Church sheds light on $1 million legal fund

A $1 million tala fund has been approved by the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) to pay for the church's legal fees, church ministers' fees and other fees incurred in the current financial year.

The General Secretary for C.C.C.S., Rev. Vavatau Taufao, explained that the allocated fund included other legal fees, not just for costs incurred by church ministers accused of not paying tax.  

Earlier reports had indicated that the $1 million budget allocation was solely for the legal costs associated with the tax hearings.

“It’s not just for this case – if we have any other legal land matter that is budgeted for in ($1million),” said the General Secretary. 

On Wednesday, the District Court dismissed the charges against the second group of church ministers who were also charged for not paying tax. 

The decision to dismiss was based on an application by the Ministry of Revenue to withdraw the charges against the 19 church Ministers due to lack of evidence. 

The 19 church Ministers joined the first group of 20 who were also dismissed over the failure by the prosecution to identify the defendants as ministers of religion. 

Senior lawyer, Alex Su’a, and Tui Fa’asili represented the church ministers in both the cases. 

In May this year, the C.C.C.S. General Assembly approved a $1 million fund in light of the church ministers facing charges of not paying tax. 

During the church annual conference from May 21-25, 2018 the General Assembly re-enforced the resolution of 2017 to oppose the Tax Administration Act through non-compliance. 

As a result of abiding by the resolution of C.C.C.S. General Assembly, the 39 church ministers were charged for failure to file tax and failure to withhold tax. 

Rev. Vavatau was thankful for the outcome of the case. 

He said the Prime Minister had told the National Council of Churches in a meeting that whatever the outcome of the case is - that will be the answer to the matter. 

“So I truly believe in what the Prime Minister said in that meeting that whatever the outcome will be, that is the answer and this is the answer to this matter," he said.

The General Secretary maintained that church ministers are not taxpayers and should not pay tax. 

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