The Vice President of Zimbabwe, Phelekezela Mphoko has weighed in on the debate of taxing churches, criticising Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) for taxing churches under a new Income Tax law, which came into effect early this year.

Zimra has been struggling to collect revenue and the country’s revenue authority missed its target for the first half of the year due to the depressed formal economy. The revenue authority missed its target by 6 percent after collecting about U.S. $1,66 billion.

Zimbabwe's two Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa (L) and Phelekeza Mphoko (R) shake hands after taking the oath of office, 12 December 2014. Photo: ANP/EPA/Aaron Ufumeli
Zimbabwe’s two Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa (L) and Phelekeza Mphoko (R) shake hands after taking the oath of office, 12 December 2014. Photo: ANP/EPA/Aaron Ufumeli

To boost the country’s depleted coffers, Zimra advised that it will be targeting churches, which earn income through various projects and investments but the country’s Vice President remains unimpressed by the revenue authority’s proposals.

Voicing his disapproval, according to local reports, Mphoko said, “Churches in actual fact pay tithes to God and they have a way of doing it and therefore I believe taxing them is something strange. Churches should only pay tithes to God and as a Christian I don’t think it’s the right thing”.

“How do you tax churches? They pay tithes to God and you go on to tax them. I surely don’t understand that,” Mphoko queried.

However, the new law stipulates that the tithes and donations that churches receive will not be taxed.

Churches in Zimbabwe and in various countries in Africa have traditionally been exempted from paying tax because on the non-profit nature of their work, which complements government work.

However, the proliferation of churches, which are getting more involved in investment projects, deviating from their core mission, while taking advantage of loopholes in the taxation system prompted the new measures.