Church income from trade and investments will be taxed beginning from next year as the cash-strapped government tries to widen its revenue base.
According to the state-controlled Herald newspaper, but income will still be tax-free if it comes from donations, tithes and offerings, which constitute the bulk of most of churches’ income.
New churches led by young charismatic evangelists have taken the country by storm attracting hundreds of thousands of worshippers who are seeking solace from the country’s worsening economic conditions.
The churches are selling hundreds of anointed items thought to bring luck and these items, likely to be taxed, include oils, condoms and pens, among others.
The Herald reports that changes to the Income Tax Act have been brought about by the Finance Act signed into law last Friday by President Robert Mugabe.
The new changes, writes the newspaper, will see church-owned companies whose profits are devoted entirely to church activities with no individual receiving dividends also escape the taxman’s axe.
For analysis Studio 7 reached religious leader, Reverend Useni Sibanda, and economic commentator, Masimba Kuchera, who said the new tax regime will still leave church leaders awash with money.
Sibanda suggested that the move by government is immoral. “In most cases the money generated from the sale of these items are ploughed back into the community through charity work.
“We know the tradition of the Catholic Church, Anglican, Methodist … even Pentecostal churches even the new movements like those of Prophet Walter Magaya, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa we see them ploughing back to the community.”
However, although Kuchera agreed with Sibanda, however, he noted that “unfortunately we also have some church leaders that are now abusing those resources to live almost an opulent lifestyle.”