The Chairman of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC), Reverend Paul Frimpong-Manso has started a conversation that deserves the attention of the political establishment and the general public.
He says he does not support the call for the government to tax offerings and tithes collected by churches.
He believes the state should instead strengthen the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to identify religious bodies, including churches, that operate businesses like schools and clinics, tax them and let those who use their resources to support humanitarian projects.
He explains that members of the congregation, including church workers like pastors, pay taxes on their earnings before making such contributions to the church.
Then, Reverend Frimpong-Manso adds that even in some advanced countries, the State supports the Church with back taxes.
It should be noted that tax arrears are taxes whose payments are suspended under conditions such as the disaster or disasters observed affecting the taxpayer, the individual or the organization; death or serious illness of a dependent of a taxpayer; and inability to obtain records.
Interestingly, tax arrears continue to grow with the inclusion of interest and penalties, and non-payment can be allowed for up to 10 years.
Reverend Frimpong-Manso’s reference to tax arrears therefore seems to support his call for the imposition of taxes on the businesses of religious organizations.
This is correct, but looking at the conditions requiring tax arrears, the Ghanaian Times believes that church leaders of dubious character can exploit the condition of lack of records and possibly opt for tax relief to deceive the state .
Thus, when it becomes necessary to tax religious organizations, the absence of a register should not be part of the conditions for tax arrears.
With regard to the question of religious organizations paying taxes, it is common knowledge that an ordinance of 1947 granted tax exemption for the first time to charitable organizations, including religious organizations, and since then religious organizations do not pay tax on their income.
Today, some religious bodies exploit in various ways the age-old provision that has been maintained by later pieces of legislation.
The time has come to remove these provisions and, at worst, to fix percentage taxes on the income of churches and other religious bodies, as well as on their imports and other expenses.
There is no justification for the claim that religious organizations do charity and therefore should not pay tax.
What about individuals and organizations that undertake charitable activities but still pay taxes?
These days, there are churches in the country owned by foreigners who repatriate huge sums of dollars to their home countries.
Should they continue to exploit Ghanaians in this way?
Taxing these churches can reduce the amount they can repatriate and thus ease the pressure on the dollar in the country.
In Matthew 22:17-21 the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was legal to pay taxes to Caesar [the Emperor] or not.
Jesus answered in verse 21 that “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”.
It is clear that Jesus, the originator of the Christian faith, the Man who is believed to be God incarnate, bears the imposition himself.
Therefore, no church has a basis to oppose the introduction of a law requiring religious bodies to pay taxes.