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How is an NGO, a Trust and a Foundation Different?

Avik Chakravorty

From a legal standpoint, there is hardly any difference. An NGO or a Foundation cannot be registered. The legal viewpoint is that an NGO has one of three entities; its either a Public Trust or a Society or a not-for-profit organization or foundation. Under the Income Tax Act, all 3 entities are tax-exempt entities.


Both trust and society alike are two types of a non-profit or non-government organization in India. Therefore if anyone intends on doing social work and for this purpose needs a legal entity, then either a trust or a society can be registered. One can also register a company under section 25 but in most cases, a registered is a norm or society for benevolent work.


Trust is a comparatively simpler entity and can be easily registered and operated. Such organizations are fundamentally rooted in trust. Donations are purely based on trust that the donated funds would be fully utilized to serve the purpose mentioned in one’s trust deed. Trustees do not owe any explanation to anyone other than the Charity Commissioner and the applicable laws. Any tax breaks u/s 80g and 12a can be revoked if trustees do not abide by the rules, laws, and regulations of the Income Tax department.


Analyzing NGO Registration people seem to think that even with lack of funds if NGO registration is done then their goals and objectives can be attained. Truth is as quickly as some NGOs are being registered they are also winding up quickly or even leaving it in the middle.

If NGOs are registered with the intention or mindset of obtaining external grants and donations then such NGOs would not be sustainable in the long run. A company donating a chunk of funds to charity on a regular basis, then in such cases an NGO can be registered with enhanced sustainability planning.  


In India, there are many registered NGOs only on paper and only about a little over half of NGOs are actually working for the betterment of society. NGOs can be formed in no time at all. However, when project funds from local government schemes or contributions from foreign countries are on hold indefinitely then the entire NGO comes to a screeching halt. Rather than looking for easier options for forming an NGO, for NGO registration its imperative to analyze the actual requirement and the strength to form, manage and maintain such NGO is far more important.


Call 7604047601 for consultation with a registered expert Trust and Society NGO lawyers on Vidhikarya.

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