Govt. to tackle "unfair" church Minister taxation

The Minister of Customs and Revenue says his Ministry is fielding complaints from Church Ministers already paying their taxes about Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) not paying theirs. 

The Minister of Customs and Revenue (M.C.R.), Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, told the Samoa Observer of complaints his Ministry had received from other denominations: 

“Church Ministers who are paying taxes are complaining as to why the [Congregational Christian Church of Samoa] Church Ministers are not paying their taxes, but they have been informed the investigations are continuing.” 

Tialavea declined to name any Minister in particular - or denomination - but several Methodist Ministers who spoke on condition of anonymity complained of “unfairness”.

Tialavea told the Samoa Observer the Ministry of Police has been instructed to “stand aside” from the investigation into the Church Ministers not paying their taxes. 

“The investigation will be carried out by the Ministry of Customs and Revenue alongside the Attorney General’s office, but the police have been told not to pursue this matter,” the Minister said in response to questions from this newspaper. 

“We are not putting the investigation on hold; rather we are letting the [Attorney-General's] office take over the investigation with the assistance from the M.C.R.” 

The Minister denied the delay has anything to do with next year’s general election.

It has been 11 months since the District Court dismissed charges against a group of C.C.C.S. Ministers but the Government has vowed not to let the matter rest. 

Last year District Court Judge Leota Raymond Schuster dismissed a case against a group of C.C.C.S. Ministers following an application by the Ministry of Revenue, to withdraw two charges against each defendant due to the lack of evidence. 

“We are not letting this matter go, that is far from it, the investigation is continuing,” said Tialavea. 

“It will not long before the Church Ministers will be charged for not paying their taxes. 

“We are not letting this matter off the hook just yet, the investigation is continuing and the only new development is that the Police have been informed not to be involved.”

Last month the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said matters of income tax cannot be overlooked because the Government relies on the income tax. 

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

“The delay in Court proceedings is due to the COVID-19 but it’s in progress,” he said.  

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