M.P. disputes tax law change

By Deidre Tautua – Fanene ,

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IN PARLIAMENT: Olo Fiti said P.M. Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi returned to Parliament to

IN PARLIAMENT: Olo Fiti said P.M. Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi returned to Parliament to "wrong what was right." (Photo: Misiona Simo/Samoa Observer)

The Government’s decision to offer deduction to income tax at 200 percent to companies who invest money to help Samoa fund the Pacific Games is dangerous. It’s also discriminatory in the sense that the benefits are only made available to businesses, excluding individuals who would also like to help.  

That’s the opinion of Member of Parliament for Salega, Olo Fiti Vaai, who expressed concerns about the Tax Income Bill 2018. Tabled in Parliament on Monday, the bill aimed to:

• Allow sponsors a deduction to their assessable income for a tax year at 200 percent for sponsorship of the 2019 Pacific Games 

• Provide that monetary gifts received by religious ministers during funerals, weddings and other traditional, government or family occasion is not subject to the income tax under the Act  

According to Olo, the 200 percent tax offer is exorbitant.

“I told them to bring it down to 120 percent and reason being is because this investment is just for a short period of time. This is what you call very easy money for the business owners,” he said.

“This is not right, how can they say it does not include the individuals, when I know for a fact the individuals would want to invest in the S.P.G. Because if they donate $5,000 at the end of the Games, they will claim $10,000 because it’s 200 percent.

“For example, if Digicel and Bluesky decide to donate $1million at the end of two weeks they will claim $2million. I just don’t understand where they get this idea from.”

Olo also disputed Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s claims that the Government is offering the private sector an opportunity to contribute to the development of Samoa.

“What does he mean?” he asked. “If we look at the government’s Budget every year, if it’s not for the private sector there wouldn’t be a budget.

“And yet he’s saying they (private sector) need to contribute. Is Tuilaepa saying the private sector is not doing anything? I don’t agree with that. If we look at it, his government is relying heavily on the private sector for revenues to fund the developments by the government.

“The private sector is paying for all of them including their workers as well as the 47 members of the Human Rights Protection Party. The private sector is paying for their salaries and yet he’s saying the private sector should contribute. This is unbelievable.”

The M.P. for Salega went on to say that the law will only make rich people richer.

“I can see the rich people taking advantage of it. They will run to it because they have the money to donate and in the end that amount will double and that will make them even richer.

“But the law should’ve included the individuals to come and deposit some money, even if it’s just $1,000. This can only mean one thing; Tuilaepa wants to make the individuals even poorer.

“He doesn’t want the individuals to be rich but rather he wants them to be poor because even I can go and donate $5,000 and then I come home and wait till the Games finish then I can go and claim my $10,000, but I can’t because I’m not a company.

“I don’t know where Tuilaepa is coming from with these ideas. I think he’s losing it because he’s getting old hence why he’s not thinking straight.”

Olo then referred to an incident in Parliament on Monday where Tuilaepa rebuked him.

“You see he had almost reached where he was going but he turned around just so that he can come back and attack me, and yet everything I said was the truth.”

Speaking of the truth, Olo maintained it was him who argued against taxing the monies church ministers receive at different functions they attend.

“When they brought the law and discussed the act of taxing pastors I told them during my speech,” he said. “I told Tialavea about this when I found it in their law, because I read all the government laws, even if they say it’s 100 pages I read all of them.

“Most of the things I tell them to do they do it and they listen to me most of the times. And yet he (Tuilaepa) came and said the country was listening and they might think it was because of me they have changed the law. But that’s the truth, it is exactly what I argued for.

 “I was the only one at the time who raised this issue about taxing the pastor’s gifts from weddings, funerals, saofais and so forth and that is why he tells me off but if I don’t correct all their wrong doings then they wouldn’t do it.

“And yet he came all the way back to Tuanaimato just to tell me off, and to me this is the reaction of a person who is guilty.

“He actually came back to wrong what is right, that’s what he did. I felt sorry for him yesterday. That’s why I didn’t answer back to him because I could see he was out of breath and he might get a heart attack because he was angry.

“And also, when he said I was fooling the country? My question is, what and who did I fool? I only gave him words of encouragement from the Bible and he said I was fooling the country.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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