THREE years ago, Romanian witches, who have long thirsted for government recognition, got the type of deal they never imagined – the law asked them to pay tax.
Anger greeted the law with the witches threatening to bring misfortune on government and its officials. They carried out rituals at certain rivers to make government change its mind. The witches also prayed for enough misfortune would visit government officials that they would patronise witches more.
The Romanian government dragged more people into its tax net as it grappled with the economy. Witches are in great demand in the country of 21.5 million people with a rich culture of consulting witches and fortune tellers on all matters.
Professionals like witches, astrologers and fortunetellers were not in the country’s labour code. They did not pay income tax. Under the 2011 law, they started paying 16 per cent income tax and contributing to health and pension programmes, as self-employed people.
Their battle for official status succeeded in April 2006 when 31-year-old Gabriela Ciucur became the country’s first legal witch, after she registered a company dealing with “astrology and contacts with the spiritual world”.
In February 2007, Elena Simionescu was relieved of her position as president of the court in Vatra Dornei, a small town in eastern Romania after being accused of casting spells on court staff, judges and prosecutors.
Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, had their own personal witch.
“We do harm to those who harm us,” Bratara Buzea, 63, a witch, said. “They want to take the country out of this crisis using us? They should get us out of the crisis because they brought us into it.”
Nigerians are not witches. Witchcraft is not a legalised profession in Nigeria, for which practitioners should be taxed. Our interest in all these is the great extent serious governments go in sourcing revenue for their budget. Tax is too important in those countries to exclude anyone who earns an income. Governments run on revenue from tax. It is a two-way street. People pay their taxes and therefore can query how the money is used.
Here, a large portion of the population does not pay income tax. Governments are too busy scrambling over crude oil money to consider the place of taxes in the economy. It follows that we can hardly hold governments to account because oil money is not “our money”, our tax.
The furore over taxing churches and mosques show our hypocrisy on tax.
Can our governments tax everyone, including witches? When governments tax witches, fear of their attacks may ensure accountability in using the money and save us some of the complaints about abuses of public resources.