KUCHING: The opposition has objected to the entire Budget 2017, including the Finance Act 2016 (FA2016), the passing of which has allowed the Inland Revenue Board to tax donations-derived income of non-Muslim religious organisations.
“The BN government is now so desperate for money that even revenue to do God’s work is not spared from taxes,” Sarawak DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen said.
“Had the BN MPs some conscience and refrained from blindly supporting the Budget 2017, the FA 2016 amendment would not have been tabled to enable the government to tax the revenue of religious organisations,” Chong said.
He said FA2016 is an Act to amend the Income Tax Act 1967, the Petroleum (Income Tax) Act 1967, the Real Property Gains Tax Act 1976, the Labuan Business Activity Tax Act 1990, and the Goods and Services Tax Act 2014.
Parliament passed the amendments on Nov 23 and the Senate followed suit on Dec 15.
The amendment to Paragraph 13(1)(b) of Schedule 6 of the Income Tax Act 1967 subjects churches, temples and religion-based charitable bodies governed by the Charitable Trusts Ordinance 1994 to new taxes.
Mosques and Islamic welfare institutions are not expected to be affected as these are regulated by the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance 1984.
“What angers us further is that despite the increased taxes on the people, wastage continues.
“We all pay our taxes knowing that of every ringgit paid, at least 30 sen goes into the pockets of BN cronies,” Chong told reporters at the state party headquarters here today.
Present were Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong and Bawang Assan MP Chiew Sung Ngie.
“This is another reminder to the people that when BN leaders talk about projects, the funding comes from the people.
“Previously, it was the individuals, companies and businesses who paid. Now the government has extended its tentacles to take from the religious organisations.”
Chong also denied the opposition had approved FA2016.
Budget 2017 was put to the vote in Parliament on Nov 22. Seventy-three opposition MPs opposed, 105 BN MPS supported and one MP abstained from voting.
“Therefore, when the FA2016 was tabled the following day, there was no need for us to state our position again as we had on the previous day objected to Budget 2017 in its entirety,” Chong said.
He said voters could not rely on the BN MPs of Sarawak, the bastion of BN governance, to vote against the bill.
“To expect (Chief Minister) Adenan (Satem) to go against the wishes of (Prime Minister) Najib (Razak) is to ask for the stars.
“Had Adenan dared to go against Najib’s wishes, he would have exercised his power to stop the collection of GST in Sarawak.
“The sales tax is clearly within the power of the state to oppose, yet Adenan refused to act against the policies of Najib and Umno.
“Now that Adenan has repeatedly pledged his support for Najib and Umno-controlled BN, the only way religious organisations will be able to avoid the new tax is if there is a change of government following the next general election, which will likely be held in 2017.
“It is only with a new government that practises accountability and transparency that religious organisations will be spared paying taxes,” Chong said. -FMT