The Supreme Court of India has given temporary relief to priests and nuns who were asked to pay income tax for the salary they earn by working in government-funded educational institutions.
The top court on May 9 asked authorities to maintain the status quo of not collecting such taxes and agreed to hear an appeal against an order of the Madras High Court in Tamil Nadu State.
The Supreme Court was hearing a challenge filed by the Institute of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to a March 20 order of the state court that said missionaries, Catholic priests and nuns should not be exempted from paying tax on government-assisted salaries. The top court posted the case for a final hearing on Aug.7.
“We are happy that we got temporary relief,” said Father L. Sahayaraj, deputy secretary of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council. He said the Church in the state was determined to fight the case.
He told ucanews.com that Catholic priests and religious serving in government-aided educational institutions did not have any income because their salary is contributed to their convents or houses “so they cannot be asked pay income tax.”
The state court ordered an end to this exemption on the basis that they received their salaries in their individual capacity and that surrendering salaries could only be treated as “application” of their income.
Their choice of application did not merit tax exemption, the court order stated.
The case dates back to 2015 when Tamil Nadu’s income tax department instructed state-funded educational institutions to deduct tax from the salaries of priests, religious brothers and nuns, ending a long-standing convention exempting them.