VIJAYAWADA: The ‘good and simple’ tax hasn’t spared the gods and devotees. Even temples, including the world famous Lord Balaji temple in Tirumala, which enjoyed the benefit of exemptions and subsidies, will have to cough up tax under the GST regime.

People who wish to perform special puja, rituals or take part in various sevas will now have to cough up 10-15% on ticket price. “Every year, I take part in `Khadgamala puja’ in Kanaka Durga temple atop Indrakeeladri in Vijayawada by paying 5,116. The ritual is performed inside sanctum sanctorum. I learnt from devasthanam authorities that I will have to pay tax on seva,” Nandi Kameshwara Rao, a quarry owner, says.

What has taken devotees by surprise is the fact they will have to pay tax over and above the ticket price now. For example, the ticket for `Lakshakumkumarchana’ is Rs 10,000. “It’s a special seva in the Durga temple and I get the seva once in six months. But, I will have to pay GST on that,” said R Manjula, a lecturer in a local college.

So far, temples under the endow ments department enjoyed exemption from value-added tax (VAT) and other taxes imposed by state government.These temples will be taxed under GST now. In AP, GST council has identified as many as 179 temples of 2,334 (under the endowments control) which now have to pay GST. They have been classified into four categories -A, B, C and D -based on their annual revenue collections, hundi collections, darshan ticket sales and special puja services.

These temples are further divided into three categories -those collecting above Rs 25 crore revenue a year, above Rs 1 crore and between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 1 crore -which come under the GST ambit. “A mechanism on tax structure for temples under the endowments department will be worked out soon. We will have some clarity on exact tax to be collected from pilgrims and how much temples will be paying to the central GST,” A Surya Kumari, executive officer, Durga temple, explained.

Temple boards across state will now collect GST from pilgrims booking lodging facilities and ‘choultries’. “Pilgrims will have to pay more during room bookings unlike in past,” a senior official of Simhachalam temple board said.

If sources are to be believed, top temples like Tirumala, Durga temple in Vijayawada, Narasimha Swamy temple in Visakhapatnam, Srisailam and Chinna Tirupati in Dwaraka Tirumala will be paying Rs 200 crore towards GST annually . All these temple used to be exempted from tax on ingredients like ghee, camphor, spices, dry fruits. “But now, 12% GST will be charged on ghee alone. Similarly, 5 per cent will be charged on agarbattis and the temple managements have to make provision for this payment now,” the official added.