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This piece refers to ‘spiritualists’ as those who claim to have the ability to see what is going on in one’s life, be it now or in the future or those who are able to deal with people’s problems spiritually by using certain rituals, prayer, herbs, water, cream and other items which are considered to have some sort of ‘powers’ to help people deal with their problems, as well as those who claim to have the ability to communicate with the ‘spirit world’. In Ghana today, spiritualists / religious organisations are gradually taken over the number of registered companies in the country. As someone with theological and social sciences background, I’m completely aware of the benefits spirituality / religious organisations have on our society and wellbeing. Spirituality / religious organization can increase our social capital, that is in terms of social networking which can provide social support for individuals, especially, in times of bereavement. It can give an individual a sense of belonging and identity and help to prevent loneliness and isolation which is often associated with both physical and mental health issues. Admittedly, we can’t deny the fact that many spiritualists are earning more than many civil servants. Many of them sell items like water, fruits, creams, oil, stickers and other items which they claim can perform some forms of miracles. Others charge certain fees before you’re allowed to see or visit them. Many have enriched themselves through these means with a lot of properties and live luxurious lifestyle to prove that. There is no doubt that many leaders of religious organisations or spiritualists are multimillionaires. I strongly believe that it is unfair for owners of small scale businesses such as ordinary okro or tomato sellers to pay income tax but most of these multimillionaire spiritualists contribute little or nothing at all to the economy in the form of taxation. Without taxes the country cannot provide the social services such as health care, education, security, etc. needed to reduce inequalities and improve the welfare of individuals. It has been noted that in many countries, especially within the western world, the state gives tax breaks as well as other incentives to religious organisations because they are considered as Charitable Organisations; as they invest or give back to the society or local community. In the UK for instance, such religious institutions are accountable to the Charity Commission and have to report their financial status, statements and activities to the Commission. To qualify as a Charitable Organisation you need to meet certain criteria /conditions such as having a board of trustees to run your organisation and other requirements.
Furthermore, in some other countries fortune tellers, psychics and other spiritualists have to obtain licences before they can operate and are also required to pay taxes on their income just like any other citizen. In the EU, consumers regulatory laws forbid any form of services or trade from claiming something they cannot deliver or do not have a substantial evidence to back their claims. This means that spiritualists are not treated differently from traders or businesses. Evidently, religious organisations / spiritualists in Ghana are not accountable to any regulatory body. Lack of such regulatory bodies have made it easier for anyone to establish any form of ‘spiritual center’ or religious organisation. In some instances, this has resulted in fraudulent activities whereby people have reported being scammed by some of these spiritualists. As a country, we have a duty to protect our citizens, particularly, the vulnerable such as the poor, the weak, children and the defenseless. Also, I think it is equally important that we all contribute to the betterment of our motherland, Ghana, and as such, abide by our moral duty to pay our fair share of taxes.
1. That all spiritualists / religious organisations be registered and receive a license before they can operate.
2. Spiritualists / leaders of religious organisations should pay income tax
3. Any organisation with more than 100 members should employ a Secretary or Administrator to handle their paper work for inspection when required.
4. Any spiritualist / religious group with an annual income of 10,000 GHC should be made to pay tax (about 10% or more)
5. The government should establish a commission or an agency to regulate and regularly inspect the operations of these establishments.
5. Special framework/policies should be put in place to prosecute fraudulent organisations.
6. Organisations who invest much of their income back to society or in community development projects would receive tax breaks or tax relief.
These are my personal opinion concerning the operations of spiritualists and other religious groups or organisations in Ghana. Feel FREE to comment or share your views, but please no insults and make sure you back your point with evidence.
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(Speaker, Entrepreneur & Politician)