Cash hoarders target of Govt's tax crackdown
The Government has launched a crackdown on businesses that store their profits in vaults, or on their premises, instead of bank accounts to target those suspected of evading taxes.
The crackdown was confirmed by the Minister for Customs and Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, who believes the large cash that is not banked is usually done to “avoid paying taxes”.
“And in response the Ministry has launched an investigation into the businesses that have inactive bank accounts. That directive was issued two weeks ago,” said Tialavea.
The Minister's comments come after a violent robbery in Vaitele where stash of money was uncovered by the Police in the warehouse earlier this month.
A Chinese national was killed during the robbery.
But the attack is the latest in a string of robberies where individuals with large amounts of cash on their person or premises have been the target of thieves.
“I instructed the agents to look into the bank accounts of the businesses (as we can under the law) and this is a result of recent robberies where a lot of cash [is being] discovered," he said.
“And it is the main reason why certain businesses are being targeted,” said Tialavea.
The Minister did not name any particular business, but stated the recent robberies of the Chinese businesses prompted the investigation by Revenue Agents.
The Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, has warned the business community criminals are targeting people with large cash holdings after the Vaitele incident.
“If you are a business owner, you have to bank your money. If there is a stash of money, it attracts unwanted action and the safest way if you don’t bank is to have a strong safe,” said the Commissioner.
He said there is also an apparent trend to target Chinese nationals for robbery.
“To avoid this and reduce the chances of being attacked, please bank your money,” the Commissioner appealed.
The Minister explained that it is required for a business to have an active bank account in order for the Revenue to issue a business license.
“I suspect the reason behind not banking this large amount of cash is tax evasion. There are certain businesses that purchase their stock using cash and that should be stopped. I believe the businesses should be mandatory to purchase their stocks using checks to assure their monies are banked,” the Minister said.
The Minister said they are going through the Revenue laws to determine whether the amendments should be made to make it mandatory for businesses to use cheques instead of cash.
“If you own a business you should bank the proceeds of your business daily,” he said.
The Minister also believed the cashier receiving the funds, as a result of a purchase should also be liable.
Another robbery in Vailoa Faleata, in February, 2019 Police reported that $60,000 cash stolen. In September three men attacked a man and stole $23,000 he had stored in a backpack.