The government plan to review tax laws – including a plan to tax church pastors – received widespread support yesterday.
The opportunity to express views was presented during a public consultation organised by the Ministry of Revenue at the T.A.T.T.E building.
The consultations move to Savai’i on Thursday and Friday this week.
Yesterday, the Minister of Revenue, Ti’alavea Tionisio Hunt, the Chief Executive Officer of M.O.R, Avalisa Viali Fatualii, and other Executive Members of the Ministry were present.
Not many people turned up to the session. Which was disappointing as it would have been the perfect opportunity for members of the public to listen and ask questions in relation to the proposed changes.
The proposed changes include reviewing income tax laws to include everyone who earns an income in Samoa. This includes church Ministers and the Head of State.
Minister Ti’alavea clarified this.
“It is our duty to look at different ways in which we can get money for the development of our country,” he said.
“The plan is to include everyone in the country to pay tax. This money will go into the improvement of infrastructures, water supply, hospitals, schools and also the pension for our elders.”
He added that the proposed change in relation to the pastors only targets their earnings from the alofa (offering).
“This will not include other payments or money given by the church for the development of the church.”
Members of the public and the media who turned up yesterday raised questions and made recommendations to the Ministry.
For Tauā Latu Lome from Lalomanu, he supported the proposed changes.
“I don’t oppose the changes being introduced,” said Tauā.
“I understand the nature of the change is because we need money for the development of the country.
“So therefore, I know why the Ministry came up with this plan. If we have enough money for the development of the country, then we will all benefit from it. So to me personally, I don’t oppose to the changes. It’s all for the benefit of the whole country.”
Tuitea Sonny Foe from Tuana’i agrees. He said this is something that the government should’ve done a long time ago.
“If overseas countries like New Zealand are doing it, then why can’t we do it as well?” he said.
“I mean the proposed change doesn’t necessarily cover all the money Church Ministers get. Just the offerings, which they receive once or twice a month.
“This doesn’t include the money they get from weddings, funerals and others. They actually get money from there but that will not be included.
“So to me, I think that it’s the legitimate thing to do. Moreover, I believe this should’ve been done long time ago.”
He went on to say that he understands this money will go straight into the development of our country.
“The money or tax received by the government goes into developing our education and health sectors. I don’t think we will be able to survive without income tax.
“And I also think this is why we have become too dependent on overseas countries and foreign aids to help us, because we cannot cope with the money which we get every year from income taxes.”