A recent amendment to Tax Act 1967 (Act 53) has stirred debates with local religious organisations. The spat was due to a change in the act that previously exempted tax on all earnings by religious bodies. The new amendment allows taxes on some forms of incomes such as rental of properties, fees, buying and selling of goods and others.
The tax free status however, is still maintained for donations. Contributions received are still spared from taxes. Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) in particular had a lot to say about this amendment. Probably due to the lack of understanding on the new legislation. CFM is comprised of several member bodies such as, Council of Churches Malaysia, the Catholic Bishops Conference and others. Sabah Council of Churches president Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing, was perhaps upset that churches were not consulted.
It has to be remembered that this amendment is meant for all religious bodies irrespective of the religion or activities. The question then is “why the resentment?”. Is it that only a selected sect needs to be referred before a decision is made pertaining religion in this country? How about other religions?
Are the Muslims void of such rights? The recent reports displayed a tone that suggests some form of supremacy of a certain group. As though these groups have the decision to approve or reject law reforms. If indeed there is objection, it has to be made through the proper channels.
What is the contention about? The income obtained? The expenditure? The secretive nature of the spendings? As much as we ask, “what can the country do for us?”, we have to do something first, before we can expect anything in return. It would be unfair to mask earnings using religious activities merely for the sake of evading taxes.
In this case, when the people do not fulfil their duties towards the nation, the nation too can not fulfil her duties towards the populace. To serve the people the government needs money, and one of the method is via taxation. Hopefully we can explore the meaning of patriotism before we expect grand favours from our beloved country.
Rehan Ahmad Bin Jamaluddin Ahmad
Institut Kajian Strategik Islam Malaysia (IKSIM)