Two village mayors from Savai’i have accused the government of misleading members of the public with its decision to tax pastors monetary gifts from birthdays and funerals they attend.
They described the government’s action as an “injustice” during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
At the beginning of the week, a Church Minister was furious that he had been duped over a Bill taxing pastors that was signed in July this year.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Church Minister discovered that the Bill that legalizes the taxing of church ministers is not limited to the “alofa” or contributions made by members.
“The amendment to the law extends to other income received from performing services in our roles as church ministers.”
“Under Income Tax Act 2012 3. Section 61 amended clearly indicates that it is not limited to the contributions from the churches.”
Village Mayor of Fagasa, Faitau Tuitama expressed disappointment.
“We were only informed in the beginning that it’s only the ‘alofa’ and now it includes envelopes from other services like birthdays and weddings (all being taxed).”
“What is really sad is that they only informed us in the beginning that just ‘alofa’ but now we found out later that (inside the Bill) they are also collecting tax from envelopes (monetary gifts) where pastors attends.”
“The government was hiding what will happen to the envelopes of pastors all this time to the people of Samoa and the majority of denominations in Samoa.”
“But there’s nothing we can do because the government go on with their plans and leave the people behind.”
He admitted he wasn’t with the plan by the government to tax pastors.
“The government is destroying what we used to be back in the days, our pastors are feagaiga in villages and we have to take care of them – they are servants of God.”
He said that “does not mean that the government officials have to park outside where the wedding, funeral or birthday is held to collect and record how much the family gifted the pastor?”
“How come the people of Samoa didn’t realize that the gifts for pastors for performing funerals, weddings, opening ceremonies etc. have been included on the government’s tax list?”
“But how come ministers and government officials don’t get taxed when they attend funerals, birthday and other services.”
“What about those live cows where most families give as gifts for pastors at funerals, are they going to kill the cow and see if they can get half of what it is sold for?”
The action reminded Faitau of how King Nebuchadnezzar walked out his palace and said that “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
“Many of us assume that our self-confidence is natural and healthy, but will not admit we have ‘too much’ of it.”
“We see ourselves as being responsible for our own success and suddenly we face shame or a sudden traumatic event that destroys all we have worked for.”
“If Nebuchadnezzar ate grass of not fearing God, of pride and was driven away from mankind, his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.”
“Our government needs to pause; we need to look deeply at what’s happening in our country these days and we need to take action while we still have time.”
Another Village Mayor of Safua, Moeautolo Filipo expressed similar sentiments.
He said it’s sad to hear how the government went on with their plans without proper consultations with churches.
“There’s no doubt that the government is everywhere looking for money to survive. I think that’s why they are hiding this action of collecting money from other services that pastors attended,” Moeautolo said.
“The burden ends up on people’s shoulders. You see, people’s money that they give to the church have already been taxed and now the government is coming from the other way around to double tax people.”
“This is so much for the people of Samoa, churches never asked the government for help, but the church helps in so many ways for the community and the people of Samoa.”
“This is not right in my understanding.”