70% Of American Samoa Revenue Comes From Local Taxes

Governor tells lawmakers his administration has improved collections

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 17, 2017) – Of the $104.45 million that the American Samoa government collected in local revenue about $71 million came from taxes, which is ASG’s largest revenue contributor, according ASG Treasury Department’s Accomplishment Report for 2013-16, provided late last month to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga.

In his Samoan address, during his Jan. 9 State of the Territory Address, the governor informed lawmakers about the increase in local revenue collections since his administration took the helm of government in 2013.

According to the governor, in the year 2013 local revenue collected totaled $90.3 million, for the year 2014 a total of $98.9 million was collected; in the year 2015 a total of $101.04 million was collected and in 2016 a total of  $104.4 million has been collected.

The numbers for 2016, according to the Treasury Department Accomplishment Report, shows that these are preliminary and unaudited numbers.

[PIR editor's note: On January 17, 2017 The Samoa News reported that 'Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has appointed a task force to review revenue-generating measures for the American Samoa Government. The panel’s first meeting is scheduled for this week, as they have until later next month to provided findings and recommendations for review by the top leaders of the Executive Branch.']

Of the total revenue collection, the report states that $71.06 million came from taxes — $12.65 million in corporate taxes; $27.04 million in individual taxes; $26.44 million in excise taxes; $1.90 million for soda tax and $3.02 million for the military-cover over tax, according to FY 2016 preliminary & audited as of Sept. 30, 2016.

(If compared to FY 2015, taxes totaled $68.73 million: $15.07 million for corporate; $30.01 million for individual; $20.29 million in excise tax; $2.03 million for soda tax; and $1.31 million for military cover over tax.)

As compared to previous years, the income taxes collected slightly decreased in FY 2016 for a combined shortfall of $6 million between corporate and individual, the report says, adding that the military cover over tax nearly doubled to make up for the other areas.

The report says several factors play into the corporate number decrease. For example, Michaels and other large projects are completed, as well as a decrease in individual and projects ongoing.

(Michaels is the US based contractor for the American Samoa Telecommunications Authority’s multi million dollar BLAST project)

“Enforcement continues to be a focus of the tax office, recruitment of auditing and collection officers are ongoing,” the report says. And in the New Year, Treasury Department is looking to attain a tax lawyer and consultant to target primarily on individuals owing taxes to ASG.

The report notes that the military cover over tax significantly increased, however, Treasury is still reviewing the status of this tax with the US Internal Reserve Service and the US Department of Defense.

The Treasury report stressed, “We have improved collections in the last two years due to enhancements to our human capital resources, a new Tax Manager and Chief of Customs, and more importantly, enforcement of laws and regulations.

“However, we can do more. Our future initiatives include increased enforcement with additional manpower, the implementation of a Scanning system to better manage and scan all incoming cargo to increase border security and integrity of our revenue collection,” the report says.

Additionally, Treasury’s Tax Division is collaboratively working with the Commerce Department to ensure that the business license renewal process involving businesses and corporations have filed their respective taxes and any collections owed to the government is to be collected.

Moreover, it says there are “cooperative efforts with our legal counsel representative to introduce proposed amendments to our tax laws that is required to strengthen enforcement and oversight.”

The report says Treasury has “identified the shortfalls and deficiencies in our overall collection” — but “we have also identified recommended solutions to address these shortages with the continued implementation of corrective measures.

“With executive support, interdepartmental collaboration and financial assistance, we anticipate meeting our goals and objectives,” the report says. “We extend our gratitude and appreciation for the continued support and look forward to an even better fiscal year collections for 2017.”

Samoa News will report in future editions on other issues cited in the 38-page report.

The Samoa News
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