As Mamata Slams Durga Puja Tax, Top I-T Officer Says Clamour Based on 'Misleading Facts'
Kolkata: Income Tax officials have rubbished West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's claim that the I-T department had issued notices to Durga Puja committees in Kolkata, calling the report "factually incorrect".
The Trinamool Congress on Tuesday held a day-long dharna to protest I-T notices to Durga Puja committees and accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of trying to intimidate the committees and make them surrender to the saffron camp. TMC cadres carrying posters and placards shouted slogans against the central government and blamed them for insulting the religious sentiments of the Bengalis.
A top I-T official told News18 that the entire hullabaloo over the matter is based on claims that are "untrue". "We have not issued any Income Tax notices to any of the Durga Puja committees in Kolkata. Some people are raising their voice but it is not true. The report is factually incorrect and we strongly deny it," he said.
The Bengal CM had also hit out at the I-T department for "not sparing" even the Durga idol makers, buyers, priests and even the 'Dhakis', the quintessential traditional drummers, from the burden of taxes.
Refuting Banerjee's claims, the official said that the concept of TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) does not apply to them. "TDS is not applicable on idol makers and idol buyers because the purchase is outright. I want to clarify that priests, drummers and the artisans will not fall under section 133(6)," he said, expressing displeasure over the "misleading reports".
He also threw light on the notices that were sent to the Puja committees in question saying that it was done to "only clear the confusion" regarding the information on payments.
"Out of the 42 puja committees from whom we sought information on payments under section 133(6) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, five are already following this TDS norms for years and seven have started complying it. The other 30, too, assured their cooperation and on their request we had organized an outreach program to clear all the confusion," he said.
The I-T department had sought information from these committees on December 21, 2018 and asked to respond by January 7, 2019, the official said, adding that the circulation of notices was "purely meant for details of TDS on payments made to contractors and event managers."
"This was part of an exercise carried out by the TDS wing of the Department to ensure that the contractors and event managers pay their due taxes in time. People should not make unnecessary controversy out of this issue," he told News18.
In a Facebook post, Banerjee lashed out at the I-T department for issuing income tax notices to several Durga Puja committees in Kolkata.
"I have come to know just now that CBDT has issued a Press Release clarifying regarding notices to Durga Puja Committees for puja tax, which is popularly known as 'Puja Jijia Tax'. I would like to share with all of you that in the name of so-called Press Release, they have made certain claims which themselves prove that they are factually incorrect," she wrote on the social media platform.
Banerjee also called the Press Release issued my the CBDT "sheer distortion of facts with an aim to create confusion in the minds of local people and puja committees and perpetrate mental tension."
Bengal has more than 25,000 Durga Pujas across the state each year including 2,000 (approx) in Kolkata. Of that, 386 have formed an organisation called 'Forum for Durgotsav'.
Meanwhile, Secretary of the 'Forum For Durgotsav', Saswata Bose, said, "We were told to cut the TDS for payments of over Rs 30,000 to vendors and we were told to file returns. To maintain all these figures we need to hire someone to look into this. I think it will be difficult for small puja committees to maintain this. I request the I-T department to reconsider the issue."