Ugandan religious leaders furious after taxman targets Bibles, Korans, prayer books

Ugandan Religious leaders [Photo: Courtesy]

Religious leaders in Uganda are up in arms over a decision by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to reverse its long-standing tradition not to impose taxes on religious literature.

According to Business Daily, the clerics are furious that the taxman has ordered them to start paying taxes on Korans, Bibles, prayer and hymn books, shelving their tax-exemption status.

They argued that the decision by URA to impose an 18 per cent VAT was akin to taxing the word of God.

“This government has gone too far in its collection of taxes. How can you tax the word of God? It should instead come in to assist in publishing these materials,” said Ramathan Mugalu, the secretary general of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.

A statement supported by the secretary general of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda Joshua Kitakule who described the move as “erroneous” and detriment to the “spiritual nourishment of individuals.”

“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,” said Kitakule.

But according to URA commissioner general, Ms Doris Akol, the directive to tax the materials had been long overdue.

“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,” wrote Akol.

This was in response to a petition Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Church of Uganda who had asked URA to release a consignment of 9,120 prayer and hymn books imported from Nairobi.

Stanley Ntagali has demanded that the materials be released without the church having to pay VAT having been imported by Centenary Publishing House Limited, Church of Uganda’s (CoU) publishing arm.