Church leaders speak against tax

CHURCH leaders in Manicaland have come out guns blazing against the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s move to collect income tax from churches and other religious institutions regardless of the types of transactions that take place within the church.

Churches are non-profit organisations and whatever happens in the church is out of the congregants’ free will so that the church keeps going, The Manica Post heard.

ZIMRA recently announced that any form of trade within any church is now liable to Income Tax. However, a number of church leaders in Mutare said churches were not business entities, hence they did not qualify to pay tax. Pastor Joe Daniel of Gateway Church referred to churches as God’s extended arms that build a spiritually health community.

“Basically, a church is an extension of God’s hand meant to build a spiritually healthy community and regardless of the transactions that take place in these churches. Making them pay tax is as good as asking God to pay tax.

“These are not business institutions and every cent or anything that its congregants bring is to keep the church going so that it continues to help people,” said Pastor Daniel. Pastor Lee Fore of Evangelical Church of Zimbabwe concurred with Pastor Daniel.

He said a church was made up of people who already pay income tax to Government through Pay As You Earn and Value Added Tax. “Church congregants are already paying tax out there and making a church to pay tax is as good as making people pay double tax. If it comes to the worst, ZIMRA can get tax from churches when they sell things like CDs and DVDs among other things ‘outside the church’.

“Churches have existed in this country since time immemorial. Why is it that ZIMRA now sees it fit to start collecting taxes from churches? What has changed?” said Pastor Fore. “Whatever people give in their respective churches is out of their own volition. It is a thank you token to whatever God would have done in their lives.

“If ZIMRA forces churches to pay tax, it therefore means that these churches will have to force people to pay offerings and tithes or even get them arrested for not paying. Even in the Bible we have never seen tax collectors claiming tax from churches,” said Major Apostle Brighton Chikono of Deliverance Ministries Church.

He added that churches were already paying tax when they pay for the ground where they are erecting their structures. “We are already paying tax for the ground that the council sells us to build our churches and is that not enough? ZIMRA can create a tax pocket that churches can only pay tax at their own will, not by force.

“Also the church and police cannot be separated because both are doing great work in reducing crime in the country,” said Apostle Chikono. Reverend Nyazika was also of the view that churches were not business institutions, so it was not a good idea for them to pay taxes.

ZIMRA is a Government department which is responsible for the collection of State revenue in form of excise duty, customs duty, road tolls, corporate and civil taxes.

It also facilitates trade, offers fiscal advice to the government as well as civil protection to the public. – Manica Post

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