The Government of Rivers State has described as “weird and unfounded”, claims that it has concluded plans to start taxing churches in the State.
The report went viral during the week that Governor Nyesom Wike-led government had vowed to begin taxing churches.
Adoage Norteh, the Chairman, Rivers Internal Revenue Service, RIRS, said that what may have been taken out of context was to the effect that Rivers in gradual deepening of its tax drive would tax income of paid church workers.
According to him, “We have been hearing in some quarters that I said Rivers state government wants to tax churches. It’s been on some news and soft-sell papers. Such a report is erroneous in the sense that it didn’t capture all that I said.
“Nobody or group is targeted in tax. It is a fiscal measure stipulated by law. That is why the whole story about targeting churches is weird. Two days ago, I met with officials of the Christian Association of Nigeria on this misunderstood subject.
“Churches by law setting them up are not profit-making and to that extent they are not to be tasked. Some are limited by guarantees though. No taxman will go to a church to ask how much tight or offering did you collect.
“What we said in RIRS is that church workers who earn income like any other income earner working elsewhere is liable to tax. Before it is mistaken to mean that Rivers government said churches should now be paying tax, it is important we clarify the issue.
“In the same vein, those who work in the mosque and earn salaries doing so are liable to pay tax on such income like every other income earners who attend churches, mosque or other worship places but work elsewhere, receive salary and pay tax on same.
“The basis for income tax is in the law. To know how much relief you get under the law, it is simply 20% of any income plus 200,000. That is your relief.
“Take that out of the income earned for a period, that’s your taxable income.” Norteh further stressed that, “Rivers government is very concerned about the state of our national economy. So, in its tax policies, we try as hard as possible to make sure the burden is limited and lighter. For that reason, government gave tax amnesty at a point.
“Within that amnesty window, we declared all taxes halted except tenement rate, local government revenue and the regular PAYE remittance. Not so many governments, if any at all, in our country did that. We implemented the gesture to appreciation of taxpayers.
“For the same reason, even as we kept announcing informal sector taxes, we have not rolled it out even after our own deadlines have elapsed because of the need to satisfactorily consult with stakeholders which is ongoing.
“We have had series of meeting with all classes of persons, traders, professionals, artisans, since the last two months because we needed everyone to understand the taxes and the most friendly ways to collect it so as many people can embrace voluntary payment.”