HARARE - Zimbabwe's deepening economic crisis is leading government to consider taxing cash-rich charismatic churches.
A set of laws exempts traditional churches and other recognised religious and nonprofit organisations from paying tax in Zimbabwe.
But the cash-strapped government is now considering taxation of charismatic churches which draw bumper crowds as a way to raise needed State funds.
Gershem Pasi, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) commissioner-general, told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Small to Medium Enterprises yesterday that the tax base was shrinking daily.
“We have our traditional churches which we had arrangements with, what they would pay to their ministers would be approved and they were not salaries but stipends,” Pasi said.
“Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, their ministers are humble in terms of their lifestyles except if they have children who then support them. To them it’s a calling and they don’t care about lavish lifestyles.
“Now there is a term, ‘churchpreneurship’, we are focusing on them and we have engaged them. We want to set parameters and their investments are separate from what they get from the church.
“We have teams and a lot of work has been done. Once we get from the press or our intelligence that there is money somewhere, it’s our duty to see whether that money is legit and whether they are giving us our share.
“We don’t care how they get it, come November, we will be through with our legislative proposals which we want the minister to endorse so that we can tighten the area. We have also seen some loopholes which are being taken advantage of but they are not immune to taxation or the taxman.”
Pasi was responding to Mthokozisi Manoki-Mpofu, Zanu PF MP for Silobela, who sought the tax collector’s view on taxing churches.
Walter Magaya of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD), Emmanuel Makandiwa of United Family International Church (UFIC) and Uebert Angel of Spirit Embassy are some of the most popular new generation church leaders.
UFIC spokesperson Prime Kufa said: “I guess its appropriate to comment when it becomes law, lest we comment on things that may never happen.”
Admire Mango, PHD overseer, was unreachable for comment.