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URA’s plan to tax Bibles fails

URA Commissioner General, Mrs Doris Akol

Officials from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) held a meeting in which they proposed a tax on bibles, among other religious books, in a bid to raise more revenue.

The tax collection body, urged that the Holy Book is not classified among the exempted items or scholastic materials, and wanted Value Added Tax imposed on bibles imported from China and South Korea.

UG Christian News has learnt that the finance ministry has blocked the move.

Simon Peter Mukhama, the Secretary General of the Bible Society of Uganda revealed during their Golden Jubilee General Assembly in Kampala on April 20 that the organisation engaged Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and met State Minister for Finance, David Bahati expressing displeasure on the proposed tax.

The tax, Mukhama explained, would lift the price of bibles which currently average at Uganda 35,000 Shillings.

Notably, Bible Society of Uganda had halted a bible consignments for the last three months over fear that the URA directive could take effect.

Mukhama said the report from the finance ministry was good news, triggering applause from over 500 people who had gathered for the general assembly.

Local media reports that the Bible sales dropped from 278,684 units in 2016 to 240,474 units.

The Bible Society had projected to the sale of about 250,000 bibles in 2017, URN reported.

Mukhama attributed the drop in sales to increasing digital preference for accessing bibles. He promised to furnish members with digital bible sales starting next general assembly.

Meanwhile, The New Vision’s editorial article of April 22 called taxing bibles and Qurans “ridiculous.”

“It is difficult to imagine that URA has reached this level. Perhaps, it is because the tax body is grappling with the problem of low revenue collection. As a result, the revenue targets have repeatedly not been met

“With two months left to end of this financial year, URA has collected only Sh10 trillion of the budgeted Sh15 trillion,” the article read.

“The Finance Ministry’s action is a step in the right direction because such a tax would be a tremendous burden to religious organisations. The move could have sparked off considerable controversy, given that bibles and Qurans are used for spiritual purposes,” the article added.

Speaking to UG Christian News, an official from the tax body shared a document labeled ‘Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill’ sealed by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on 29th March, 2018, and said URA, contrary to what media reports, intends to withdraw VAT on religious books.

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