Ahead of the Gujarat State assembly poll, the Centre has granted the Somnath Temple in Gujarat the status of place of “historic importance and a place of public worship of renown” under the Income Tax Act. This means donation to the temple will get tax exemption.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has issued a notification under section 80G of the Income Tax Act. This section deals with ‘Deduction in respect of donations to certain funds, charitable institutions, etc.’ and accordingly notifies places of worship. Before the Somnath Temple, Ram Janambhoomi Teerth Kshetra (Ayodhya) got the benefit of this notification.

Present notification has been issued under clause (b) of sub-section (2) of section 80G of the Act which prescribes exemption for donation made towards renovation or repair of notified temple, mosque, gurdwara, church or other place to be a place of public worship of renown throughout any State or States.. Half of the donation will be eligible for exemption.

Some notified temples

Besides, places of worship such as Kapaleeswarar Thirukoil (Mylapore, Chennai), Ariyakudi Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (Kottivakkam, Chennai), Shri Ram and Ramdas Swami Samadhi Temple and Ramdas Swami Math (Sajjangad, District Satara, Maharashtra), Sivasuriyaperuman Temple (Suriyanarkoil, Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu), Mahakaleshwar Mandir Samiti (Ujjain, MP), Thuravoor Mahakshethram (Thuravoor, Kerala) and Vanamamalai Mutt (Nanguneri, Tamil Nadu) are some of the notified places of worship of tax exemption.

According to the website of Somnath temple, Somnath is first among the 12 Aadi Jyotirlings of India. It has a strategic location on the western coast of India. The temple faced desecration by invaders from the 11th to 18th century A.D. The modern temple was reconstructed due to the efforts of Sardar Patel who visited the ruins of Somnath temple on November 13, 1947.

Section 80G

This section prescribes donation made to notified funds or charitable institutions, including religious places to be deducted from total taxable income. This deduction can be claimed by any taxpayer – individuals, companies, firms or any other person. One can avail of this deduction, only when the contribution is made via a cheque, draft, or cash. This means in-kind contributions such as food, material, clothes, medicines etc., do not qualify for deduction.

From FY2017-18, any donations made in cash exceeding ₹2,000 will not be allowed as a deduction. It means donation above ₹2,000 needs to be made only through cheque or digital means. Deduction under section 80G is also available for the National Defence Fund set up by the Central Government, PM CARES, the Prime Minister’s Drought Relief Fund, the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, National Foundation for Communal Harmony, a University or any educational institution of national eminence as may be approved by the prescribed authority, the National Blood Transfusion Council or to any State Blood Transfusion Council, the Army Central Welfare Fund, the Indian Naval Benevolent Fund, the Air Force Central Welfare, the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund or the Lieutenant Governor’s Relief Fund in respect of any State or Union Territory, beside others.