The federal government's move to lift tax exemptions from religious bodies is a “desperate” move to source government revenue, said Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian.
He said claims that some religious bodies are abusing tax exemptions and profiteering to justify the move was an unfair generalisation.
“Public perception is that the country’s coffers are almost empty and the BN government is desperately looking for new ways to make the public pay for their incompetence and mismanagement.
“Sneaking in this amendment to take money from religious bodies is a new low, even for this BN government under Najib Abdul Razak,” said Baru in a statement today.
Parliament recently approved an amendment to paragraph 13(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act’s Schedule 6, which provided tax exemptions for religious bodies.
Following this, religious bodies will need to prove that their income is meant only for “charitable purposes” to qualify for tax exemption.
Baru, who is Ba’ Kelalan assemblyperson, said BN could risk backlash at the ballot box if the amendment is not overturned.
Instead of amending the law in a “surreptitious” manner, he said, the government should have consulted religious bodies including those they accused of “profiteering”.
“Not surprisingly, (the change in the law) has led to widespread confusion and concern among these religious bodies,” he said.
“Their criticism of this move is justified as the government is treating them with scant respect by not bothering to seek their views beforehand, or to even dialogue with those bodies alleged to have profited from investments.”
Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani said the law was amended because the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) found religious bodies “actively involved in investment”.
This included buying and selling properties and earning “huge profit”, which is used to pay “huge allowances to their committees”.- Mkini