Churches say 'no' to taxes

HARARE - Widespread public fury has erupted in Zimbabwe as the cash-strapped government  is beginning to make churches a prime target for taxation.

While Taungana Ndoro, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)’s chief of corporate communications, was still not ready with an official statement on the crackdown saying the technical crew conducting the operation was still out, faith-based organisations insisted that they should not be taxed as they were doing work which government has failed to do.

As public outcry grew, Zimbabwe’s tax agency continued sending officials to local churches as part of an investigation into tax evasion, making inquiries about their sources of income and seeking information on people who donate to the churches.

Churches in Zimbabwe are mostly run as charity organisations which are exempted from taxation but government’s desperation for funds has seen Zimra descending on churches.

Bishop Noah Pashapa of Life and Liberty Churches said churches should not be taxed except those which run as businesses.

“There are churches that operate as business cooperatives whereby they are owned by an individual who benefits from offerings and tithes directly,” Pashapa said.

“And then there are those that operate as faith-based not-for-profit organisations which are public entities whose income is channelled towards community development and social transformation.”

Pashapa said it was not only immoral but unfair and detrimental to society for government to tax faith-based organisations because they were fulfilling a role that government has failed to perform.

“These churches are doing what government has failed, which is feed and clothe prisoners and cater for the well-being of the widows, orphans, elderly and other vulnerable people in society,” he said.

The founder of Life and Liberty Churches however said those churches that operate as business entities with a sole proprietor should be heavily taxed.

Alec Matumba of the Apostolic Faith Mission said churches and government were equal partners because they both have a conscience to society.

Matumba said government should appreciate the work that is being done by churches as it was taking care of a lot of institutions including schools and orphanages.

“It is barbaric for Caesar to be asking for a contribution from the church,” Matumba said. “Our donations go to orphans and we contribute immensely to society.

“It is not fair to increase the burden on the churches. It is also grossly unjust to even think, let alone write down that churches should be made to pay taxes.”

He also highlighted that government should not make everyone suffer because of the few flamboyant churches that parade their wealth without contributing to society.

Admire Taderera, Heartfelt Ministries International spokesperson, said if the taxation was in line with statutes, then his church would comply with the order.

“I want to believe that Zimra’s actions are guided by the government,” Taderera said.

“The only challenge that we may face is that of our Heartlife branch of the church which cares for the disadvantaged people in the community which may suffer from this.”

In the Bible, the issue of taxing also caused controversy when the Pharisees asked Jesus whether they should be paying taxes to Caesar or not. Jesus replied “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.”

A remarkable number of churches treated  the taxation as a taboo subject, with many saying they were yet to sit down and coordinate a response to  government’s latest move.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) which is an interdenominational organisation made up of 26 different denominations, said it needed to consult.

“We need to consult with our member churches before we have a position as an organisation because our denominations have different backgrounds,” said ZCC president Ishmael Mukuwanda.

“As an executive, we meet twice a year but we have officers on the ground to work on various issues but they need to consult first.”

Government has failed to raise money even to fund the budget whose presentation has been postponed to next year amid a wave of economic chaos that is starting to affect the generality of Zimbabweans.

So desperate is government that Zimra officials are said to be putting pressure on church leaders to reveal names of people who make donations to the church.

But the same business people who make donations to churches are also taxed at their companies raising questions on the motives of Zimra officials.

Comments (46)

They must also tax the ministers. One minister by the name of Obert Mpofu owns half of Bulawayo he must be taxed heavily. Chombo must be taxed for all the properties he has got. Chinangwa the same with all the properties. After that the government will have a lot of money and chinamasa can then comply the budget.

Asekuru - 15 November 2013

The church leaders contributing to the tax debate are missing the point completely. It is not the church per se or proper church activities that are being taxed. What is being taxed are individuals within the church who are accumulating wealth through church activities. Pastors' hefty salaries, salaries of church officials and those receiving rentals from church organisations will be taxed. This is in conformity with the tax laws of the country. ZIMRA is not doing anything outside the law.

Boorangoma - 15 November 2013

so the prophesy has been fulfilled . My father Prophet E MAKANDIWA talked about it , and he clearly said the moment church is taxed, then the 2008 saga will start .

squintak - 15 November 2013

ana squintak you have been brain washed totally,,

ibvapa - 15 November 2013

@squintak Squintak, you are very gullible. Of course, you cannot be expected to decipher that Makandiwa's "prophecy" was just a thinly veiled threat to frighten tax authorities. Your "father Prophet" is a con man!

Sasi - 15 November 2013

How do you explain someone who was earning in excess of $2000 /month with generous loans who left a steady & big organisation to work for UFIC as an accountant saying that he was offered a better & lucrative deal. This is…. of course a fact which happened ….& not fiction.

