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Monday, 21 January 2013

BEFORE RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS PAY TAX

                                                                                         
The desire of the Financial Reporting Council to tax religious organizations as from 2013 will definitely lead to chaos and religious disharmony in the country as it will be turned to a tool for oppression and victimization. The Financial Reporting Council formerly Nigerian Accounting Standards Board (NASB) said it had designed an accounting system that would compel Churches and Mosques and other non-profit organizations to report their financial transactions periodically from January 2013. Mr. Jim Osayande Obazee, Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of FRC, said this in a keynote address presented at the 2012 annual conference of Financial Correspondence Association of Nigeria (FICAN) held in Ijubu-Ode in December, 2012.
He explained that the move was to ensure that more Nigerians are dragged into the corporate tax net. As the FRC boss put it, is also in line with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Further, Obazee said, “We want to release our Statement of Accounting Standards (SAS) 32 because we want Churches and charities to begin to present accounts. They just file returns to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and so long as they pay the N1000, they are home and dry. But we are saying that they must report their financial transactions in proper format. Also, once charity organizations engage in non-charitable activities, they would have to submit those goods for taxable purposes. A country is not run by oil, but by tax. Go to the internet and you see all the branches of the Redeemed Christian Church in the United Kingdom, you will see their accounts and over there, they fully disclose the amount collected as a Church. But in our own, people are asking me: “Jim, do you want God to render account?” Since the FRC boss made his intention known to tax religious organizations, many Nigerians have spoken either in support or against this development. They gave reasons to support their positions but my concern is to state the danger ahead of us as a nation as regard the taxing of religious organizations. Before I go on to state the dangers inherent in taxing religious organizations in this country, I have some cogent questions for the FRC boss. First, has FRC been able to ensure proper accounting processes of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)? Second, has FRC been able to ensure that the various ministries, departments and agencies of government present proper records of their activities that it wants to delve into volatile religious issues? Third, has FRC been able to effect adequate taxing of oil multinational and indigenous companies that are invading taxes in the country? Fourth, has FRC been able to ensure the judicious use of revenues being received from the sale of crude oil and other resources? The boss of FRC needs to answer these pertinent questions. Many Nigerians who support the taxation of religious organizations say churches in other countries pay tax but do they know that such countries don’t have crude oil and other natural resources as we do? Do the leaders in those countries where churches pay tax use such money to buy private jets as our president and the governors do with our oil money? Do recurrent expenditures surpass capital expenditures in those countries as they are in Nigeria? Other said that Jesus Christ paid tax in the Holy Bible therefore churches should pay tax too. If I may ask, did Jesus Christ pay tax for the Temple (Church)? Jesus Christ didn’t pay tax for the Church but for Peter and Himself. The Holy Bible says, “….Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, why tempt ye me? Bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marveled at him” Mark 12: 14-17. Nigerians who are in support of Church taxation always make reference to this portion of the Holy Bible by saying that Jesus Christ asked his disciples to give what is Caesar’s to Caesar and what belongs to God to God. But Nigerians have been giving what belong to Caesar (the government) by paying their taxes but has the government been giving what belong to God (Nigerians) by providing electricity, good roads, houses, quality education, potable water, security etc? It must be made clear that Jesus Christ didn’t pay tax for the Temple (Church) but for Peter and Himself. The scriptures made it clear in Matthew 17: 24-27 thus, “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him saying, what thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up: and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee”. From the above quotation, did Jesus Christ pay tax for the Temple (Church)? No! Jesus Christ didn’t pay tax for the Temple (Temple) but for Himself and Peter! Thus, those saying that Jesus Christ paid tax so churches should also pay tax are wrong because Jesus Christ didn’t pay tax for the Temple (Church) but for Peter and Himself. Therefore, pastors and other religious leaders can be made to pay tax for themselves but not Churches and Mosques because Jesus Christ whom people are referring to in the Holy Bible only paid tax for Peter and Himself and not the Temple (Church). For churches and mosques to pay tax will amount to double taxation since their members are already paying taxes in their offices and businesses! Subjecting the people to double taxation is an abuse of power and should not be condoned. Now, my worry about the taxation of religious organizations is that it will be turned to a tool for oppression, victimization and destruction of churches and mosques! This is because the target will be the churches and mosques as tax agents will not demand tax from “Igbe”, “Olokun”, Ayelala” “Sango” Shrines! Though, I am not a prophet but this issue we are taking lightly today, when it commences, will set this country on fire because as said above, it will be turned to an instrument to oppress churches and mosques. This is so because a leader may arise tomorrow who may not be a Christian or Moslem and will send his tax officials to close down mosques or churches under the guise that they didn’t pay their taxes even when they had paid their taxes! One may be tempted to ask why such a thing will happen in Nigeria when religious organizations pay tax in other countries. You and I know too well that the things that work in other countries don’t work here. And this is why we need to take caution at this point. Are there no good roads, electricity, potable water, functional hospitals, quality education, security etc in those countries where churches pay tax? But do we have such infrastructures here in Nigeria in spite of the huge sums of money accruing from the sale of crude oil on a daily basis? Do we lack these things because of lack of money? It is certainly not because of lack of money but because of corruption. One question Nigerians are asking is, how well has the government used the revenues that are accruing from the sale of crude oil and other revenues that it wants to tax religious organizations? If the Federal Government can’t use the money it derives from oil, is it the tax from religious organizations it will use to develop the country? Every patriotic Nigerian should condemn this call to tax churches and mosques because the problem with this country is not lack of money but endemic corruption. If the government cannot use the trillions of money accruing from oil, how are we sure that it will use the money it will realize from the taxation of religious organizations to develop the country? Taxing churches and mosques will not bring development to the country rather it will lead to oppression, brutalization and destruction of churches and mosques. This will lead to chaos and religious war. No country has survived a religious war and Nigeria will not be exception. So, anything that will cause religious war should be discouraged.

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