The Ministry of Corporate Affairs on March 23, 2020 issues general circular no. 10/2020 to all the stakeholders giving clarifications on spending CSR funds for COVID 19.

  • By observing the current scenario due to novel coronavirus in India, it is declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and the government of India to treat this as a notified disaster. So it is made clear that spending CSR funds for COVID-19 is eligible for CSR activity.
  • Now the funds may be spent for various activities related to COVID-19 under item nos. (i) and (xii) of Schedule VII which relates to the promotion of health care, including preventive health care and sanitation and disaster management.
  • Further, as per General Circular 21/2014 dated 18.06.2014; items in Schedule VII are broad based and may be interpreted liberally for this purpose.

General Circular 21/2014 dated 18.06.2014

This circular gives clarification for the provisions of Corporate Social Responsibility under section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 which are as follows:

  • The statutory provision and provisions of CSR Rules, 2014, is to ensure that while activities undertaken in pursuance of the CSR policy must be relatable to Schedule VII of the Companies Act 2013, the entries in the said Schedule VII must be interpreted liberally so as to capture the essence of the subjects enumerated in the said Schedule. The items enlisted in the amended Schedule VII of the Act, are broad-based and are intended to cover a wide range of activities as illustratively mentioned in the Annexure.
  • It is further clarified that CSR activities should be undertaken by the companies in project/ programme mode [as referred in Rule 4 (1) of Companies CSR Rules, 2014].   
  • Expenses incurred by companies for the fulfilment of any Act/ Statute of regulations (such as Labour Laws, Land Acquisition Act etc.) would not count as CSR expenditure under the Companies Act.
  • Salaries paid by the companies to regular CSR staff as well as to volunteers of the companies (in proportion to company’s time/hours spent specifically on CSR) can be factored into CSR project cost as part of the CSR expenditure.
  • “Any financial year” referred under Sub-Section (1) of Section 135 of the Act read with Rule 3(2) of Companies CSR Rule, 2014, implies ‘any of the three preceding financial years’.
  • Expenditure incurred by Foreign Holding Company for CSR activities in India will qualify as CSR spend of the Indian subsidiary if, the CSR expenditures are routed through Indian subsidiaries and if the Indian subsidiary is required to do so as per section 135 of the Act.
  • Registered Trust’ (as referred in Rule 4(2) of the Companies CSR Rules, 2014) would include Trusts registered under Income Tax Act 1956, for those States where registration of Trust is not mandatory.
  • Contribution to Corpus of a Trust /society/ section 8 companies etc. will qualify as CSR expenditure as long as (a) the Trust/ society/ section 8 companies etc. is created exclusively for undertaking CSR activities or (b) where the corpus is created exclusively for a purpose directly relatable to a subject covered in Schedule VII of the Act.