Religious organizations in Nigeria and many other countries of the world are not taxed because they are classified as not-for-profit incorporations but if we are being honest to ourselves we will accept the fact that religious organizations are full time money making ventures now, booming industry, an industry filled with money and potentials for easy and quick money. We can even refer to this industry as ‘Religiousprenuership’ with the captains of this multi billion dollars industry as “Religiousprenuers”.
In the spirit of not being hypocritical with ourselves as we always tend to be in topics like this due to the religious proliferation of the society, we all know that religious organizations make so much money on daily bases even more money than companies and taxable organizations not to be giving back to the government in terms of tax, both company tax for the incorporations and personal income tax for the employees of the organizations who earn salary and wages from the organizations.
We tend to shy away from this topic due to the fact that almost everyone in Nigeria claims to identify with one religion or another, hence anybody that brings up a topic like this may be tagged as an unbeliever or an agent of darkness or it may be said to be against sharia or a haram for raising the topic that religious organizations like churches, mosques, monasteries, even traditional religious organizations should be taxed once they have been registered and incorporated with the corporate affairs commission.
But before you tag me an unbeliever, don’t forget that even the Bible which is the holy book of the Christian religion advocated for the church to give back to the government when it says in the book of Mark 12:17 “Give what belongs to Caesar to Caesar”. This statement may be given different wild interpretations using different rules of interpretations but whatever interpretation given to it, the statement was made by Jesus Christ the role model of Christians and therefore should be obeyed as the statement if we use the literal interpretation rule literally means that government should be given back to as Caesar here represents the government.
Government are only able to provide basic amenities for the citizenry like good roads, good educational institutions, power supply, good water, security, health care etc through the money generated from tax and when people and organizations don’t pay tax there won’t be enough money for the government to provide such things.
Churches, both registered and unregistered and mosques have the largest number of followership as some mosques and churches can boast of thousand and millions of members who pay offerings, tithes or zakat, make donations and even sow seeds and we can’t pretend that they don’t make much money on day to day bases.
Religious organizations own properties, massive properties like estates, schools, businesses, lands etc, those properties were acquired from money made from the religious organization and how can a no profit organization acquire so much money to afford such properties. Taxes should be paid on those properties owned by those religious organization and personal income tax paid by employees of religious organizations which receive wages from the organization be it mosque or church.
Although, we cannot push under the carpet the fact that some religious organizations engage in corporate social responsibilities and tend to give back to the societies in some huge and significant ways. Engaging to undertake corporate social responsibilities are impressive but those are more like a moral duty which you may choose to do at your convenience and not a legal duty and they break no law when they fail to do it.
Every citizen must come to this discussion table with an open mind and see the need of religious organizations paying tax as a way of helping the government to help the society and taxing religious organizations is not a way of killing religion as many may think but it’s a way of improving its symbiotic relationship with the government and society.