Outdated receipts sparks Coin Save investigation

The Ministry of Revenue says it will investigate the Coin Save chain of stores after a Samoa Observer investigation found they had been issuing outdated tax receipts  - a practice authorities say can be associated with tax evasion. 

A two-week investigation into Coin Save stores in Vaitele and Fugalei conducted over several days found they were issuing receipts for purchases improperly marking them as made last year. 

"Thank you for reporting this matter and [this can] certainly [be one of the] deliberate dirty ways [...] such business owners [use] to evade paying the right amount of taxes," said the Customs and Revenue Commissioner, Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautua.  

"This practice would result in underreporting of income of the exact date of sale as it is now been stored in the date of receipt".

Matafeo then, in an email sent on Wednesday night, ordered her subordinates - the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Internal Revenue Services) and Assistant C.E.O. of Audit to perform an immediate spot check audit at the stores in question.  

“[The audit will cover this] practice and act accordingly to reassess any tax liability if a discrepancy and offence is confirmed,” said Matafeo.

The receipt is listed as coming from the Coin Save store in Vaitele, yet the purchase was made from the branch in Fugalei.

Another receipt, issued for a purchase made in the company’s Vaitele branch on the same day lists the date as 01/11/18.

The C.E.O. requested that the Coin Save franchises not be named until "we confirm or otherwise, the issues as reported." The Samoa Observer has independently decided to report the investigation as a matter of public interest.

Attempts to make contact with the company's upper management through visits to a company compound  in Vaiusu last week were not successful. A phone number for Tu'itu'ioaiga Teeking Weng, which was listed in company annual reports, was not connected last week.

A visit on Tuesday produced an interview with Mr. Liu Chiu who said the owner was in New Zealand. 

"I will talk to him and call you back," he said on Tuesday. 

Tu’itu’ioaiga, who owns other businesses together with his retail outlets, won the tender to run the $5.7 million Vaitele Market in February 2017.

But the Samoa Observer was able to successfully contact Coin Save staff in charge of its franchise stores for comment, who blamed a malfunctioning receipt issuing system. 

A manager of the Coin Save Fugalei store, who gave her name only as "Cheng", offered to provide the Samoa Observer with a written receipt with correct dates. 

At the Coin Save in Vaitele, the manager of the branch, Salaevalu Tanielu, told the Samoa Observer there is an error with their cash register machines. 

When Ms. Tanielu was asked why it was not just her store producing outdated receipts she replied that the company's I.T. staff would be working on it.

She was not able to answer when asked if the company was seeking to avoid paying the right amount of value added goods and services tax (V.A.G.S.T.). 

The Vaitele store Manager, Mr. Tanielu, confirmed that their immediate supervisor is Liu Chiu. Questions put to Liu Chiu about tax compliance were similarly unable to be answered. 

According to the Customs and Revenue’s website, the V.A.G.S.T. is a tax on most goods and services supplied in Samoa by a registered business. 

“It also applies to most imported goods and certain imported services. V.A.G.S.T. of 15% is added to the price of taxable goods and services.

If you have an annual turnover of $130,000 or more from your taxable activity, or you expect your turnover to be $130,000 or more in the next twelve months, you must register for V.A.S.G.T.” 

On Thursday night, the Vaitele branch implemented a new receipt format, which now had the accurate date for purchases but no longer identified sales clerks, store locations or included V.A.G.S.T. amounts.

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