Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has supported the decision by the Minister of Revenue to review all existing laws on income tax.
In confirming the plan, the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, said the main idea behind the review is so that everyone who earns an income will pay tax.
This includes Church Ministers and the Head of State.
“The Ministry is reviewing all the (existing) laws,” Tialavea said. “The main idea is to make sure that everyone in this country pays tax."
“I took the oath when I was selected as the Minister that I would do everything to make sure that we get extra money for the development of the country."
“So we are now in the process and we are reviewing the laws to make sure that everyone pays taxes.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the review should have happened 20 years ago.
“They should’ve done this a long time ago,” said Tuilaepa.
“That is why I am grateful to the Minister and his Ministry for coming up with this plan.”
Tuilaepa said the proposed change is not targeting any particular group.
“The announcement that was made by the Minister is that the Ministry is in the process of reviewing all laws on income tax so everyone can pay tax."
“They took an oath that they will look at all the avenues where they can get money for the development of our country.
“The proposed changes looks at including every working person in Samoa."
“So it is not particularly for a group of people.”
Tax money is extremely important to development, Tuilaepa said.
“As you know, these monies are for the development of our country. But we are not targeting a group of people.”
Speaking about the review, Minister Tialavea said the government has been talking to the churches about it.
“We are now in the process of carrying out consultations with churches,” he said. “We already had a meeting with the Executive of the Samoa National Council of Churches where we discussed the issue.”
Attempts to get a comment from the Council of Churches were unsuccessful.
But the proposed changes target the money church ministers receive from the congregation every two weeks.
“We will not touch other contributions made by the church. We believe those other contributions are for the development of the churches,” the Minister said.
“This will also exclude the money they get from funerals, weddings, and other things.”
Tialavea said the Ministry only wants to tax the offering received by Pastors from their congregations.
“As you are aware, these taxes are for the development of our country. It is to help our people."
“I understand that there are other pastors who are doing volunteering work and giving out money and food for those in need."
“But we (Member of Parliaments) are also doing the same. We also give out money to develop our districts and help those who need help. The difference is that we pay tax and they don’t.”
But that’s not all.
Ti’alavea added they are looking at the different businesses run by churches in Samoa.
“We are revisiting the existing law so they can all be included. They pay V.A.G.S.T but not income tax but I think it’s only fair for them to pay taxes as well for the businesses they have in Samoa.”
So how will it work?
The Minister said a form would be provided by the Ministry for every church Minister in Samoa.
“They will write down how much they get and we will calculate the amount of tax they have to pay depending on how much they receive."
“It’s just going to be just like other workers in Samoa. You have to pay as you earn (P.A.Y.E).”