Windhoek-A Pentecostal church leader said over the weekend she has no problem with churches paying taxes, provided that they are also considered for loans at financial institutions.
Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein announced last week that plans are afoot to tax income derived from commercial activities by religious, charitable, educational and other types of institutions under Section 16 of the Income Tax Act.
This, the minister said, would be converted to normal corporate tax, ending the tax haven enjoyed by particularly churches in Namibia, many of which are run on strict commercial principles.
Archbishop, Miriam Omonigbehin, the national overseer of Repentance and Holiness Ministry said “should there be commercial churches being found, I agree that churches too must contribute to the Government Revenue.”
Omonigbehin said: “currently you cannot walk into any financial institution to request for a loan. If churches will pay taxes, I guess church properties will now be used as collateral for loans to develop the church properties.”
She said there are churches with immovable properties such as buildings and land but are considered to have no commercial value.
Omonigbehin in response to a question on whether she does not feel that churches should be taxed based on the fact that some make money from congregants said churches are different and that she is not “well equipped to speak on behalf of any other church. Where I fellowship, none of us have luxurious car, in fact most of our members either walk to church or take a taxi. The money we make out of tithes and offerings is all we make and use it for church equipment and municipal accounts.”
Omonigbehin said it is not a crime for a preacher to drive a luxurious car, stating that anyone “who budgets properly and knows how to save can buy any car.”
She further argued that not every pastor is in full-time employment.
“Some are working elsewhere and can afford to take a loan from financial Institutions like any other citizen of Namibia. Research is highly recommended to know specifics of every church and everyone preaching the gospel,” said Omonigbehin.
Furthermore, she expressed concern on record keeping in churches, saying record management has not been taught in churches.
“Unless government considers to first train church leaders and administration crews on the subject, it may be had to determine with accuracy church income. Some churches will be under calculated while others may be over calculated,” said Omonigbehin.