Donations by companies to PM-CARES Fund notified as CSR, says govt

File photo of PM Narendra Modi during fifth virtual meeting with State Chief Ministers via video conferencing on coronavirus situation
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has finally notified that donations made by companies to the Prime Ministers Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES Fund) will be considered as expenditure on corporate social responsibility, PTI reported.

The ministry late on May 26 notified that it has amended Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013 by including contributions to PM-CARES Fund as valid CSR activity along with the earlier insertion of Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.

Under the Companies Act, certain classes of profitable entities have to shell out at least 2 per cent of their three-year annual average net profit towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in a particular financial year.

However, to the relief of corporate contributors, the notification had clarified that changes will be deemed to have come into force on March 28, 2020 to allow for all the corporate contributions to PM-CARES Fund made in last two months to qualify as CSR spend.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had tweeted on March 29 that CSR Funds can now donate to PM CARES Fund. A ministry of corporate affairs circular issued then had also said the same suggesting that the Fund has been set up to provide relief to those affected by any kind of emergency or distress situation. But, a formal notification of the proposal never came in March.

CSR Funds can now donate to PM CARES Fund. Ministry of Corporate Affairs notifies details.

— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) March 29, 2020
According to PTI's sources, delay in notifying the circular was primarily over the issue of whether such changes would require an amendment to Companies Act or can be done through amending the rules. Legal opinion gave a nod to the notification.

Corporate spending for various activities related to Covid-19 including promotion of healthcare, preventive healthcare, sanitation, disaster management would qualify for treatment as CSR, as per a previous circular by the ministry.

The corporate social responsibility rules make it mandatory for large Indian firms to set aside at least 2 per cent of their average net profit for socially responsible expenditures. The norms are applicable to firms with at least Rs 5 crore net profit or Rs 1,000 crore turnover or Rs 500 crore net worth. The list of activities included under CSR is decided by the government.

Companies have off late announced donations to the PM-CARES Fund along with several other initiatives to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The total corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending by the top 500 companies in the country since the applicability of mandatory CSR in 2014 is likely to cross Rs 60,000 crore by the end of the month as per industry reports.

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