After ₹1,823-cr notice, Congress cries 'tax terrorism'

The Congress accused the income tax department of indulging in double standards by slapping it with income tax demand notice of Rs 1,823.08 crore while “overlooking bigger violations” by the ruling BJP which, it said, required the ruling party to pay Rs 4,600 crore.

The opposition party accused the ruling establishment of indulging in “tax terrorism” against the Congress in the run-up to the general election. Congress leaders said the party would take the matter to the Supreme Court next week.

The opposition camps and some other parties, including the Left, too have received income tax notices on donations received by them. However, the Congress distanced itself from the US raking up its income tax issues and said it didn’t need any “external support”. The party said it had full faith in India’s institutional and judicial mechanism.

The Congress also called for a nationwide protest on Saturday against “tax terrorism”.

All India Congress Committee treasurer Ajay Maken said at a presser that the Congress – whose latest plea in the Delhi High Court, challenging the tax reassessment proceedings against it for a period of four years, was rejected on Thursday – had received fresh notices from the income tax department to the tune of Rs 1,823. 23 crore. He alleged that the BJP was making bigger violations and yet the Congress was being penalised.

Maken said section 29C of the Representation of the People Act clearly mandates the treasurer of any recognised political party to submit to the Election Commission the details of donations received with the names and addresses of the donors.

“We have analysed the last seven years’ accounts submitted by the BJP, particularly 2017-18 and the last two years. In 2017-18 the total donations without any address were Rs 42 crore to the BJP. In the same 2017-18 year, Congress was penalised for just Rs 14 lakh (donations without details) to the tune of Rs 136 crore and Rs 210 crore in account was marked as lien,” Maken said. “But the I-T department did not do anything for Rs 42 crore of donations taken by BJP without any addresses and names of donors in 2017-18. There should be a level playing field. We have calculated that Rs 4,600 crore should be taken from the BJP by the I-T department on the same basis as the income tax department has calculated for the Congress party and demanded Rs 1,823 crore.”

To a question as to why Congress did not adhere to the income tax tribunal’s initial direction in 2021 to pay 20% of the total recovery demand, pending final settlement, and about the query by a Delhi High Court judge whether the Congress was sleeping then, Maken said, “When I-T department was asking for 20% of Rs 135 crore, it meant Rs 27 crore. We didn’t have that much money at that point. Once you give 20% it is very difficult to take it back. That time we were facing state elections and we didn’t have money.”

This was the first time in this regard that the Congress, which so far had been questioning the income tax notices by stating that political parties didn’t have to pay income tax, elaborated on the mandatory provisions for parties to give an account of donations and on the penalties for violations.

Roy Walsh

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