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Parties ride high on tax waivers

- Cong, BJP get over 80%

New Delhi, Dec. 2 (PTI): Tax-free incomes of 10 key political parties in the past five years touched a whopping Rs 2,490 crore with the Congress and the BJP accounting for 83 per cent of the amount, an RTI query has revealed.

Such registered political entities are exempted from taxes on their incomes under Section 13A of IT Act, 1961, but have to maintain books of accounts for donations or incomes above Rs 20,000.

Small donations or incomes below the threshold are not included in the tally of Rs 2,490 crore divulged by the income-tax department for 2007-08 to 2011-12. This suggests the incomes could be much higher.

The numbers have turned the spotlight on the manner in which parties are funded against the backdrop of the demand for poll reforms that include calls for government funding of elections.

The Congress topped the chart with a tax-exempted income of Rs 1385.36 crore. This was more than double the BJP’s total of around Rs 682 crore.

The figure was Rs 15.51 crore for the Janata Dal (United), a BJP ally, but its data do not include 2008-09.

The information came through a petition filed by a Hisar-based RTI activist, Ramesh Verma.

The Central Information Commission said last month it would seek a report from the income-tax department and directorate of estates on the exemptions and the assets of the parties.

The aim is to determine whether there is enough indirect funding from the government, in the form of the waivers, to bring the parties directly under the ambit of the RTI Act.

Mayawati’s BSP recorded an income of Rs 147.18 crore in the financial years 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2011-12. The party filed incomplete returns for 2009-10 and claimed no tax-exempted income for 2010-11. Sharad Pawar’s NCP had a total tally of Rs 141.34 crore, all five years included.

The CPM earned Rs 85.61 crore in four of the years, reporting nil income for 2008-09. The CPI’s total was Rs 28.47 crore but that was for only two of the years, 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The Janata Dal (Secular) had tax-free earnings of Rs 7.16 crore in 2009-10 and 2010-11. It was Rs 2.85 crore for Lalu Prasad’s RJD in three years from 2008 to 2011, and Rs 2.55 crore for Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party from 2007 to 2011.