Food for Thought - 15 November 2013

Desperation Broke Directionless Clueless Immoral Wickedness mazopererwa manje. rather than fighting corruption havo kuma church. All they have been doing for the past 10 years is to find new ways to collect form the poor to enrich the rich n' corrupt. Kufoira ndokuziva izvi zvanyanya......

eudor - 15 November 2013

The issue here is about tax evasion & abuse of the church priviledges. Examples: 1. importing motor vehicles for friends, girlfriends & relatives using the 'church' as a veil of avoiding paying duty since churches are exempt from taxes, and even becoming a car-dealer/importer who evades duty & brings cars in for resale at a profit without paying tax 2. Engaging in illegal activities to raise money e.g Money laundering using the 'church donations' clause as a vehicle to launder money internationally since churches are not generally questioned about their income sources which are exempt from tax. 3. Unfair business practices: some profit oriented churches now own kombi fleets , run businesses & other grey briefcase -businesses that enjoy preferential treatment e.g the kombis jumping kombi queues at ranks because a Senior Police Officer so & so is an important congregation member of Miracle so & so church & thus uses his influence. The kombis end up making a lot of money as compared to other kombis because they don't wait in kombi queues and aren't delayed at Police roadblocks. 4. Enjoying special treatment & getting lucrative briefcase contracts in big organisations & banks just because the bosses there are members of Miracle so & so church ahead of others. Remember the story about that senior Police woman officer who went to courtfollowing a murky house deal with a well known so called prophet.

Coming Home To Roost - 15 November 2013

Hanti munhu wese ano maker mari should be taxed here, what's new apa? Pamberi ne kutaxer ma church ariku maker mula....

Gabilondo - 15 November 2013

TAX THE CHURCHES they operate as business look at the richest organization the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist etc they have land , hospitals , schools, farms which do NOT offer free services

Innocent Chokureva - 15 November 2013

I think the churches invited this on their own because of their unholy activities. Imagine selling 10000 bricks for $10 each and pocketing the money or auctioning clothes for several dollars. Gishom Pasi tax them, they are not true churches, but some money laundering organisations masquerading as churches, vachibira vanhu mari dzavo.

simpson - 15 November 2013

God help Zimbabwe.Y tax churches, its just stupidity gone on rampage .they should tax red cross as well cause churches are non profit making orgs.

son of a prophet - 15 November 2013

The church should not cry foul now. Church schools and mission hospitals are notorious for demanding cash upfront. Church run boarding schools have since ceased to have an option for the poor by demanding high fees. This taxation thing is long overdue. Tax them now and even in retrospect!

mabatwa - 15 November 2013

Zimra should have done this looooong back! Tax these business men and women masquerading as pastors and prophets.

jurist - 15 November 2013

Just before the july elections i was talking to a lot of pipo with a view to encourage them to register and vote. I was SHOCKED to descover that a lot of them esp those going to pentacoastal churches were saying they DONt VOTE BEACAUSE THEY GO TO CHURCH, REALLY?? Now get taxed bcoz you are stupid. Lots of these so called churches were supporting zanu, now feel it!!!

Chakabuda - 15 November 2013

Just before the july elections i was talking to a lot of pipo with a view to encourage them to register and vote. I was SHOCKED to descover that a lot of them esp those going to pentacoastal churches were saying they DONt VOTE BEACAUSE THEY GO TO CHURCH, REALLY?? Now get taxed bcoz you are stupid. Lots of these so called churches were supporting zanu, now feel it!!!

Chakabuda - 15 November 2013

Lets talk of what the law says and how it has been applied regarding taxation of churches. What is the story here? Is government seeking new legislation or not. If it is evasion, tell us how we were supposed to comply. What I know is that most churches are not making any profit - most cash collections go towards financing the work of God. I know many people will argue but this is what I know. And what make the noise now.

Chirima - 15 November 2013

gvt should find ways of financing church activities than making profit through churches.dont invite curses on urselfs.the moment yu begin taxing churches,expect the consequencies of your greediness.

jayjay - 15 November 2013

Where in the Bible or in the world where you get this? Honestly live churches alone, what you are trying to do is more worse than allowing guys (ngochani) in the country.

Mufudzi - 15 November 2013

How can they be taxed? if so men of God will be tempted to forge offerings and tithes because yu can not give a receipt to those who pushed to give man of God. Useless country laws. Where is diamond money going? instead of giving loans to the youth the government is busy finding ways oppressing people.

Problem after problem - 15 November 2013

How can they be taxed? if so men of God will be tempted to forge offerings and tithes because yu can not give a receipt to those who pushed to give man of God. Useless country laws. Where is diamond money going? instead of giving loans to the youth the government is busy finding ways oppressing people.

