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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 5, 1998 - Samoa News)---Up to 50 business license renewal applications are being held up by the Tax Office due to non-filing of tax returns.

According to American Samoa Government Treasurer Tifimale Ale, the Tax Office has not denied any business license and they are working together with the businesses concerned to file the necessary tax forms for the licenses to be approved.

Under law, the American Samoa Government can not refuse to renew a business license for simple failure to pay taxes, explained Ale. But the territorial government does have the legal power to withhold the renewal of licenses if the businesses have not filed their tax forms.

"Paying and filing are two different things," said Ale.

Most of the licenses being held by the Tax Office are for partnerships and corporations.

He also noted that the Tax Office has found that a number of corporations have violated the law by failing to notify the Tax Office or appropriate government official of a change in corporate officers.

Other holds cover businesses which use American Samoans as fronts while the real investors are foreigners.

"Our review has found that in some cases, (the local fronts) mentioned in the corporate papers have not filed taxes as required by law," explained Ale.

"We’re cleaning house," said the Treasurer. "Abuse from the past has caught up with us and we’re setting the precedent now so that come next year the Tax Office will no longer be in a situation where it doesn’t know where it stands."

Business license renewals for 1998 were supposed to have been completed last week.

During fiscal year 1996, an internal Tax Office review reportedly revealed that while 2,937 business licenses were issued and renewed, only 357 businesses --or about 13% of the total-- had actually filed complete income tax returns and forms with the Tax Office.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to .

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