Church decision will hurt Govt’s finances

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti.

Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

The refusal of the Congregational Christian Church in Samoa (C.C.C.S.) Ministers to pay taxes will have an impact on the Government’s finances. 

This is according to Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti. 

How much of an impact, Sili did not say during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“I have to go through the numbers with the Ministry of Revenue to determine how big of an impact, but the fact remains there is an impact,” he said. 

“It is quite clear there is an impact and that is apart from the equity issue. However, the Church Ministers need to heed the law as indicated by the Prime Minister.”

He also made it clear there are many Church Ministers who have already registered to pay for their taxes.  

“The law really targets the Church Ministers, but not the Church,” he said. 

He noted what needs to be strengthened is the domestic resource mobilization and particularly with the objective of promoting greater equity in the tax system. 

During his budget address, he referred to a number of measures introduced to improve the overall revenue collections and ensure that the community was treated equitably and fairly. 

 “The results of the first year have been disappointing. While there has been some progress in some areas of revenue collection, the overall outcome has fallen short of our expectations. 

“The immediate consequence of this is that we are not able to do as much in this budget as we hoped we could,” said Sili. 

He told the Samoa Observer another aspect in the loss of revenue is the lack of a scanner at the boarders to identify every taxable item in the containers. 

“There are compliance issues we need to address, such as undeclared items that is needed and that is going to help with enforcement.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in Parliament this week reminded the Church that Parliament is the supreme law making body of the land and no one can derail their decisions.

 Tuilaepa said he is looking forward to meeting the Church leaders. He said he waited for them on Monday and even yesterday, hoping that they would come.

But in a Ministerial statement he delivered, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the law has been passed and there is nothing that can be done about it anymore.

He reiterated that Parliament is the supreme law making body of Samoa and its decisions are final. If Parliament gives in to the wishes of the E.F.K.S. Church, Tuilaepa said he fears what would happen to integrity and finality of laws passed by Parliament.

The Prime Minister also dismissed claims that taxing Church ministers is a new and sudden event in Samoa’s history.  He told Parliament that he has archives from Savali editions of the past, which proves that Church Ministers of the L.M.S. (London Missionary Society) paid taxes.

Tuilaepa went on to claim that the C.C.C.S. Church is divided over the issue and that some Ministers have already registered to pay their taxes.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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