The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has reversed a long-standing tradition and ordered religious groups to start paying taxes on Bibles, Korans, prayer and hymn books.
Uganda has slammed taxes on Bibles, Qurans, prayer and hymn books, in a move that reverses a long-standing tradition of treating religious groups as non-profits.
Religious leaders in the country have rejected the move, insisting that the religious materials should be tax-exempt since they use them for “spiritual nourishment” of Ugandans, whose country’s motto is “For God and my country”.
Nine out of every 10 Ugandan are either Christians or Muslims.
Earlier in the year, the Ugandan authorities seized a consignment of 9,120 prayer and hymn books imported from Nairobi, Kenya.
The Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali then wrote a petition dated March 18, asking the tax agency to release the items which he said were shipped in by Centenary Publishing House Limited, Church of Uganda’s (CoU) publishing arm, and should be tax-exempt.
But in her reply dated April 19, the Commissioner-General of the Uganda Revenue Authority, Ms Doris Akol, said: “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.”
Ms Akol said she had no power to waive a tax not excluded under the law and, as such, URA released the consignment only after CoU paid Shs8.9 million.
According to Daily Monitor, Mr Joshua Kitakule, the secretary general of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, an umbrella body of different faiths, yesterday said whereas religions should not entirely be tax-exempt, imposing 18 per cent VAT on Bibles, Korans and prayer books would be “erroneous”.
“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,” he said.
The proposed tax will the cost of the affected religious materials by about Shs3,000.