Alien Registration Fee Deemed Unconstitutional In Palau

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Government to refund $25 fee to 5,247 individuals

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, May 7, 2012) – Following motions to return money collected from alien registration, Palauan Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong on Thursday issued a judgment and ordered the return of funds collected by the government from foreigners who registered.

In the two-page Judgment and Order, it is stated that the declaration of the Trial Court that the so-called alien registration fee of $25 is an unconstitutional tax, as affirmed by the Appellate Court.

"Judgment is hereby duly entered in favor of the plaintiffs (registered foreigners) and against the defendants (Republic of Palau). The $25 purported registration fee collected from each of the plaintiffs constitutes an unconstitutional tax. Defendants are ordered to return these funds collected illegally," the order stated.

Since the case was brought as a class action suit, the court ordered counseling for each party to work out a method for returning the illegally-collected funds back to each of the plaintiffs.

A total of 5,247 foreigners have reportedly registered and paid $25 each. The total amount collected from registration is said to be $131,175.

President Johnson Toribiong said yesterday that he has not read the judgment yet, but the government will reimburse those who registered.

He said that in an inquiry with the Finance Ministry, he was informed that Finance will require receipts to reimburse plaintiffs and will have those who get their money back sign release notices.

In spite of this, Toribiong said he will still create similar regulations that require aliens here to register. But as to imposing fees, the president did not elaborate.

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