Three churches have reported annual turnovers of between Sh350 million and Sh1 billion, cash generated by the religious institutions’ taxable commercial activities.
These churches are the Coptic Orthodox Church, Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church which appear in the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) latest listing of taxpayers in that income bracket.
This means that businesses owned by the religious institutions place them in the same income league as Kirinyaga Construction, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Google Kenya, among others.
Churches, just like any other organisations, are required to file annual returns but are exempt from most taxes as provided for by the Non-Governmental Organisations and Co-ordination Act.
Religious institutions have broadened their investment in different sectors of the economy including education, healthcare, financial services, hospitality and real estate in order to reduce their over reliance on tithes and offerings from the congregation.
What has however raised eyebrows is the absence of Catholic Church from the list, never mind it has one of the largest real estate portfolios in Kenya, including large tracts of undeveloped land.
NPC, African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) and the Catholic Church are some of the institutions that have been featured in the news because of major property disputes. Some leaders have been accused in court of fraud and embezzlement.
Leaders of NPC, which is also known as Christ is The Answer Ministries (CITAM), have for instance been sued for breach of trust by its members and a contractor in relation to a controversial housing project in the posh Karen estate in Nairobi.