Taxman at Deity’s Door: Indore Temple Gets I-T Notice over High-value Cash Deposits Post Demonetisation

The Narendra Modi government’s 2016 demonetisation move to abolish high-value banknotes, in a stated bid to curb black money and corruption, stirred up the lives of people across all sections of society, with the ripple effects still being felt. Now it appears that not just mere mortals, even deities aren’t immune to the repercussions.

After detecting huge deposits post demonetisation in bank accounts allegedly linked to the Shri Ranjit Hanuman Mandir in Indore during 2016-17, the income tax department has sent a notice to the temple administration.

The notice talks about tax recovery of Rs 2.33 crore.

Following the note ban move, the temple allegedly received huge sums in donations and the temple administration deposited the cash in bank accounts linked to the shrine.

The I-T department, which was probing high-value cash deposits after November 2016, when demonetisation was implemented, had taken up this case as well and after inquiry it purportedly emerged that deposits of over Rs 2 crore were made in the accounts in the financial year 2016-17.

A subsequent probe revealed that the temple isn’t registered under relevant provisions of the I-T Act to avail waivers from paying income tax and the department sent a recovery notice of over Rs 2.33 crore, which includes the tax and penalty, officials said.

Temple administrator and sub-divisional magistrate Ravi Kumar Singh said the accounts are handled by a chartered accountant who responds to I-T department letters as well. The district collector is the chairman of the temple trust and he, the SDM, has been appointed temple administrator by the district administration, said Singh.

Adding that the donations are used for welfare works, the SDM maintained that the temple need not be registered under the I-T Act and owes no responsibility of taxes.

The temple’s chief priest Pt Deepesh Vyas told News18 that he had no idea about the tax notice and said that the temple is under government control and the money received in donations is used for public service projects.

Vyas said the temple daily feeds 500 devotees, sends food to Anganwadis, offers RO water to visitors, and maintenance, repair works and religious events are also carried out with the money received in the donation boxes.

An officer from the income tax department in Indore said the temple is not governed by any legislation and also is not listed under the I-T Act for tax waivers. The temple administration is required to furnish a reply with the tax department within a month and could also lodge an appeal with the chief commissioner of income tax later, he said.