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Understanding 12A Registration for NGOs in India: A Comprehensive Guide

12A Registration for NGOs

Understanding 12A Registration for NGOs in India: A Comprehensive Guide


Registration under Section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, is a crucial step for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in India. It provides them with the essential status of tax exemption, allowing them to receive donations and grants while enjoying tax benefits. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the 12A registration process for NGOs, its significance, and the benefits it offers.

Section 12A Registration Explained:

Section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, grants tax exemption to entities primarily engaged in charitable, religious, or educational activities. For NGOs, this registration is crucial as it exempts them from paying income tax on their surplus income or funds received as donations.

Key Points Regarding 12A Registration for NGOs:

1. Eligibility for 12A registration:

  • Income tax exemption for NGOs is only applicable to the entities registered as a trust, society, or Section 8 company (under the Companies Act, 2013).
  • They should be primarily engaged in activities that fall under the definition of “charitable purpose” as per the Income Tax Act.

2. 12A Registration process:

  • NGOs must submit an application in Form 10A to the Commissioner of Income Tax.
  • Along with the application, they should provide the organization’s Memorandum of Association (in case of a company), trust deed (in case of a trust), or the society’s bylaws (in case of a society).

3. Scrutiny and Verification:

  • The Income Tax Department reviews the application and verifies the organization’s activities.
  • They may seek additional information or documents during the scrutiny process.

4. Grant of 12A Registration:

  • If the Income Tax Department is satisfied with the application and the organization’s activities, they grant Section 12A registration.
  • The registration is typically granted for an indefinite period unless there is a substantial change in the nature or objectives of the NGO’s activities.

 Significance of 12A Registration for NGOs:

1. Income Tax Exemption for NGOs: The primary significance of 12A registration is that it exempts NGOs from paying income tax on their surplus income. Donations received by the NGO are also exempt from taxation in the hands of the donor under Section 80G.

2. Attraction of Donations: Registered NGOs are more attractive to potential donors as donations made to them are eligible for tax deductions under Section 80G. This encourages individuals and organizations to contribute to the NGO’s cause.

3. Financial Sustainability: Tax exemption allows NGOs to allocate more funds toward their charitable activities and causes, enhancing their financial sustainability.

4. Compliance and Credibility: 12A registration is a mark of compliance with the Income Tax Act, which enhances the credibility of the NGO. It signifies that the organization is dedicated to genuine charitable work.

5. Eligibility for Government Grants: Many government schemes and grants are exclusively available to 12A registered NGOs, making them eligible for additional financial support.

6. Transparency and Accountability: The 12A registration process for NGOs necessitates transparent accounting and reporting practices, ensuring greater accountability in financial matters.

Benefits of 12A Registration for NGOs:

1. Income Tax Benefits for Donors: Donations to registered NGOs are eligible for tax deductions under Section 80G, making donors more likely to contribute.

2. Increased Funding Opportunities: Registered NGOs can access a broader pool of donors, including individuals, corporates, and government agencies, leading to increased funding opportunities.

3. Enhanced Credibility: NGOs with 12A registration are viewed as more credible and trustworthy, attracting partnerships and collaborations.

4. Reduced Financial Liability: Exemption from income tax on surplus income ensures that more funds can be allocated to the NGO’s projects and initiatives.

5. Eligibility for FCRA Registration: 12A registration for NGO is a prerequisite for Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration, allowing NGOs to receive foreign donations legally.

6. Compliance with Legal Requirements: Registering under Section 12A ensures that the NGO complies with the legal framework, reducing the risk of legal issues.

NOTE: It is important to note that the initial 12A registration certificate is provided by the Income Tax Department on a provisional basis which is valid for 3 years. Once the activity is started, the NGO must apply for Permanent 12A registration.


Section 12A registration is a critical step for NGOs in India, offering them tax exemption, credibility, and access to a wider pool of donors. It not only benefits the organization financially but also promotes transparency, accountability, and compliance with legal requirements. NGOs aspiring to make a significant impact in the charitable, educational, or religious sectors should prioritize obtaining 12A registration online to maximize their potential for positive change in society.

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