Church ministers tax legal battle not over: PM

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has assured that the legal battle with church ministers who have not registered to pay tax on their alofa (love offering) is far from over. 

Tuilaepa said when it comes to matters on income tax it cannot forego, it has to continue through the Court because the Government depends on tax. 

Speaking during his programme with radio 2AP, he said there is only one church denomination that opposes the law on tax but all other religious bodies are in support of it. 

“There are quite a few church ministers that have paid for their tax from the E.F.K.S. [Congregational Christian Church of Samoa] who feel that it’s a must to pay tax,” said Tuilaepa. 

“The delay in Court proceedings is due to the COVID-19 but its in progress.” 

According to statistics from the Ministry of Customs and Revenue, there are over 600 church ministers from different denomination that have registered to pay tax. 

From the total of 644 of those already registered, the C.C.C.S. holds the highest number of those in the Ministry’s database of 189 (29 per cent). 

The statistics was confirmed in a table from the M.C.R. Chief Executive Officer, Matafeo Avalisa Viali – Fautuaali’i in recent correspondence with the Samoa Observer. 

“We had from early 2018, done registration of 189 names of C.C.C.S. pastors who reside and preaches in a village congregation parish,” said Matafeo. 

“There are about 200 parishes and we are continuously updating our registration database to remove the retired pastors and insert the names of newly appointed one to a parish. 

“For information, a few C.C.C.S. pastors (5 per cent of 200) came into the I.R.S. Office to register, voluntarily without endorsement of the C.C.C.S. Head office, but the rest were registered from information we obtained from publicly available information (about 95 per cent).” 

A table  provided by the Ministry shows 147 (23 per cent) church ministers from Catholic church have registered,  99 (15 per cent) from the Methodist church and 86 (13 per cent) from the Assembly of God denomination. 

There are 76 (12 per cent) church ministers from other religious denomination being registered, 16 (2 per cent) from Nazarene, 11 (2 per cent) for Pentecostal and the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church. 

The Worship Centre has 1 per cent or equivalent of nine church ministers that are on the registry to pay tax. 

In July last year, charges against 20 church ministers from C.C.C.S. of failing to withhold tax and file tax were dismissed by the District Court. 

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