As of March 31, all faith-based groups are supposed to have submitted a report to the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) detailing their income and expenses, as par the law on income tax that came into force in April last year.
Article 46 outlines the entities in Rwanda which are exempt from paying the corporate income tax of 30 percent.
The Article also introduces a requirement for these institutions to submit financial statements to the RRA not later than March 31 cover the entire previous year.
This means that all NGOs, faith based institutions, schools and other not for profit organizations are now obliged to submit financial statements to RRA.
The law basically exempts Christian and Muslim groups from paying tax but requires that they file financial statement so the government knows what they are earning, how and what they are spending it on.
Following a reorganization that saw more than 7,000 places of worship closed by July last year, there remains over 700 faith-based organizations – controlling over 15,000 houses of worship countrywide.
Those closed facilities were found to be operating in dilapidated structures and some embroiled in unending conflicts over resources.
Drocella Mukashyaka, deputy commissioner in charge of taxpayer services at RRA told The Chronicles that they are yet to compile a full report of all the groups that have filed their statements.
Asked if all the religious groups had filed their documents, she said, “Some groups may have submitted, other may still be in preparation”.
She added that opening their books to scrutiny will improve transparency and bring to an end the suspicions over the resources that may otherwise be unavailable.
Mukashyaka said: “What the law requires is only submitting financial statements to enable government to review them – to show what incomes they have, what was done with the incomes in the previous year, and what activities are planned.”
The Chronicles contacted the most visibly influential faith-based organizations such as the Catholic Church – which could be the largest, Rwanda Muslim Council (RMC) and the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda or ADEPR – said to have more than 2million followers.
Monsignor Philippe Rukamba, head of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda and Secretary of the Catholic Church in Rwanda, confirmed that they have yet to submit their documents.
“We are training our staff in collaborated with officials from RRA, to understand what the law requires from us. We hope to implement what is asked of us as soon as possible,” he said.
He added: “We will need a lot of support from RRA. The exercise will take the Church a lot of time as it calls for mobilization of many officials and levels to implement such an activity.”
Sheikh Salim Hitimana, the Mufti of Rwanda and the head of the Rwanda Muslims Council (RMC), said they have no information about a law requiring faith-based groups to file documents to RRA.
“we have been hearing rumours about this law, but do not have specific details,” he said, adding, “We intend to organize meetings to see how to prepare that report. As of now we are yet to submit anything.”
Rev Karuranga Ephrem, the head of the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda or ADEPR said they had submitted their report to RRA.
For many years, this group has seen its leaders fighting over money and property. The Senate is actually currently investigating ADEPR over divisionism, which the national unity and reconciliation commission says undermines cohesion in the country.
Rev Karuranga said: “We have submitted this financial report as the law requires us to do. We believe this will help us to be transparent in our operations and plans. Our members will be able to know how we spend their money. I think this will bring accountability in churches.”
The Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR), which also has a significant following and one of the oldest in the country, also confirmed that they had filed their report with the tax body.
“For us we really appreciate the coming of this law,” said Dr Pascal Bataringaya, the EPR President. “We are accustomed to compiling reports even before the coming of this law. We submitted ours to RRA in time. This exercise will bring trust among our followers.”