- Alleged tax on Durga Puja committees has been a hot button issue
- Mamata Banerjee hit out at the I-T department over its denial
- She said the department had sent notices to puja committees last year
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday hit out at the Income Tax department over its denial on levying taxes on the state's Durga Puja committees. In a Facebook post, the Chief Minister said the department was "distorting facts" and that it had issued notices to the puja committees last year.
The alleged tax on Durga Puja committees has been a hot button issue ahead of the state's biggest festival that's around 50 days away.
Claiming that the centre was indulging in "tax terrorism" because the party "tried and failed to capture" Durga Puja committees in the city, the state's ruling Trinamool Congress held a day-long protest in Kolkata on Tuesday.
In the evening, the tax department denied the claims.
CBDT rebuts incorrect reports in media about Income Tax notices issued to Durga Puja Committees in Kolkata recently.The said reports are factually incorrect and are strongly denied. No notice was issued to the Durga Puja Committee Forum by the Department during this year. pic.twitter.com/XGXvgkDDzC- Income Tax India (@IncomeTaxIndia) August 13, 2019
The department said on getting information that several contractors working for the Puja committees were not paying taxes, it had issued notices to them asking for details of tax deducted at source for the payments made.
"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," the tax department said. "Many of the committees complied and furnished evidence of tax deducted at source as well as deposit of the same into the Government account," its statement added.
Dubbing the tax 'Puja Jijia Tax', Ms Banerjee, in a Facebook post, said the tax authorities' notices regarding event management included "Dhaki' (drummers), 'Purohit' (priest), small and village artisans engaged in arts and crafts working in pandals.
Collecting tax from them through puja committees by way of TDS, is "as good as 'Terrible Disaster Scheme'," her post read.
The tax department's clarifications, she said, "makes little sense" and the department's press release had the aim to "create confusion in the minds of local people and puja committees and perpetrate mental tension".
Around 28,000 Durga Pujas are held across the state every year. Locals say of the 2,200 pujas held in Kolkata, at best 25 puja committees have budgets of around Rs. 50 lakh. The rest spend just about Rs. 15 lakh.
Bringing all of them under the tax net is challenging, members of the committees claim to have told the Tax officials at a meeting held last month.