07/28/2020, 11.18
INDIA
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No tax on charities and missions, says Kerala Catholic Church

by Biju Veticad

The Indian finance minister has promised that recent amendments would be scrupulously reviewed. The Indian government wants to tax aid transfers between dioceses, parishes and congregations. For expert, the authorities want to freeze funding for missionary activities in northern India.

Thiruvananthapuram (AsiaNews) – Recently, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told Catholic authorities in the State of Kerala that recent amendments to the laws on income tax and charitable activities would be scrupulously reviewed.

On 31 May, Card George Alencherry, president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and Fr Sebastian Mundathikunnel, president of the Kerala Conference of Major Superiors, sent a memorandum to the minister opposing changes to the legislation on taxing income of religious institutions.

The government’s proposal to amend articles 11, 12 and 13 of tax legislation bans aid transfers between parishes of the same diocese or between different institutions or houses of a congregation.

Card Alencherry urges the government to review the amendments, which he said goes against the principles underlying all religions – loving one another, caring for each other, and being charitable to others.

The modification of tax regulations will allow the government to increase, according to market prices, the value of properties that Catholic institutions have owned for centuries.

For the Indian Church, this is unacceptable, given that such a revaluation would be included in the income of dioceses, parishes and congregations. It says such a method of calculation is inappropriate and will oblige Church authorities to pay large sums in taxes.

Card Alencherry notes that the Catholic Church, which has been present in India since the first century AD, has always strictly abided by the rules and regulations on charitable activities, income taxes and foreign aid.

Catholic economist M.T. Philip told AsiaNews that behind the amendment there could be the government’s hidden attempt to block money for Catholic missionary activities in northern India, where Hindu nationalism and fundamentalism are strongest.

In fact, the new legislation cancels exemptions for religious institutions. Prof Philip explains that South India-based Catholic congregations often have homes and mission centres in the rest of the country. Any charitable transaction between these structures will result in the loss of their status as religious institutions, and will therefore be taxable.

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