Desperate times call for desperate measures. The old saying might come to mind when speaking of the latest situation of the tax amnesty program in Indonesia, as the government has started knocking on the church’s door to boost public participation.
It felt just like a Sunday service on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 22, when the tax office’s spokeswoman Ani Natalia stood on a podium at the Oikoumene Church on Jl. Salemba Raya in Jakarta.
Ani was speaking out loud, delivering a passionate “sermon” in front of more than 100 people about the importance of tax amnesty for Indonesia’s economic growth.
“If you have assets coming from an untaxed income, you shall exert your right [to join the tax amnesty]! Let bygones be bygones as, the truth is, the new has come into being,” she said, followed by laughter from the audience, during a one-day seminar called “Church and the Responsibility of Paying Taxes”.
The seminar was held in the wake of the government’s ambitious goal to collect over Rp 165 trillion (US$12.5 billion) in penalty payments from its nine-month tax amnesty program, which kicked off in July.
The amount of redemption payments had reached Rp 32.9 trillion as of Sept. 21 evening, only 20 percent of the government’s total target. Meanwhile, declared assets reached Rp 1.3 quadrillion, of which Rp 71.2 trillion was repatriated ones.
Before Ani, Dumoly Pardede, the Financial Services Authority (OJK) deputy commissioner for non-banking industry, also stole the spotlight. He preached that “now is the right moment to declare our tax status honestly”.
Dumoly even said, “Tax amnesty is one of His commandments, based on our faith in Him!”
Apparently, he referred to the regulations in the Jubilee Year – a period of remission from the penal consequences of sin – that ask the people to always go back to the main points of debt elimination and land redistribution to prevent economic collapse within the society.
The commentary on those regulations was written by the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) general secretary Rev. Gomar Gultom on a seminar paper shared to the audience ahead of the event.
Dumoly said he had received approvals from Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution and OJK chairman Muliaman D. Hadad to disseminate tax amnesty by collaborating with several Indonesian Christian groups, including PGI.
“Based on my hypothesis, most of Christians are businesspeople who have potential assets that could be harnessed to improve our taxation,” Dumoly said. “Hence, for me, the main channel to disseminate this is PGI, which has a myriad of members.”
According to Gomar, PGI’s congregation size is about 19 million people, around 10 percent of which are businesspeople. However, he said most members were still puzzled about the tax treatment of their assets.
Therefore, PGI has agreed to support the tax amnesty by disseminating the program through its synods nationwide, including the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP), the Kalam Kudus Christian Church (GKKK), and the Indonesian Communion of Oikoumene Churches (GKO).
Meanwhile, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who also attended the seminar as one of the speakers, said all religious groups in the country, including the ones ran by Christians, should comply with the government’s regulations.
Hence, Luhut said this was the right time for the churches to join the tax amnesty, as he said church managements had often failed to record their assets neatly. “This is an important opportunity for all of us so that we can prevent churches from being involved in corruption cases in the future,” he said.
All in all, Luhut called on all parishioners to declare and redeem in order to get relief.