At least one Church Minister has spoken up angrily about feeling that he has been duped over a Bill taxing pastors that was signed in July this year.
He has discovered that the Bill, that legalizes the taxing of church ministers is not limited to the “alofa” or contributions made by members.
“I feel deceived by the Samoa Government,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“The amendment to the law extends to other income received from performing services in our roles as church ministers.”
“I am sad because we were not informed about this during the public meetings.”
“Under Income Tax Act 2012 3. Section 61 amended clearly indicates that it is not limited to the contributions from the churches.
“The law extends to income received from performing services in their role as church ministers.
“During the consultations, all the Ministry of Revenue went after was the alofa but to my surprise, someone came across the new amendment and pointed it out to me.
“Why were the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt and his Associate Minister, So’oalo Mene, not honest from the beginning about this hidden amendment?
“So aside from the alofa, they now want to tax us on our other incomes that we receive when conducting service prayers for functions, weddings and funerals,” said the furious Church Minister.
The Church Minister said the unfairness of the decision by the government was keeping them in the dark about taxing all income they receive from their roles as church ministers.
“All right that’s fine but I think the government should also look at taxing the cash envelopes the Cabinet Ministers receive from any event they attend.
“It is only fair that if they desperately need money as indicated by their measures put in place to obtain more funding, they too should also be taxed when they receive their cash envelopes.”
Last month, the Ministry of Revenue kick began implementation of the new law by collecting the personal details of church pastors in preparation for a seminar to discuss the next stage of how the law will be implemented.
The information is being collected through forms distributed to pastors throughout the country.
The form is labeled as “Form for collecting information for a special seminar for church ministers Samoa 2017”.
In July, the former Head of State signed into law, the bill which legalized the taxing of church ministers and the Head of State.
This is the first time this has been done since Samoa became independent 55 years ago.
The Bill was signed on 30 June, 2017, three days after it was approved by Parliament.
Efforts to get comments from Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, have been unsuccessful as of press time.
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT BILL 2017 3. Section 61 amended – In section 61 of the principal Act: (a) in subsection (1), after paragraph (f), substitute “full stop” with “semi colon” and insert –
“(g) income of minister of religion.”; (b) after subsection (9), insert: “(10) For the purposes of this section, the income of a minister of religion whose sole occupation is the spiritual guidance of a specific congregation in Samoa is comprised of:
(a) contributions made by members of the congregation, and
(b) income received from performing services in their role as church ministers.”