Fashola: We’re Not Taxing Churches, Mosques
Religious leaders yesterday unanimously agreed with the Lagos State Government that it is indeed constitutional, right and proper for the State to ask religious leaders to fulfill their individual tax obligations to the State just as Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) reiterated that the administration is not taxing Churches and Mosques.
The religious leaders expressed total support for the Government of Lagos on the need for all concerned to fulfill their tax obligations saying both the Quran and the Holy Bible supported the action, while it was resolved that a small group be set up to examine identified grey areas which should not effect the implementation of the non-contentious areas of the Law.
Governor Fashola who spoke at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Ikeja, venue of the meeting attended by leaders of the various bodies of the two main religions urged the leaders to improve the awareness of the adherents on best practices elsewhere.
The religious leaders, he said, can help in creating awareness by preaching to followers on how some of the ways cities visited have been making headways in infrastructure development.
Said he: “We should all realize that religion is not just about faith but a totality of life. Our religious leaders should help to improve awareness of the people by looking closely at how these communities we visit during pilgrimages manage their wastes, make their cities so clean and ensure that public transportation works”.
“Our religious pilgrimages to foreign land must also include cultural and social diets and not restricted to only religious diets. We must make conscious effort to know about what obtain there and let our people know. Some of the issues are purely attitudinal and not spiritual”, Governor Fashola added.
Governor Fashola who expressed appreciation to the religious leaders for understanding and empathizing with the Government on reasons for implementing the law, added that it should be realized that there are no perfect laws anywhere as man himself who drafted the laws is imperfect.
The Governor emphasized that the law which prescribes the payment of taxes by all those who earn an income or generate revenues from religious institutions or activities is not a creation of the State but a federal law which he has sworn to an oath to faithfully implement.
The Governor added that in terms of shifting grounds on what the law says in some aspects as being advocated by the religious leaders at the meet, there must be a means of accounting for the donations which the religious leaders receive, stressing that there is a need to start discussion from the table rather than ending there.
Governor Fashola added that the government understands the role being played by religious organizations for the good of all and making it get better, stressing that he would continue to encourage the leaders to build more schools and hospitals as no single government can do it all alone.
He also suggested the usage of elected representatives of the people to effect necessary and desired amendments of the relevant sections of the law on payment of taxes by those who earn a living from religious organizations.
He described a politician as anyone who is using public service to improve the lot of the people, adding that those who grandstand without providing any valuable alternative are nothing but political jobbers.
On pleas by Prelate of the Methodist Church, RT Reverend Ola Makinde that the government should soft pedal on petty traders on the streets who constitute the bulk of those who patronize the churches, Governor Fashola said people are bound to complain when markets are moved to the roads and traffic is impeded, saying it is the same people who would accuse government of lacking a human face if it acts to move the traders.
While explaining the N2,500 relief rate prescribed under the law for a child, Governor Fashola said the rate is per annum, adding that the there is a need to continue to modify and amend laws as the law on taxation was last reviewed 16 years ago, thus making some of the provisions totally obsolete.
Earlier, while commenting on the taxation law, Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Reverend Makinde said information management has always been a major problem between the government and the governed.
He added that the meeting is a departure from the norm and has shown how responsive the present administration in Lagos is, stressing that churches and mosques exist for the people as they are partners in progress.
Prelate Makinde cited the instance of educational institutions handed over to religious organizations after the forcible take over, saying the schools were returned in states which were far below what they were before government took, stressing that a lot of funds is being injected into raising the standards in the schools.
In his comments, a Moslem cleric, Professor Moshood Fashola said the government was right to insist that religious leaders who earn income must pay taxes, however added that donations should not be taxed because the Quran enjoins all adherents to share donation and gifts with the needy and less privileged.
He added that some religious organizations are also involved in social activity which they sometimes incur losses and debts from, saying rather than being taxed such religious organizations needs to be given subvention for their efforts.
Earlier, while giving an insight into the reason for the gathering, the Executive Chairman of the Lagos Internal Revenue Services (LIRS), Mr Babatunde Fowler said the meeting is aimed at stating the position of the State Government on what the law says and seeking the cooperation of religious leaders for the task ahead.
He reiterated that the State believes in the rule of law and intends to adhere to the constitutional provision that non- profit making organizations should not be taxed.
The meeting attracted several religious leaders like the Chief Imam of Lagos, Alhaji Imam Akinola Ibrahim, General Overseer of the Foursquare Gospel Church, Dr Wilson Badejo, Scholars, the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenues, Mr Ade Ipaiye and other senior government officials.| Article source