Problem after problem - 15 November 2013

Church money belongs to God iwe Robert. You both want to be Caesar and God.

feba - 15 November 2013

What does the daily news have against Taungana Ndoro ,Leave the young man alone .report your story without including his name .GOSH

tee things - 15 November 2013

Mene mene tekele ufasile!!! Humambo wegovernment wodakusvika kumagumo manje. Ko madi kuramba muchisvaga mamwemaDiamonds pane kuda kuita makakatanwa neMusiki. Kuvapolitician kana minister hazvireve kuti motoita mutsimba naMwari.

Nomsa - 15 November 2013

All over the world in any reasonable and advanced society, churches pay taxes. Why should they be immune to tax yet they collect over $100k a month? Tax brings public accountability since churches are and should not be owned by one person. The government's role is to protect citizens and the only way they can have access to what is happening in churches is by taxing them. Connecting the corruptions involving most ministers and this isn't helpful. Let's all rally behind the 'fake' government for once, even though I know they stole the election but this time, they are right. As long as the $ are used properly not for the Singapore trip or looking after Bona's rented flat.

John - 16 November 2013

Christians can be so selfish, becoz u're a christian nw u want to use our GOD as an excuse for tax evasion, understand the facts before u comment, some of u are juss plain uneducated stupid fools, if the government taxes tithes, then they will be doing smething wrong, if they tax offertory, they will be doing something wrong, BUT if they tax the 60million networth that sme profit claims to be worth, i dont see anything wrong with that, if they tax the 2000USD earned by the church accountant, the 500USD earned by the groundsman....wat wrong is there....get facts right..get sme knowhow on government proposals...instead of defending urselves, engage the tax guys, see how best this can be done...asi u have smething to hide?????i wonder??? of cause ZIMRA uses these moneys wastefully in stupid investments, but thats another story, pay ur taxes dammit...

anony - 16 November 2013

As usual the government officials and ministers are behaving like parasites. They enter the host, suck them dry and then move on somewhere else - from farm invasions to indigenisation. They don't create they scavenge and destroy - take a look at the railways and the airlines. At the airport all those television screens that provide information have been removed after not working for two years. Why? Perhaps they were sold to raise revenue??!!

vortex - 16 November 2013

They should be taxed.. Unscrupulous organisations. Majaira kutorera vabereki vedu mari muzita ramwari.

Joyce Mujuru - 16 November 2013

I encourage sane men and women in Zimbabwe to arise to the occasion and prevent this madness before we become an accursed nation. Please don't cause the wrath of God to descent upon Zimbabwe by dragging Zimbabwe to become an atheist society through actions which are contrary to the the word of God. Instead, a quick and miraculous solution to our national problems can be solved by the Almighty God if our government pay a tithe to God. I pray to God for sanity to prevail. God is speaking in Zimbabwe through His Prophets. Seek a prophetic solution which is the will of God for a prosperous Zimbabwe.

Phil - 16 November 2013

Obama atibaya nesangishoni akomana

TURURU - 16 November 2013

There are churches which have built schools and hospitals and continue to offer help in many ways to the poor. Then there are these prosperity proponents who have been heard boasting that they are now worth over US $60.million. These are the chaps to tax heavily. They are milking the poor by promising them that they will get rich if they continue giving them money. Bishop Pashapa is right

sjambok - 16 November 2013

Good move, the tithe merchants must be taxed, I heard one of them boasting about his serious fortune that he reaped from the poor.

Mweni Tafara - 17 November 2013

Ana Tururu, kana musina contribution nyarai. Sanction yapinda papi? Dununu! Siya vari kudebate nyaya vakumiririre since you have nothing intelligent to say.

Mhofela - 17 November 2013

There are true Churches of the living God and organised churches which are operating like business organisations these have constitutions of operating their activities,they gather all the tithes and offerings of their different branches and have put their Bishops,pastors and other diginitaries on payroll,they have built schools of theology and universities.They use the name of the church to import goods.These are Church Organisations and should pay taxes.True churches are still operating like the fist church of the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, they dont have a constitution but The Holy Bible.They dont have schools or universities they are led by the Holy Spirit not by men.Zimra should check this.Surely some should pay taxes.

