Religious organisations raking in billions and so should pay taxes

By: SAMUEL K. GITUNDU

I would like to suggest to the Cabinet secretary in charge of the National Treasury to consider taxing religious organisations as one way of raising funds to finance his ambitious budget of Sh2 trillion.

The Kenya Revenue Authority cannot raise this money from the existing taxpayers, but I believe that if he heeds my advice, the CS could raise sufficient funds to even pay the teachers their salary increase.

The government should widen the tax net By: bringing all religious institutions into the tax bracket.

I mean churches, mosques, temples, and other religious organisations that have hitherto been exempted from paying income tax on the ground that they are charities.

It is true that some of them run institutions that can qualify as charities, but the funds allocated to such purposes are minimal compared to the huge funds they collect from their congregations.

In a well-organised tax regime, funds given to charitable bodies should be clearly accounted for, making it easy to decide where to exempt from taxation.

PLENTY OF MONEY

Some of these organisations run fleets of buses and matatus as well as hotels, schools, and even farms and hospitals that rake in colossal sums which, if properly taxed, can go a long way in bridging the huge gap in this year’s budget.

I am sure the heads of these institutions will not agree, but the days are long gone when they were considered to be charitable organisations as they now collect millions in offering, tithes, and first fruits, most of which go to the leaders.

I refer churches to a talk in 1100 AD between Pope Innocent II and Thomas Aquinas when the latter found the former counting a huge sum of church money.

The Pope asked Aquinas, “Can the Church now say ‘silver and gold have I none’?” (as was said By: Peter and John in Acts 3:6) to which Aquinas answered: “No, but it can no longer say ‘rise up and walk’.”

My point is, if the church was that rich back then, it is many times richer today and should willingly bring itself under taxation to assist the government meet its budgetary obligations for the benefit of all Kenyans.

Prayers alone are not enough and need to be accompanied By: tangible action.

A TAXATION LAW

The government should move with speed to create a law to facilitate taxation of all religious organisations as the Income Tax Act targets earnings from profit and employment.

All Kenyans of goodwill should support this and engage their religious leaders in open discussion on why these institutions should and must pay tax.

This will eventually serve two purposes: Provide the government with much-needed revenue while at the same time curbing the mushrooming of religious institutions, some of which are set up solely to enrich their founders.