Those who sell Bibles, Qurans and Hymn books must pay tax - Government


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The Ugandan Government has imposed taxes on religious groups for sales of Bibles, Quran, prayer and hymn books. 

This comes on the heels of a petition a month ago by the Church of Uganda Archbishop, Stanley Ntagali, in which the prelate asked the tax man to release a consignment of 9,120 prayer and hymn books imported from Nairobi, Kenya, without the church having to pay VAT.

The clerics are insisting that religious materials should be tax-exempt since they use them for “spiritual nourishment” of Ugandans.

Notwithstanding, the country’s Revenue Authority (URA) has imposed the taxes, an act which prompted clerics across faith groups to express consternation and disbelief.   

Reacting to the development via a letter, the URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol, said the practice of not taxing the entities and materials in the first place, was “an anomaly”.  

She said, “We understand that Value-Added Tax (VAT) has in the past not been paid on the said Bibles, prayer books, and hymn books. This was an anomaly."

Meanwhile, Archbishop Ntagali had on March 18, in a letter, noted that items had been shipped in by Centenary Publishing House Limited, Church of Uganda’s (CoU) publishing arm, which in his view should be tax-exempt. 

He said, “It is from this point of view that we write to you, appealing that the VAT be waived… since they (books) are used to educate the masses and Christians by spreading the word of God as our nation’s motto affirms, ‘For God and my country,” he stated.  

But Ms. Akol again said she had no power to waive a tax not excluded under the law and, as such, URA released the consignment only after CoU paid Ush8.9 million ($2,395).  

On his part, the Secretary General of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, Mr. Joshua Kitakule, an umbrella body of different faiths, on Monday said whereas religions should not entirely be tax-exempt, imposing 18 per cent VAT on Bibles, Qurans and prayer books would be “erroneous”. 

“These items are not meant for profit; so, it is erroneous to tax them. Prayer books are supposed to strengthen the spiritual nourishment of individuals,” he said.  

Also, Mr. Ramathan Mugalu, the Secretary General of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, said President Museveni had said all imported prayer materials that are not for sale should not be taxed.

“This government has gone too far in its collection of taxes. How can you tax the word of God?" Mr. Mugalu queried, adding that it should instead come in to assist in publishing these materials."


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