Samoa govt to tackle tax on church ministers

This measure is considered one of the key reasons the FAST Party won the election.

MPs were told on Monday there are seven amendments being made to the Income Tax Act.

The Samoa Observer reports the chief executive of the Ministry of Revenue, Matafeo Avalisa Fautuaalii, saying the tax of church ministers, which started in 2018, had earned nearly half a million dollars, [$480,000] by October this year.

All of the 39 church denominations in Samoa accepted the previous government's tax law, except the largest denomination, the Congregational Christian Church Samoa.

Samoa govt gets tougher on tax avoiding church ministers

The Congregational Christian Church is refusing to abide by a new law that requires pastors to pay income tax for the first time.

The Revenue Minister, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, said those who have been charged will likely face further charges for not paying tax between June and November.

The current charges are for the period from January to May 2018.


More Samoa church ministers face charges over tax

This comes after eight were charged last week.

The Samoa Observer, quoted the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, as saying the government would not back down over the law requiring church ministers to pay taxes on their 'alofa' - the offerings they receive from church goers.

He said they were having to stagger the arrests because of court schedules.

In May, Samoa's largest church, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, voted to defy the government's tax move.

Samoa revenue minister quiet over church's refusal to pay tax

The decision by the Congregational Christian Church has brought it into a head-to-head confrontation with the prime minister.

As part of the government's tax reforms, church pastors are now required to pay income tax for the first time.

But the Congregational Christian Church - Samoa's biggest - is choosing to flout the law, which has stirred a heated back-and-forth with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

MP wants review of church taxes in Samoa

The law was passed last year, making the country's Head of State and church pastors pay income tax for the first time.

At the time, the prime minister said there was nothing in the Bible that prohibited church pastors from paying tax.

But this week, Laauli Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt, called for a review, saying the Congregational Church of Samoa was telling its parishes not to heed the decision until its general assembly.

'Hidden' tax on pastors' tips raises ire in Samoa

The mayor of the Savai'i village of Fagasa, Fa'itau Tuitama'i, told the Samoa Observer the government had misled the public over the tax.

The mayor said they were told only 'alofa' or members' donations to the church would be taxed, but tax was also being imposed on the gratuities traditionally given to ministers when they officiate at birthday, wedding and funeral services.

He said the government was hiding this.

Another Savai'i mayor, Moeautolo Filipo of Safua, said there was not enough consultation between the government and the public on the issue.

Samoa's head of state, pastors to pay tax

Despite opposition from a handful on MPs, the country's parliament has passed the Income Tax Amendment Act.

The MP for Urban West, Faumuina Wayne Fong, said it should have been a tax on the church rather than individual pastors, while another MP, Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, said church pastors should be exempt. He did not oppose the Head of State paying tax.

Sulamanaia said the revenue minister, Tialavea Fea Leniu Tionisio Hunt, was too quick to table the bill and there should have been more time for consultation.

Samoa to tax head of state and church ministers

The Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, said the taxes would be effective in the new financial year, starting next month.

The tax plan is opposed by the two main churches, the Methodist and the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.

Tialavea said church ministers receiving less than $US7,500 in love offerings, or alofa, from church members would not be paying tax.

He made it clear that the proposal was openly discussed with representatives of various church organisations but the ministry had the final say.

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