Govt. can assist cash-strapped firms

The Minister of Revenue Tialavea Tionisio Hunt says cash-strapped businesses can pay their import duty after 30 days – but only if they pay 50 per cent of the tax upfront.

Asked by the Sunday Samoan how many companies have already benefited from this arrangement, he said he is only aware of two construction firms that applied and were given the approval.

“To date in my recollection, only two construction businesses have requested this special favour and I approved it because I have to approve it before the goods are allowed to be released,” he said. 

“I don’t know about down at the C.E.O’s office but I know for a fact that I authorised two container release.”

The Minister would not divulge the names of the companies. 

But he said before his ministerial appointment, the Customs Office had a system called “side release.”

Asked to explain, he said this allowed for the release of goods freely with the duty to be paid later. 

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But that changed after he was appointed the Minister for Revenue.

“The law states that pre-release of cargo can be applied to individuals,” he said. 

“However, 50 per cent up front and a 30-days deadline to settle the payment to the Government, but this is not applied to business goods. 

“The containers are only allowed for release once the duty taxes are paid in full.

“I know this law is not applicable to businesses. 

“However, for me as a Minister if a business is strap for cash flow, I would help them release their goods and they can pay their taxes within 30 days. 

“We have to apply common sense. This was my decision although it is not in line with the law. I am thinking of the bigger picture, if the Government does not help these businesses, they would eventually close down, and the employees would lose their jobs. And we would not collect any revenues.”

Asked how many businesses were offered this service and how much was the value of the duty owed, Tialavea declined to comment.  

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi recently said the $87.6 million outstanding debt – which the Ministry for Revenue incurred and was cited by Ministry of Finance audit reports – is uncollected revenue from previous years.

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