Should God be Taxed ?
India is a religiously diverse country with 5 mainstream (or most commonly followed) religions (Hindusim, Islam, Christianity, Sikhs and Buddhism), some minority groups (Parsi and Jains) and Atheists. Approximately 94% of the population consists of Hindus and Muslims alone*. Thus India’s population can be categorized into various religions and it engages in several religious activities.
Religion is held in high regard and is of high priority in the Indian society. This leads to many forms of religious activities. These include places of worship like temples, mosques and Gurudwaras, professions like a Priest or a Pandit, manufacturing industries producing good related to religion (idols and other related goods). Temples, priests and religious institutes collect huge revenues from their followers for various purposes. Thus one may say that religion is an Industry in India. Religion creates employment that ensures basic needs are taken care of and some. Religious industries have massive annual turnovers. It creates firms dedicated to religious services and manufacturing religious goods. Watch any religious television channel and they shall try to sell products like pendants that they claim to ensure one’s well-being and success. Idol making is an industry by itself. Artists churn out thousands of idols every year for festivals like Durga Puja or Ganesh Chaturthi.
So why not subject it to CSR activities just like other industries? When fields of social welfare like education and health have been turned into money minting industries and which are subject to tax, why do we let religion elude the same? We are in an age where people are constantly exploiting the prestigious status of religion in our society to mint large sums of money. So why should we exclude this field from the rules and regulations which other industries face. After all, Religion is a need, a requirement of public and we employ people (priests, Sadhus etc) and generate industries to satisfy this need. So how is it different from fields like education and health? If religion can be justified as a public good, its providers should be subject to Regulations, Audits, CSR activities and Taxes.
The Tirupathi Tirumala temple in Andhra is rumored to generate incomes in excess of Rs1000 crore annually from donations and fees. Though, the temple trust does run education and research institutes, there is little transparency as to how these funds are used and what percentage of profits are invested back into society. This is just one example of a prestigious temple among many present in the country. If these temples let their finances be audited and ensure a certain percentage of their profits be invested into socially beneficial schemes, It would be a true boon to the people.
The article doesn’t dispute the concept of God or a believer’s right to choose a religion and worship. It just wants to make one singular argument- profits from religious activities should be regulated to as to ensure some of it comes back to those needy ones. Won’t that be a truly ‘holy’ service?
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