General News of Saturday, 8 December 2018
A lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science Technology, Rev Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, is demanding fairness in the decision by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) decision to tax ‘holy items’ sold by churches.
The GRA last week said it will begin to prosecute pastors who refuse to pay taxes on sales from ‘holy water’ and anointing oil as wells as other souvenirs sold by various churches across the country.
On Thursday August 9, Commissioner General of the GRA Kofi Nti said the Authority will soon conduct investigations into activities of all churches in the country with the view to taxing them based on their level of business transactions.
The decision by the GRA triggered hue and cry among the Christian community some of who rejected the idea on grounds that churches were not profit making organisation aside the fact that some already pay taxes.
Despite the criticisms of the decision, the GRA boss last week said on an Accra-based radio station that his outfit will start prosecuting pastors who renege in paying taxes on ‘holy items’ they sell to their congregation.
“The man of God; is he not an individual? And is he not accountable to the state for his tax obligations? There is an opportunity for us to look at it,” he said, and cited the popular Obinim ‘healing’ sticker as some of the items to be taxes.
But Rev. Opuni-Frimpong who is a former General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, in his latest article on the issue, contended it will be totally discriminatory and bias for the GRA to target only churches.
He argued that other groupings and institutions are engaged in the sale of similar souvenirs and paraphernalia hence ought to be taxed as well.
“The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) must extend taxes on items sold in churches as listed by the GRA to other sectors and institutions that equally trade in such items during their meetings,” he advised.
The ordained Minister of the Presbyterian Church observed items like water, stickers, and paraphernalia among others sold by churches are also sold at meetings of political parties, traditionalists, old Students Association, traditional shrines, mosques and other professional associations’ meetings.
As a result, he said the GRA must reach out to those institutions and groups to “avoid the impression of discrimination and biases against the Church”
Rev. Opuni-Frimpong underscored the need for the GRA to “prove itself to be fair to all” in its tax identification and collection efforts.
Meanwhile, he has asked the GRA, to as a matter of urgency, engage the church leaders on the calculation of the taxes on those items and payment processes in order to facilitate the collection of those taxes and payments.
“Every responsible citizen must consider payment of taxes as a key civic responsibility and the Churches that have played roles as key partners in our national development must support the national resources mobilization efforts,” he urged.
He indicated the need for such efforts to be sustained and advance the established healthy church and state relationship by avoiding avoidable tensions.