Karnataka Temple Tax controversy: CM Siddaramaiah condemns BJP’s allegations

The Karnataka government clarified that the recent amendment exempts temples with an annual income of up to ₹10 lakhs from paying taxes, a measure that wasn’t in place previously. It was highlighted that even during the BJP government’s tenure, temples had been subject to taxation.

Amid escalating controversy surrounding the Karnataka government’s decision to collect funds from temples generating a gross income of ₹10 lakh and above, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has asserted that the entire issue has been misrepresented for political gain. He criticized BJP leaders for making baseless allegations aimed at misleading the public and stirring communal divisions for political advantage, stating that they should be ashamed of such tactics.

The BJP has strongly opposed the passing of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill in the Assembly, denouncing it as anti-Hindu and condemning the Congress party’s actions.

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The Karnataka government clarified that the recent amendment exempts temples with an annual income of up to ₹10 lakhs from paying taxes, a measure that wasn’t in place previously. It was highlighted that even during the BJP government’s tenure, temples had been subject to taxation.

Following the contentious amendment that has sparked criticism, temples with a gross annual income exceeding ₹1 crore will be required to contribute 10% of their income to a common pool. Temples falling within the income range of ₹10 lakh to ₹1 crore will be subject to a 5% contribution of their gross annual income.

Prior to the amendment, Siddaramaiah clarified that temples with a gross annual income exceeding ₹10 lakh were subjected to a 10% tax, while temples earning between ₹5 lakh and ₹10 lakh annually were taxed at a rate of 5%.

Siddaramaiah conveyed that the recent amendment had been implemented with the sole purpose of increasing the funds allocated to the common pool, which is designated specifically for religious activities connected with the Hindu religion. He mentioned that since the enactment of the Act in 2003, the Common Pool Fund has consistently been used solely for the religious requirements of Hindu institutions, and he assured that this pattern would continue in the future. Siddaramaiah emphasized that the fund has never been diverted for any alternative purposes or for the advantage of followers of other religions.

The entirety of these funds will be directed to the Dharmik Parishad.

The common pool fund serves all religious purposes, and the government has expressed the necessity to augment this fund. The Dharmik Parishad is tasked with overseeing temple management for the welfare of pilgrims.

In Karnataka, there are around 3,000 temples generating less than ₹5 lakh in income, which currently do not contribute to the Dharmika Parishad. The government has revised this by exempting temples with incomes up to ₹10 lakh from contributing and introducing a five per cent levy on temples earning between ₹10 lakh and below one crore. Temples with incomes exceeding one crore will be subject to a ten per cent levy, with all proceeds directed to the Dharmika Parishad.

Transport and Hindu Religious Endowments Minister Ramalinga Reddy stated that with funds allocated to the Dharmika Parishad, they can offer insurance coverage to its members. They also aim to provide their families with a minimum compensation of ₹five lakh in case of any unfortunate events. To cover the premiums, the government estimate a requirement of ₹7 crore to ₹8 crore.