Church Ministers charged for failure to pay Government Tax appear in court

The Chairman of the Congregational Christian Church, Reverend Elder Tautiaga Senara (second from left) and some of the church ministers being charged wait patiently outside court this morning

By Rula Su’a – Vaai

APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 11 DECEMBER2018: It was standing room only and the court was shifted to a bigger court room as the nine ministers of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa appeared in court this morning for refusing to pay Government taxes.

The nine ministers include the Church Chairman, Reverend Elder Tautiaga Senara, Reverend Amosa Reupena, Reverend Fa’asalafa Vitaoa, Reverend Ioane Petaia, Reverend Lavilavi Soloi, Reverend Petaia Leavai, Reverend Poasa Toiaivao, and Reverend Semikueva Fa’atoafe.

The charges are brought by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue for withholding tax and failure to file tax return under the Income Tax Amendment Bill 2017.

Appearing on behalf of all the defendants, Counsel Alex Su’a applied for an adjournment on the grounds, that some of his clients were just served summons to appear in court late yesterday.

Judge Talasa Atoa Sa’aga granted the application and adjourned the matter to 5 February 2019.

Church members, families and supporters who could not get inside the court room

The Vice Chairman of the Church, Reverend Elder Tunumoso Iosia and other ministers also face the same charges and are expected to appear in court 18 of this month.

More than a hundred supporters and church members were present and before the Court proceeded, Reverend Elder Tavita Anesone prayed for the grace and blessings of God for everyone in the court house, the ministers who were being charged and the presiding Judge.

In June 2017, Parliament passed the Income Tax Amendment Bill that required church ministers and the Head of State to pay income tax.

Reverend Elder Tavita Anesone prayed for the grace and blessings of God before the case started.

The charges are seen as the latest in the power tussle between the government and the church that insists that only the church annual assembly – Fonotele can change the decision not to pay government income tax.

The church’s annual conference in May this year voted against paying the government tax and the government insists that enough time had been given the church for consultation and they must abide by the law.