Tax Churches on Businesses They Do
The Clerk-elect of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG), Rev. Dr Godwin Nii Noi Odonkor, has said it is just and fair for the government to tax churches on the businesses they do.
Churches, he argued, were not islands in the running of the State and once they engaged in profit-making ventures, they needed to be taxed on those activities.
However, he said offertory and tithes, especially where they were used for social work, could not be described as business for them to attract tax.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in an exclusive interview in Accra last Friday, he said: "If churches collect offering and use the offering for charity or social work, it will be unfair to tax them.
"But where we do business and especially where these businesses are for individual pastors and these monies go into individual pockets, I think it is Christian, it is fair, it is just to tax them like all other businesses."
Ghana Revenue Authority
The question of whether churches should pay taxes on their income or not has attracted public discussion in recent times.
The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has already indicated that there are plans to tax churches.
On August 9 this year, the Commissioner General of the GRA, Mr Kofi Nti, said at a forum in Accra that the authority would soon conduct investigations into activities of all churches in the country with the view to tax them based on their level of business transactions.
In Ghana, churches do not pay taxes on their properties. Churches are also not required to disclose their finances.
Rev. Dr Odonkor said although Christianity was not anti-tax, that did not mean every aspect of the church's activity should attract tax.
Over the years, he said, the PCG for instance had lifted a heavy burden off the government with several interventions in education, health and other areas of social work, for which reason it would be unfair to bring every activity of the church under the tax bracket.
Rev. Dr Odonkor called for the spotlight on corruption to be extended to the churches. Regrettably, he said, the churches which were required to be epicentres of morality had been turned into money-making ventures where the leaders fed fat on their members, many of whom were poor.
The crux of the matter, the clergyman posited, was the abuse of church funds in some of the "one-man churches".
He explained that accountability was virtually non-existent in such churches.
The clerk-elect said it was sad that some pastors of the "one-man churches " had been let off the hook to fleece their congregants.
Putting some of the blame on church members, he said, "Church members must know what Christ came to teach us and place real value in Christ rather than on money."
He added: "If we do right in the Church, I am sure we will set a good example for society to follow."
He said, "We have monetised spirituality. It is sad that ministers who claim to have been trained and have their calling from God would seek money from their members and other people before attending to them. Grace is free and we are also supposed to pass it on to our clients," he said.
Checks and balances
Churches, the clerk-elect stated, must have checks and balances, "but where you have one-man churches and the leaders do not owe allegiance to anyone, these things will always go on”.
He stated that in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, those corrupt acts could not go on.
Stressing the importance of youth development in the church, Rev. Dr Odonkor said he was going to work with the moderator of the PCG and the entire church to ensure that the youth moved into higher positions in the church.
"There should be a very special place for the youth in the church. I want to see the young people taking the centre position in our church. We have a lot of young people but we need to give them visibility; and I trust that if we are able to give them leadership roles to understudy the senior ones, we will have a very good future," he said.
Describing his position as an arduous one, he said, "So I will be open to ideas from the moderator and colleagues and even the floor church members to make the church what God wants it to be."
Rev. Dr Odonkor urged the government to give the churches a bigger role to play in the running of the mission schools.
If that was done, he believed it would help instil more discipline in the students and promote academic work.