Interest earned on voluntary contributions made with specific directions to include contribution in corpus of charitable organization held to be exempted from income tax

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Antony Dominic and Dama Seshadri Naidu, JJ. heard appeals dealing with the issue as to whether interest accrued from donations received by a charitable institution are taxable or not. The respondent-assessee, a charitable institution, entitled to exemption under Section 11 of the Income Tax Act of 1961 (which deals with exemption from tax on income from property held for charitable or religious purposes), was receiving contributions from donors with express directions that the contributions were to be added by the assessee to its corpus which was exempt from tax.

However, the Revenue rejected this contention and the interest earned from the contributions was brought to tax. In appeal, the interest was exempted and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal confirmed the order. The Revenue then approached the High Court in appeal. Perusing the conditions laid down in Section 11(1)(d) of the Income Tax Act, the Court came to the conclusion that “interest earned on the contributions already made by the donors would also partake the character of income in the form of voluntary contributions made with a specific direction that they shall form part of the corpus of the trust”. Therefore, the interest so earned would qualify for exemption under Section 11(1) of the Income Tax Act. [Commissioner of Income Tax, Kochi v. Mata Amrithanandamayi Math, 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 17573, dated  22.08.2017]

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