Church and State stand-off over taxes in Samoa

taxes

The stand-off between the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS/EFKS) and the Samoan government over taxation is getting worse.

The General Assembly (Fonotele) of the church has rejected outright the government’s new law which imposes taxes on all church ministers.

One speaker at the Fonotele has gone so far as to predict that Government’s decision to tax the head of state and church ministers is the beginning of the “downfall” of the 30-year rule of the Human Rights Protection Party.

The EFKS is the biggest and most influential denomination in the country.

The church’s main point of contention is that what ministers receive from their congregations should not be taxable because they are voluntary donations.

Since the law to tax the head of state and church ministers became effective in January, the EFKS had refused to obey.

They said they would wait until their Fonotele this year to discuss the matter.

That Fonotele was held last week.

There was some support for the law but the final decision was to retain the opposition to the taxes.

The EFKS says rather than paying taxes it would prefer to make voluntary donations to the government.

The church executive will be meeting with the government this week to discuss this possibility.

The church women’s group already makes annual donations to the health sector.

While the Fonotele was in progress, the prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi issued a clear warning.

“You will answer individually to the law,” he said. “The law does not target the Church, rather it targets the church ministers individually.”

“So what is Tuilaepa saying?” asked Mata’afa Keni Lesa in the Samoa Observer.

“That all members of the church who discussed and supported the rejection of the tax law should be charged and hauled to jail? Thousands of them too? What a scenario that would be.”

The Ministry for Revenue placed notices in last Tuesday’s newspapers thanking those ministers who have already registered with the tax office.

The notice also warns that the end of next month is the last day for registrations before the Ministry starts implementing other sections of the new law, including penalties.

Source

News category: Asia Pacific.

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