A proposal to apply VAT to devotional candles has been described as effectively “a tax on prayer”.
The 2020 Finance Bill proposes to remove a historical protection on white candles which, according to Fr John Carroll of the Ferns Diocese, is akin to taxing “counselling or stress” given the solace many people feel lighting a candle in a church.
Fr Carroll said “It’s certainly new territory to be introducing a tax on prayer – and at a time when we’ve come to value its necessity even more!”
“It certainly would be a very poor showing from Government at a time like this to be introducing a tax on prayer candles,” Fr Carroll told The Irish Catholic. “You’d have to wonder at the wisdom of the decision maker.
“At a time of a pandemic, introducing a tax on candles in churches – you might as well introduce a tax on counselling and stress…It amounts to a tax on prayer,” he said.
Desmond Wisley of Wisely Ecclesiastical Supplies has said that it could also affect donations parishes rely on for the upkeep of churches particularly at a time when collections are down.
He has contacted the Minister of Finance Pascual Donohue calling for the no-VAT policy on church candles be maintained.
“The Government are trying to sneak this in as if you look in the finance bill you will not see it directly,” MrWisley said. “It’s going to add 23% to the boxes of candles, which will be a major effect. The way it’s going at the moment, churches can’t afford things – things are very tight.”
Colin Carroll of the Candlemakers Association of Ireland said he was “very surprised” at the timing of the Government’s move.
“This isn’t directed at the Church, but the Church will be majorly affected by it,” he said. “It’s not something that’s been publicised, we had to dig deep to find it.
“In the current context of Covid-19 and the challenges we face, the timing of this is not a good thing. I don’t think they understand the effect it will have.”
Mr Carroll and the Candlemakers Association are calling for the change to be deferred indefinitely.