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Tanzanian President Samia on taxation of religious institutions

Samia Women Pic Data President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan

Fri, 9 Jul 2021 Source: thecitizen.co.tz

The government is reviewing country’s taxation systems in a bid to identify taxes that can be waived, reduced or scrapped.

This was revealed by President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Morogoro yesterday during the 31st General Annual Meeting of the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT).

The Head of State also challenged religious institutions to increase the level of transparency and trust to enable tax authorities to fairly conclude whether services provided by Faith Based Organization (FBOs) were for or not for profit making.

President Hassan made the remarks as she responded to CCT chairman Bishop Alinikisa Cheyo’s concerns that the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) massively taxed religious institutions even as the services they provided in education and healthcare were not for profit making.

Bishop Cheyo also noted that delays in issuance of work and resident permits to missionaries arriving for volunteering adversely affected the performance of the organizations.

But, yesterday, President Hassan said once the review of the taxes gets concluded, most concerns raised by religious institutions, including the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and CCT, would be resolved.

“Encouraging thing is that the government is reviewing the taxation system. Through the 2021/22 Finance Act, skills development levy (SDL) charged on religious institutions has been scrapped,” noting that this was one of the complaints.

She directed religious institutions to allow their financial accounts to be audited by the taxman in order to establish the basis of understanding the nature of operations under the organizations.

She noted with concern that in the past some institutions were subjected to taxation even on monies received as aid from abroad, saying the move was illogical because the taxman imposed tax on revenue collected from citizens in another country.

“Services provided by religious institutions are also being provided by the private sector, and there are no much differences in expenses for users of the services. This causes tax bodies to regard religious institutions as profit making organizations just like the private sector ones,” she observed.

President Hassan said it was therefore imperative to review the nature of operations of organizations under religious umbrella versus private sector entities to ensure fairness.

Regarding work and resident permits, the Head of State said the government on April 23, 2021 launched the Online Work Permit Issuance System that has significantly reduced bureaucracy and permits were now issued one to three days from the previous over 14-days. “Direct contact between applicants and government officials has been eliminated and therefore reduced corruption. Religious institutions should continue using the system as the government is ready to address the noted challenges,” she said.

According to her, the clerics should also channel their opinions through lawmakers so that matters would be tabled in Parliament for deliberation during formulations and amendments of laws.

She said religious institutions were highly dependable when it came to provision of civic education and increasing citizens’ awareness and participation in various issues of importance including Covid-19 and national census slated for August 2022.

“Since my predecessors have been involving religious institutions in the democratic processes, my government will follow in their steps,” she said.

The Head of State said religion and politics usually coexisted, but they should not be mixed, noting that though religious leaders can engage into politics, using religion in doing politics was always problematic.

Earlier, Bishop Cheyo asked the government to involve religious institutions in democratic processes through provision of civic education.

“The private sector should be strengthened through mobilization of domestic and foreign investments in large-scale agriculture and establishment of agro-processing factories,” said President Hassan.

Source: thecitizen.co.tz