The Complete INSIDE Story of Political Funding
Every Political Party, whether BIG or small, need funds to run its’ election campaigns, advertise heavily and BUY VOTES to win the elections. With elections around the corner in various Legislative Assemblies and the upcoming elections of LOK SABHA in 2019, the political funding flight is on the runway to take-off.
The Political Parties are funded through various means which majorly includes
(a) State or Public Funding – Indirect Funding by Government such as access to free Media, free access to public places for rallies, free or subsidised space for party headquarters, tax exemption under Income Tax Act, 1961 under section 13A (discussed in detail later) etc.
(b) Individual Person funding – funding from individuals. The Individuals get Tax deduction u/s 80GGC to the tune of 100% of donation amount (not in cash)
(c) Corporate Funding – funding by corporate world – in detail below:
(d) Electoral Bond – issued by RBI, which can be bought and deposited into the account of a political party without disclosing the Donor’s identity (introduced by Finance Act, 2017)
(e) Anonymous cash donations – political parties can receive anonymous donations in cash without disclosing the name of the donor to the tune of Rs. 2,000/- from one person (earlier Rs. 20,000/- before Finance Act, 2018) – explained in detail later.
Corporate Funding is the most preferred and most used method of funding political parties in India. In fact in the year 2013-14, 90% of the funding to political parties came from Corporate Sources.
A. Donations made through cheque/bank transfer / in-kind donations:
1. Direct Funding to Parties – Corporate funding to political parties is governed by Section 182 of The Companies Act, 2013 which earlier provided that (before Finance Act, 2017) as below:
a. Company needs to be at least 3 (three) years old;
b. Donate maximum 7.5% of average net profits of past 3 years; (now amended)
c. Disclose such donations in Profit & Loss A/c (including name of political party); (now amended)
d. Approval from Board of Directors required;
Now after the Finance Act, 2017 the limit (cap of 7.5% of average net profits) has been removed and the corporate no longer have to disclose the name of the political parties.
The Corporate also enjoy Income Tax deduction under Section 80GGB up to 100% of donation made.
2. Funding through Electoral Trusts – Funding though Electoral Trusts have gained significance since no direct linkage of any corporate to any particular political party can be made (i.e. allows companies to give money to parties without appearing to favour one over the other) and thus the close relations between any of them are not exposed to the public. The relative significance of the use of Electoral Trust mode can be further understood on the below link:
The Corporate enjoys the income tax deduction under section 80GGB without any limit on the same for donations made to Electoral Trusts.
3. Funding through Electoral Bonds – Electoral Bonds introduced by Finance Act, 2017 is a relatively new instrument in the mode of political funding but it certainly provides the anonymity to the DONOR. The Donor can simply purchase an Electoral Bond, which is like a bearer instrument and deposit it with the Political Party. So now, instead of depositing cash directly to the political party by being anonymous, the other channel for the same is Electoral Bond.
While till now everything seems to be very clear and all-right, the darkest and the most intriguing part which is widely used, is still yet to be discussed here. For just a glimpse, the write-up further yet to come will disclose the following points:
a. Cash Mode of Funding by Corporate – as anonymous identity
b. use of Income Tax Sections like 35AD for political funding (the most interesting one) – with illustration – WATCH OUT FOR IT…..
c. the so called “ELECTORAL REFORMS” – how they all fail….
For further reading —– to be continued……… watch this article for the next section of this FUNDING GAME..