Namibia churches have reacted strongly against the proposed tax on churches announced on Wednesday by Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, when he read out his budget speech in the National Assembly.
Schlettwein announced that he plans to subject income derived from commercial activities of charitable, religious, educational and other types of institutions under Section 16 of the Income Tax Act to normal corporate tax requirements.
While many economists agree with the principal of this proposed amendment as there appears to be various “charitable organisations” with substantial commercial operations abusing their charitable status, church leaders who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on Thursday, were not forgiving.
Pastor Jasiah Iipito, from the Evangelical Lutheran church in Namibia (ELCIN) Ondangwa, said the government’s decision was wrong.
“I believe that what the government wants to introduce … is completely wrong because the church is not a business according to the bible and my personal opinion. The church is the house of God, therefore, we are not charging money from members at all; it’s up to them to give to the church whatever they have.”
He said churches are non-profit organisations that don’t make money at all.
“That little money we are getting from members voluntarily, we are using it for charity to support the community. We are not making money through the gospel at all, if we were to make money out of churches, missionaries would not help us. Where will we get money to pay tax to government?” Pastor Iipito asked.
Apostle Lucas Lala from the Helmet of Salvation Ministry (HOSM) Windhoek said churches are not after money, but after winning souls for the kingdom of God.
“There is a big misunderstanding between the churches and the government, as the government thinks that church leaders are making money through preaching the gospel. Churches are the house of God, and as Christians we are working on our salvation for us to achieve or gain the Kingdom of Heaven, but not to prosper”.
He said government is failing to understand the major role of churches in the country, adding that prophets, apostles, pastors, and other gospel leaders are not forcing people to pay their tithes or any amount of money.
“Why do churches have to pay tax, where will we get that money if we are not doing business? We are preaching the gospel of God to the world, but not to make money from the world,” Apostle Lala added.
Apostle Kondja Shafudah of the Apostle Kondja Shafudah Ministries said he is against the proposed tax.
“Churches are non-profit organizations, meaning we don’t generate any income, but rather depend on offerings during the church service or sometimes from donations from individuals to run the church. So, the introduction of church tax will not only slow down the gospel, but will further add injury to our already struggles such as paying rent, and water and electricity.’’
He said government should have done proper research on the financial operations of churches before announcing the proposed plans.
Pastor Immanuel Kaulumah, of Glory of God, Deliverance and Evangelism Ministries Windhoek, said churches should not pay tax as they are non-profit organizations.
“We are not business entities where we are allowed to trade. The offerings we receive from church members cater for the church’s needs and we also depend on donations from other people.
“If the church, for example, had a transportation business on the side then surely, they can pay tax, but for now we need explanations as to why taxation to churches should be implemented,” Pastor Kaulumah said.
He also said government should also explain to them how they will be taxed.
“Is it from the Sunday collection money? We go to church to read scriptures pray and sing and you want us to pay tax for a gospel that is free, that’s ridiculous,” Pastor Kaulumah added.