Tanzania: JPM Speaks Out Against Tax Exemption Abuse

Religious institutions have been assured of sustained tax exemptions, to enable them undertake projects that serve members of the public.

The assurance was given by President John Magufuli during his meeting with religious leaders at State House in Dar es Salaam yesterday, saying the exceptions were in compliance with the law.

Dr Magufuli cited Section 148 of the Value Added Tax (VAT), the Vocational Education Training Act Section (332) as well as the Import duty and Exercise taxes.

"The government hasn't removed tax exemptions to religious institutions as it has been rumored, it is there and you will continue to enjoy it," he assured.

Giving a statistical sketch, he said in 2016, the exemption amounted to 15.6bn/-, shot to 17.6bn/- in 2017 and ballooned to 46.84bn/- in 2018.

However, the President expressed concern over dishonest institutions that manipulated tax exemptions by conducting business instead of reducing the cost of services they were offering.

Dr Magufuli gave an example of St Francis Hospital in Ifakara and Bugando Hospital in Mwanza, saying despite having more than 92 percent of staff being paid by the government, the hospitals had been overcharging patients.

"This is not acceptable and is contrary to the agreements; in Bugando for example, there had been fraud that prompted one of the nuns there to commit suicide; it's good that the President of Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) intervened."

The President said he had instructed the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Japhet Hasunga and his Industry and Trade Counterpart, Mr Joseph Kakunda, to hasten payments to cashew nut farmers who had already been verified.

"I told them during a recent Cabinet meeting, I am now repeating, that small scale farmers with a few kilogrammes should be paid first; it is pointless to , continue holding the money while farmers aren't paid," he said.

Dr Magufuli also assured the clerics of government's commitment to continue improving social services such as water supply, education and infrastructure.

Earlier, the clerics, apart from expressing challenges they were experiencing, saluted Dr Magufuli for implementing various development projects, asking him to sustain the spirit by ensuring that all other government officials emulated him.

"It is a fact that President Magufuli is walking the talk, this is the man we needed to have, keep it up...we are behind you," noted Bishop John Mchopa of Bible Church in Tunduru District, Ruvuma Region.

The Secretary General of TEC, Fr Charles Kitima, asked the Head of State to convene such meetings every year so that they can get the opportunity to share their opinions with government leaders.

He granted the request, pointing out that he would be coming along with the whole cabinet so that ministers hear and address the concerns the clerics would raise.

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