Service Tax department slaps notice on Ramdev's Trust

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After Income Tax, it's now the turn of the Service Tax department to issue a notice of Rs 4.94 crore dues to Yoga guru Ramdev's trust for alleged duty evasion on its income raised through country-wide 'yog shivirs' (camps).

The department's snoop and investigation wing, Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), has also launched a scrutiny of accounts of various activities conducted by the trusts run by Ramdev across the country post-2006.

The latest tax notice, after the Income Tax department had slapped a notice of Rs 58 crore against Ramdev's trusts, has been issued against the Haridwar-based Patanjali Yog Peeth for 'sale of coupons' of different denominations for organising 'yog shivirs', both residential and non-residential.

Thousands of people have participated in these camps conducted across the country in the last five years.

In his reaction, Ramdev's spokesperson S.K. Tijarawala said they will counter the Service Tax department's action.

"We are replying to the notice. Yog shivirs are classified under the category of providing medical relief which cannot be termed as earning commercial profit," he said.

Sources said income generated from Ramdev's yoga camps, in which people participate after buying coupons, is liable to be brought under the service tax domain.

Under service tax provisions, Yoga is in the taxable list of health and fitness services. Sources said agency sleuths, during the investigation, recorded country-wide price tags of coupons which were sold in an increasing value order from the back row to the front during these 'yog shivirs'.

The DGCEI has also recorded that while the coupons for non-residential Yoga camps ranged from Rs 51-Rs 7,000, the rates at residential camps for facilities like air-conditioned tents would cost between Rs 8,000-Rs 12,000.

The agency has now launched a scrutiny of the balance sheets and ledgers of all the 'shivirs' conducted by Ramdev's trusts in the last five years, following which, sources said, the I-T department will also be informed about the income from these avenues which could have escaped the Income Tax net.

Recently an I-T notice, for the assessment year 2009-10, on Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust, Divya Yoga Mandir Trust and Bharat Swabhiman Trust have been slapped on the income of Rs 120 crore which the I-T department has held as 'commercial activities'.

Ramdev's trusts have challenged this I-T order saying they have nothing to hide. Ramdev, who is leading a campaign against black money in the country, heads an organisation that runs the trusts which manages the manufacture and sale of ayurvedic medicines in India and abroad.

His trusts have been enjoying tax exemption under the provisions relating to charitable organisations for the last few years.

Ramdev's trusts are also under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged contravention of foreign exchange rules.

Ramdev had last year declared his business empire to be worth more than Rs 1,100 crore. The capital involving the four trusts run by him totalled Rs 426.19 crore while the expenditure incurred on them amounted to Rs 751.02 crore.

While the Divya Yoga Mandir trust has a capital of Rs 249.63 crore, Patanjali Yoga Peeth trust has Rs 164.80 crore, Bharat Swabhiman trust Rs 9.97 crore and Acharyakul Shiksha Sansthan Rs 1.79 crore — all totalling Rs 426.19 crore.

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