that had defrauded people of this region of thousands of crores of rupees.
Ghosh said there was no harm in accounts of Durga Puja organising committees being examined by the I-T department. If the accounts are in order, there is nothing to fear, he said.
He alleged that a lot of money from the ponzi schemes were channelled by Trinamool leaders into the organising committees in order to launder the ill-gotten wealth.
Tuesday’s dharna, Ghosh said, was a feeble and fruitless attempt by Mamata Banerjee to divert people’s minds from her failings.