Samoa Head Of State Approves Law To Tax Himself, Church Ministers

Government says funds needed for development

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 3, 2017) – Its official. Samoa’s Head of State, his Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi has signed into law, the bill which legalizes the taxing of Church Ministers and the Head of State. This is the first time for such a bill since Samoa became Independent 55 years ago. 

The bill was signed on 30 June, 2017 three days after it was approved by Parliament. 

This was confirmed by Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. 

He told Samoa Observer that numerous Church pastors were supportive of the measure while only a few did not support the bill. 

“The biggest challenge was facing the Church Ministers,” said Tialavea. “I had to face them, after all the move to levy taxes against the Church Minister and Head of State was my idea, not the government’s,” he said. 

Secretary General of the Samoa Council of Churches, Reverend Ma'auga Motu remained neutral on the issue of taxing Church Ministers. 

“I am no longer receiving any alofa or peleti, so I cannot comment on that. “However, I think the government should have given the public and Church Ministers ample time to accept their proposal. 

“Its too late now its been approved by Parliament. 

“Nonetheless, the government’s approach of the issue was not properly carried out, that is why the public were against it. 

“I believe, that if the Church Ministers fully understood why the government wanted to tax them, it would have been an easier process. “But that was not the case, they held public consultations and then within a year, the bill is passed by parliament,” said Ma'auga. 

“The government says they need funds to develop roads, education system, access roads and healthcare, and this will benefit everyone, including the Church Ministers. “I’m sure if they were informed properly, there wouldn’t be a problem,” said Ma’auga. 

The N.C.C Secretary was disheartened by the move to tax the Head of State. “This is disrespectful to our Head of State. “One of Samoa’s core values in our way of life is respect and I'm saddened that we have come to this.... it’s just plainly disrespectful,” he told Samoa Observer. 

During discussion of this bill last week, Member of Parliaments, Sulamanaia Fetaiai Tuivasa and Olo Fiti Vaai were vocal against the measure. 

Sulamanaia said the $2million would not only affect the Church Ministers but also the entire families. “The pastors, who are catering for the denominations are feeding the spiritual beings of people, the ones who will be affected. That is why I am keen on this issue. 

“During the process, there were consultations, in the villages and churches. And some churches have opposed this proposal, that is my concern,” said the M.P.  

Sulamanaia said the bill was not considered properly.

 “It appears the Minister is rushing the approval of this bill.” 

He commended the government for the development of Samoa but said the taxing of Church Ministers is a move in the wrong direction. 

Sulamanaia found support from Olo Fiti Vaai who said the decision lacked foresight and wisdom. 

 “I believe that if this was revealed in pre-election plan by the H.R.P.P, you would never win.”

Olo suggested the government levy taxes on the Church’s annual tithes as opposed to the pastor’s income.

 “These annual tithing are collected once a year, people make loans for these. I think these annual tithing should be taxed but not the peleti/alofa for the faifeau,” said Olo Fiti. 

Tuilaepa during Parliament objected to the comments by Sulamanai noting there is nowhere in the Bible which prohibits Church Ministers from paying taxes. He insisted that many pastors are happy to pay taxes.

“They are thankful, now every faifeau will be paying taxes. The law is clear, treat everyone equally.” 

Tuilaepa, reminded that if the faifeau’s salary is $15,000 or less, then he will not pay taxes. 

“This applies to everyone, including the faifeau.” Tuilaepa reminded that taxes are people’s contribution to “assist with health care, education, road developments which everyone uses."

“This is your contribution,” said Tuilaepa.

Samoa Observer
Copyright © 2017 Samoa Observer. All Rights Reserved

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Comments

This is an emotional issue . One has to ask and all involved in this issue should ask "Why has it come to this ruling".Is it possible that this has become a way of life for church ministers IN SAMOA encouraged by the congregations who have supported the process and donated to their church of which the minister is part of.It is well known that congregations give generously at the expense of their aiga. It is very easy to turnaround and blame somebody else for their woes.eg Govt When does the average person in Samoa take responsibilty for such an action.????? I suspect that it is possible a lack of interest shown generally except by those involved in the church. Now the law has been passed it is important to read all the legislation before going off on a tangent. The point of the Head of State is relevant.... However there is a provision with any legislation of an ammendment to the Bill. I would look at the facts also..1..The Bill was passed into Law by being signed by the Head of state. 2... Both sides of Parliament discussed and passed this legislation. To each of members of both sides of the house it should be asked if they had voted because of their belief it was the right thing to do or if they had voted because of possible fear of going against the majority and being voted out at some stage and losing their lively hood. How many of the parliament for arguements sake did not vote???? Surely then its a case of being Damned if they Do AND Damned if they Don'T BY the way I am not necessary progoverment with my comments so put the knife back in the draw .SAMOA IS STILL BASED ON GOD

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