Bringing together non-believers …
All over Kenya, huge sums of money are being denied to residents through the tax exemptions given to churches by the KRA. This is money which could be used to build playgrounds and parks, provide nursing homes for the elderly, youth recreation programs for teenagers, libraries, health clinics, hospitals, road repairs, and schools – all things that are vital to the fabric of civilization. Unfortunately, all these things are expensive and difficult for the average tax payer to support. In this time of fiscal restraint in this country, when nurses, doctors and civil servants are going on strike, we are asking the KRA to take away the tax exempt of the church.
Where does the money from donations to churches go? Kenyan taxpayers are constantly complaining about the high rate of taxation for Kenyan citizens. We see no valid reason why churches should be tax exempt. To exempt the church from taxation responsibilities forces Kenyans to unfairly shoulder their tax burden, while giving them no additional benefits. The church and religious institutions are beneficiaries of government services just like the rest of us, and thus should pay taxes.
Kenyan citizens can no longer afford to carry free-loaders. This is not an indictment against religion in particular. Religion is a personal and private matter. It should also be one of free choice. This is an indictment of desperately needed money being withheld from communities. More than ever, Kenyan citizens need honesty, integrity and accountability from churches in Kenya.
Whether they choose to accept the services or not, churches are subject to the same protection as everyone else and they enjoy the same social peace affected by governments existence and effective implementation of laws. Because they benefit from government, they must also contribute to sustaining the government. To not do so is simply unfair, as it would result in other constituents indirectly bearing the tax burden while not gaining any additional benefit. Because the government doesn’t get anything from churches but still provides for them (infrastructure, legal rights, etc.), they now have to collect more tax. If benefits are distributed without discrimination and we are all equal under the eyes of the law, churches should pay tax like every other constituent. Quite simply, it is unfair for churches and religious institutions to reap benefits from government, without paying for it in equal measure like everyone else.
Tax exemption of the Church is merely a benefit carried over from past practice during a time when the church also served as a state authority. We now have a new constitution; state and religious powers are now separate and should be treated as such (Article 8). Government should be treating religious believers and non-believers equally; this is the foundation of our modern day government. If they are to be treated equally, to treat religious donations as non-taxable places preference on the believer over the non-believer and is an extension of the very same bias that the separation between church and state serves to eliminate.
Taxation of churches is necessary because the foundation for their tax exemption no longer applies. Historically, the primary reason that churches have not been taxed is because they have been interpreted from a legal standpoint to be non-profit. What this simply means is that they do not exist for profit as a business enterprise. This is not to say that churches operate as corporations selling services for the accumulation of economic wealth. The transactions made by churches and the resources that they consume are rightfully taxable.
Previously, governments and laws assumed that religion would not be used for profit. Today, however, the “use for profit” can and should be interpreted in relevant ways. The non-profit status of churches should not simply be assumed, because they used to be non-profit in the past. KRA should ascertain if a church truly operates charitably and tax the elements that rightfully must contribute to society.
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