Church sidesteps issue of taxes

The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa's (C.C.C.S.) decision to oppose the Government's law requiring church ministers to pay taxes on their alofa will not be discussed by the church until its General Conference in May 2020.

This was confirmed by the General Secretary, Reverend Vavatau Taufao, yesterday.

He said there were motions before the conference for the issue to be raised but due to the bylaws of the church, the matter was not discussed.

"Any resolution from the General Conference is discussed three years after it was approved, that is how it works," he said. 

"The resolution (about the church's position the Government's law) was approved by the church in 2017 and therefore it will be discussed next year."

A submission made by Pulega Fa’asaleleaga urged the assembly to remain strong on its position.

“It is the not the will of the Church Ministers to defy the law," the submission reads. "Rather they are obeying the resolution already approved during the General conference by the members of the church. 

“The Church Ministers are following the resolution by the Church therefore the government should go after the Church and not after the Reverends and their personal properties.”  

Furthermore, Fa’asaleleaga noted the Government should also look into the churches if they are not paying taxes for the reverends. 

“We request that the church should not back down from its resolution approved, we will stand by our church ministers, to protect the integrity of the Church and its name,” said the the submission by Fa’asaleleaga. 

Apia East shared the same sentiments and reminded the church to continue to stand by the General Conference resolution. 

The Secretary General also confirmed the church has approved $1 million tala for legal fees. 

According to the C.C.C.S. financial year 2018 report, the church has already paid $43,734 in relation to the tax issue before the Court. 

Regarding the Church Ministers already paying taxes, Reverend Vavatau said that is their prerogative. 

Responding to media questions, he said the Church will not take any action against these Church Ministers. 

“I am not sure how many; however the government has announced there are 20. And I cannot judge them,” he said. 

“The decision not to pay taxes was made by the church during the general conference. 

“And if anyone has paid their taxes, I don’t know the rationale behind it, whether they rejected the resolution by the church or that is their belief or it is out of respect for the government. I am not sure and I cannot speak for them."

Twenty church ministers have been charged by the Government and are facing two counts of failure to withhold tax and failure to file wage tax returns.   

They are: Tautiaga Senara, Tunumoso Iosia, Faasalafa Vitaoa, Faaiuga Matautia, Faraimo Ti’iti’i, Fili Matalavea, Fuaao Fuimaono, Iese Uele, Ioane Petaia, Lavilavi Soloi, Amosa Reupena, Elefatu Lesa, Poasa Toiaivao, Petaia Leavai, Pita Toleafoa, Siaosi Salesulu, Seilala Luamanuvae, Semikueva Faatoafa, Taise Ioapo and Tavita Anesone.

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