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Residents to get rebates from U.S. treasury

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, April 29, 2008) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. yesterday informed Gov. Togiola Tulafono that American Samoa will receive $20.4 million under the federal economic stimulus law.

Provisions of the federal law state that in order for American Samoa to be able to receive funds from the U.S. Treasury, the territory must have a plan, approved by the Secretary of Treasury, under which American Samoa will promptly distribute the rebates to its residents.

Additionally, the law establishes that the payment to be made by the Treasury Secretary to American Samoa will be "in an amount estimated by the Secretary as being equal to the aggregate benefits that would have been provided to residents of American Samoa" based on local tax laws.

Togiola submitted two weeks ago to the federal Treasury the territory's plan for the distribution of the rebates, which is based on information from 2007 income tax returns that were filed in 2008.

According to the plan, the local Treasury Department will use 2008 income tax returns filed in 2009 to make "final rebate" payments to eligible individuals.

"American Samoa will make advance rebate payments for timely filed 2007 tax returns in calendar year 2008 and make final rebate payments for timely filed 2008 tax returns in 2009," the plan says. "American Samoa will resolve disputes with respect to these rebates by December 31, 2010."

According to the plan, payments based on 2007 individual income tax returns filed on or before April 15 will be processed between May 1, 2008 (but not before ASG receives the money from the U.S. Treasury Department) and July 31, 2008.

Additionally, those who file their returns after April 15 but before Nov. 30 will be paid by the local Treasury Department by Dec. 31, 2008.

The plan also called for ASG to establish a trust fund at the Bank of Hawaii and all money received from the U.S. Treasury to cover the rebates will be deposited into this account to be used to fund the rebate checks.

Additionally, money received from the federal government for the rebates is not to be used for administrative expenses. ASG is required to provide to the federal government quarterly reports indicating the amount of money in the trust account and the total paid out for that specific quarter. All unused monies are to be returned to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Paulson yesterday informed Togiola that American Samoa's plan has been approved and the federal government has estimated that $20.4 million will go to American Samoa based on provisions of the federal stimulus economic law.

Paulson says this amount will be forwarded to the local Treasury "to fund the prompt distribution of stimulus payments to residents" of the territory, in accordance with the American Samoa plan.

ASG expects to receive the $20.4 million in a week or so with check distribution to start in two to three weeks. When refunds are issued it will be staggered out throughout the week (to prevent crowding at the Tax Office), and based on those who have already filed their 2007 tax returns.

American Samoa and other U.S. territories were included in the federal law, through the efforts of Congressman Faleomavaega Eni and Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, who urged Congressional leaders to include the Territories in the stimulus package and make child tax credits and tax rebates available to qualifying residents.

Faleomavaega and Bordallo, along with U.S. Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christensen and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuno, also urged the Treasury Secretary to implement an arrangement that will provide for the funds to be transferred in advance of the actual payouts of the rebates.

In a statement yesterday, Faleomavaega thanked U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee for supporting the request to included the territory in the federal law to help jump start the nation's economy.

Faleomavaega also commended Gov. Togiola and the local Tax Office for acting quickly and submitting a plan that was approved by Paulson.

"I am especially pleased that the people of American Samoa will benefit from these rebates which will help bolster our local economy," he said.

Tax Office manager Melvin Joseph said yesterday that the governor's office plans to issue an official statement about the tax rebates.

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