Government to collect $4 million if church ministers pay tax


The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Revenue Avalisa Viali- Fautuaalii, Minister Tialavea Leniu Hunt and the Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Business Improvement Division of MOR, Tu’i Faasili during todays’ public consultation 

BY Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 27 MARCH 2017: The Ministry of Revenue estimates is will collect $4 ½ million from church ministers if they pay taxes.

This came out today from the Minister of Revenue Tialavea Leniu Hunt in the first day of public consultation on whether the Head of State and church ministers should pay taxes.

“The plan is for everyone to be treated the same and that includes paying taxes by all employees,” said Tialavea.

The  current Inland Revenue Act excludes not only the church ministers but also the Head the State from paying any taxes, however, the Ministry’s focus is for a fair and balance treatment of all people.

The Act also exempts employees earning less than $12,000 tala a year.

Tialavea says the Ministry’s role is to find means of securing funds to help finance the development of the country, and the Ministry hopes to collect $4  ½  million from church ministers taxes alone in the first year.

Considering the amount of money received by church ministers differ from parish to parish, it was suggested that the Ministry should monitor this to ensure that the right amount received by the minister is correctly entered in the tax forms.

The Minister also said the Ministry’s focus is on how much the church ministers collects from church members – the alofa or peleti and excludes the church members’ contribution for the development of the church.

Tialavea further explained that if the yearly salary of a person is $12,000 and less, then that person is tax free. But if the salary is between $12,000 and $15,000 then a 10% tax is payable.

The salary range between $15,000 and $20,000 is taxed 20% and $20,000 and above is taxed 27% according to Tialavea.

The issue is not new, as it was first discussed in 1970, then again in 1997 and church ministers have already been consulted in this round of discussions with varying responses.

Asked why it took so long and there has not been a decision on the issue, Tialavea said there are no records of any consultation in the past, although it has been confirmed that the issue was discussed.

The Ministry plans to collate all views and opinions from the public for a report and recommendation to Cabinet.

Tialavea further explained that should taxing church ministers be accepted then all church ministers would be registered just like all other workers and employees.

The question of double taxing was also raised, especially in the case of church ministers that are serving parishes and employed elsewhere at the same time.

“They will be taxed by their alofa or peleti, but as for their salaries from other employment, that will be considered their second income,” said Tialavea.

“There will be no double taxing of anyone,” said Tialavea.

The consultation will continue today with plans to shift to Savaii to gather more public views on the issue.