THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) will start taxing churches’ income derived from trade or investments from January next year. Changes to the Income Tax Act that have been brought about by the Finance Act that was signed into law last Friday by President Mugabe providing for the taxation of “any ecclesiastical, charitable or educational institution.”
“Section 14 (“Income tax for periods of assessment after 1.1.10”) (l) of the Finance Act (Chapter 23:04) is amended by the insertion of the following definition:- “company” or “trust”, is deemed to include a reference to any ecclesiastical, charitable or educational institution to the extent that any part of the income of such institution is derived from trade or investment, not being income from trade or investment that is exempt from tax in terms of paragraph 2(e) of the Third Schedule to the Taxes Act,” reads the act.
The Third Schedule of the law reads: “With effect from the lst January, 2016. the Third Schedule (“Exemptions from Income Tax”) to the Income Tax Act (Chapter 23:) is amended in paragraph 2 by the repeal of subparagraph (e) and the substitution of the following- “(e) ecclesiastical institutions, and charitable and educational institutions of a public character:- (I) consisting of donations, tithes, offerings or other contributions by the members or benefactors of the institutions concerned, and any other receipts or accruals that are not receipts and accruals of income from trade or investment carried on by or on behalf of the institutions concerned; or (ii) that are receipts and accruals of income from trade or investment by any company of which that institution is the sole or principal member and in respect of which the Minister responsible for the Companies Act (Chapter 24:03) has issued a licence in terms of section 26 of that Act..”
Presenting the mid-term policy statement reviewing the 2015 National Budget in Parliament in July this year, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced several austerity measures that include new levies and taxes on churches, imported groceries, fertiliser, and a ban on importation of second hand clothes.
On plans to tax churches, the Minister said the tax would be on their income-generating projects, but said tithes and offerings were exempted.