Eagle's Eye - 17 November 2013

Listen I don't find it unlawful or unethical to tax the church. Some church leaders are making a mistake trying to distinguish the so called faith-based and the "other". If churches have property then it should be taxed. There is nothing political here, it has been done elsewhere even in Italy. There are so many people who are helping in the society with a true heart more than some of the churches but they are still taxed.......undoubtedly there are some companies too in the same category. Fools who want to bring the issue of sanctions are 100% stupid. Churches rip people apart now its your turn. There is nothing Political here

Senator - 17 November 2013

If the government insists on taxing churches, we will give them that money, but this is the undoing of this country. Mark my words, the stability and prosperity we had been poised for as a country will just go up in smoke. Tinokupai mari iyoyo even if you want all of it, the church will survive even under this persecution.

machakachaka - 18 November 2013

"give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” so where is the problem with churches here.

hardlife - 18 November 2013

My church is complimenting government efforts to assist the poor in society through donations, constructing houses, toilets, boreholes and food aid. so it should not be taxed....get this get this Money does not make people spiritual but spriritual people make money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ahahahahahahahaha

Simple Cesse - 19 November 2013

For Government to even think about it, is the very depth of apostasy. Church money is mainly 10% of one's gross earnings. Mind you, this is after ZIMRA has already taken their cut. The principle of tithe is that of giving God first. The tithe is used to pay the pastors. The offering is used to meet the expenses of running the church and funding other church programmes pertaining to the society and evangelism in preparation for Christ's return. When money is given to God, who can arrogate to himself the authority to take what is dedicated to God. Even in Obama's country where all manner of vice is permitted, they don't mess with church funds. Please Zanu Pf this is my point of departure with you. Don't mess with the Church now. Maguta manje vana Mzembi.

the watcher - 19 November 2013

Look , Zimra is a bully boy that picks on those it perceives to be weak. Why ? Well it should do a lifestyle audit on all the politicians ZaNU/MDC. They will soon see the disparity between their assets and their income. Forfeit everything to the State if they account. I mean Obert Mpofu bought a bank, a sky scrapper etc. The other day he bought a very huge boat which he named King Lobengula for his Khanondo Tours company. Is this all on his salary ? If it's business, is the money clean ? Dang ! Welshman Ncube is reported to have over 3000 herd of cattle on his farm. The word is impunity here. Politicians rob us with impunity and now they have the temerity to focus their lens on curch money ? Start with the politicians. Let them surrender the diamond loot first. Don't leave out the white conservancy owners also. Start there please if you are so serious. This country has been pillaged by politicians masquerading as our messiahs. Or why not pick on the Zimbabwean UN and multi lateral organisations staff who are tax exempt also ? What of Zimbos working in the diaspora ? Every body must pay up ! But don't mess with the church.Dang !

the watcher - 19 November 2013

@ the watcher, mazimbo ari diaspora pay their taxes kudiaspora, how many times should they pay. a person who is on the church payroll should be taxed not the church per se. handiti anoshanda???? kana bishop, senior pastor vachitambiriswa muchurch every month ngavabhadhare tax. chashamisa chii????

mai t - 20 November 2013

This is absurd and totally uncalled for. A complete show of desperation. Churches are already burdened and needs no more burdens

Benard - 20 November 2013

The truth about these new age Churches is that they are in existence just to make money and nothing else. Yes they are using the Bible in the right hand and the left is saying give me cash in the form of 10% of your monthly income. These churches are now personal business es "cash cow" These guys are driving around in Jaguars for crying out loud. How? or Wow! Their business is no longer about saving souls so that they turn back truly to God but are engaging and encouraging them to make money and become wealthy. Yes I truly think they should be accountable for all the monies that is given and collected at every so called sermon! Our Parish Priest has a Toyota Corolla and Even Pope Francis has his own 1984 Renault 4 Hatchback; and he even suspended a German Bishop of late. The bishop had been living a lavish lifestyle. So if these pastors are roaming the sunshine city of Harare with SUVs and Sports cars!! thinking they are not being noticed, Zimra better tax them hard, because they surely have the cash.....

Zuruvi - 20 November 2013

its true zuruvi most "churches " are nolonger doing the work of God they are now running social businesses hiding with the bible in order to avoid tax .They desrve to be taxed just like other companies for benefit of the country, not few individuals so called prophets / pastors .Look at their teachings they enter into the pockets of unsuspecting followers from a backdoor by promising followers hope, prosperity,cars ,jobs , houses ,businesses ,marriage, child etc .Followers will shower them hard earned $ anticipating to receive the prophecy of success only after years you realised yu have lost your money and the salvation from the real God,let the Gvt tax that money its business. In Matthews Jesus warned people about thes false teachers

manasa - 22 November 2013

For your own information, Prophet Angel and Prophet Makandiwa pay taxes for their businesses. The issue here is with the government wanting to tax the church as an entity-its unheard of. In UK and America, governments actually pay tribute to the church every year. f

tawanda - 28 November 2013

Its part of religious tourism.

kudakwashe - 1 January 2014

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