Since November, Muslim clerics have been demanding that the 5% GST levied on Haj pilgrimage and the mandatory filing of Income Tax return be exempt. Earlier in 2020, the Haj Committee of India had petitioned Central Government’s Ministry of Finance to exempt the Haj Pilgrims from the mandatory filing of the income tax return, however, the issue seems to be far from resolved.
According to a report in Siasat, the Chief Executive Officer of Haj Committee of India Dr Maqsood Ahmed Khan has said that the last date of filing the returns was on the 31st of December 2020, and there is “anguish” amongst Muslims since the Finance Ministry has not responded.
Interestingly, from his response to Siasat, it appears that the Muslim clerics and the Haj Committee has instructed Muslims tacitly to not file the income tax return even as the due date was 31st. Khan has said, ‘If any Haj Pilgrim submits income tax return on his own, it will be considered as his prerogative and the Haj Committee shall not guide him in this regard”.
This would essentially mean that the Haj Committee will not guide Muslims if they choose to file their tax return as per the law, thereby tacitly exalting them to defy the law to their own detriment.
According to Siasat, Dr Khan said, “Haj Committee of India had brought the issue to the notice of Minister of Minority Affairs Abbas Naqvi who wrote to the Finance Ministry to look into the matter. We are sure the Haj pilgrims, as before, shall be exempted from submitting income tax return”.
It is pertinent to note that according to the new Finance bill (amended), all those who undertake journey outside the country and incur expenditure above Rs.2 lakhs must compulsorily file an income tax return.
The demand to exempt Haj pilgrims from filing tax returns was raised in November, TMC MP had written to Finance Minister
It was back in November 2020 that Muslim clerics and the Haj Committee had raised the demand that pilgrims to Haj should be exempt from filing their returns and paying any sort of tax on the pilgrimage, including the 5% GST. In November, the demands were made at a meeting of the Hajj department of the Islamic Centre of India.
In November, Head of Islamic Centre of India, Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali said that while all pilgrimages should be exempt from taxation and the requirement of filing returns, Haj Pilgrims should get financial considerations from the government of India.
Of course, the tax demand was not all and further demands were also made in November. It was demanded that first, that the pilgrimages should be transported in every possible way and second, GST and all types of taxes should be removed for the pilgrimage of Haj. The Islamic Centre also demanded that the condition of filling the income tax return for the Hajis should be abolished.
At the time, several politicians had raised a ruckus over the issue. Samajwadi Party (SP) had supported the demands of the Muslim clerics and so had Trinamool Congress (TMC).
In November itself, TMC MP had written to the Finance Minister to remove the mandatory requirement of filing IT return for Haj Pilgrims.
“The government of India has imposed a mandatory ITR filing for the intended Haj pilgrims. This decision may be the reformation of the taxation system. On the other hand, this mandatory provision is full of difficulties for the Haj pilgrims,” Sajda Ahmed had said.
The letter had further said, “You may be aware that some poor people living under the low-income line also perform Haj… I request you to pull back the mandatory condition of filing ITR for Haj pilgrims and think about pausing GST for Haj services”.
It is rather interesting to note that while the opposition parties have supported specials favours to Haj Pilgrims, now, the clerics have declared that if Muslims end up complying with the law of the land, they will not receive any help from the Haj Committee in the process.