A question of taxes

By Marj Moore 29 October 2017, 12:00AM

It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said, ‘In this world, nothing can be certain, except death and taxes.’

But up until this year, the Head of State and church ministers have only had to contend with one certainty.

This has now changed.

It was back in January this year when the Minister for Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt first signaled that he had been tasked by Government to look for other sources of revenue to fund the development of the country.

And later in May Tialavea began talking about the possibility of the Head of State and church ministers, who had until then, been exempt from paying taxes.

This announcement was met with a great deal of differing opinions being voiced from straight out resistance to change in the case of the Head of State ,“It’s never been done”; to shock and horror that God’s workers should even be asked to pay tax on their often, substantial earnings.

Then there were the suspicions voiced that congregations would simply have to stump up with even more money so the church ministers usual salaries would not be touched.

It was a time of suspicion and confusion.    

Meanwhile, there did appear to be a general tightening up in the area of tax collection from the business community with isolated incidents of tax evasion alluded to by the Minister in June interviews.

Everyone agreed with those measures.

In general, and as expected, the church itself was not thrilled with the tax news and various church leaders spoke up leading to some locals noting sarcastically that it was a pity they didn’t speak up about other important social issues when needed.

Nevertheless with the majority enjoyed by the H.R.P.P. in Parliament and past experience that “if government said it, government will do it”, the indignant voices slowly quietened down as other issues were raised..

However on today’s front page, it appears that government’s consultations with church personnel may not have spelled out clearly just what parts of minister’s  incomes will be taxed.

At least one minister was under the impression that it would only be the congregation’s offerings in the church – the alofa that would be taxed.

He believed that services and prayers for functions, wedding and funerals were exempt.

But now he is feeling very hard done by after being told that they will all be taxed. 

And therein lies the tale.

Those occasions we are told, are very much the icing on the cake in terms of extra income for misniters.

But the interesting point raised by this disgruntled minister is that he is saying fair enough, but what about the cash envelopes that Cabinet Ministers receive at every event they attend? 

He suggests they too should be taxed.

He may be right but in reality, the logistics of taxing and collecting Cabinet or Church Ministers’ money that is given in this way, will be a nightmare and near impossible to implement.

What are your views? We look forward to hearing from you. 

By Marj Moore 29 October 2017, 12:00AM

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