The church mouse and the tax man

BY: Caroline Boateng
The church mouse and the tax man
The church mouse and the tax man

In our teenage days, to be told you were as poor as a church mouse was to be indeed really, really poor. In my adult years, church mice are no longer poor. They are currently very rich, feeding off the fatness of profligate pastors!

That is the thinking of tax policy makers and the heads of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

They have convinced themselves about all the fat in churches that the mice there are feeding on and they have echoed and re-echoed the subjective views about pastors flaunting their wealth.

Now they have gotten President Nana Akufo-Addo on their side, who at the Global Evangelical Church of Ghana’s Synod last week complained about the noise that some churches made during their services and the profligacy of pastors.

For him, if they persisted in showing off wantonly their wealth, then they had to expect the tax man at their door (to paraphrase).

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As I listened to the President complain, I wondered whether the real issue was the intended tax regime on churches or a general irritation about the goings-on in churches in Ghana!

If it were the former, was he and other tax experts not generalising a bit too much? If the latter, was that also not an over-generalisation?

Why do policy makers, without research, jump onto the bandwagon of public opinion and, taking one or two examples, use that to signify the whole of a situation?

How many church leaders flaunt their wealth? How many increasingly disturb neighbourhoods? How many go against the laws of the country?

Armed with these facts, have the police or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited the specific church leaders breaching regulations and laws to put the facts before them?

Have the tax policy makers sat with church leaders in breach of any tax laws to explain to them their tax obligations if, indeed, they fall under the tax radar with their manner of living?

What have been their responses to these overtures?

Sometimes, those in charge of decision making and policy in Ghana take the laid-back approach to their work and expect results! They behave as if there are no laws, when there are! No wonder we have developed in leaps and bounds!

Talking and whipping up sentiments against the Church about the payment of taxes will get all of us nowhere.

Hard work will! Those in charge of tax policy in the country should sit and think and find avenues for dialogue on the issue. If the laws must be tweaked to get churches to pay tax, think through and do it! Why whine about a responsibility staring you in the face?

The Church in Ghana is well organised and the leaders well known. Most are not charlatans, some are, unfortunately.

If practices of church charlatans unnerve society, our leaders must think through ways of stopping them.

That is why we voted them into power; not to keep talking about challenges, but to think through, present the best solutions and lead us all, with the resources at hand, into a prosperous future.

Church leaders, the genuine ones, must not be apologetic at all for their wealth.

It is a blessing from God and they must enjoy it within the limits of God’s blessing on his children (that is, God blessing us for us to give to others) and within the limits of the laws of the country.

Thus, if they must pay a tax on gifts they receive, they must do that.

Duty bearers must work and not complain. They must not work with generalisations, but facts.

GRA, commission an investigation into churches in Ghana! Give us the number that have to pay tax because the law frowns on their profligacy.

Then come again with facts about your forays into the space of the church mouse and the type of fat it feeds on!

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