P.M. hits back on church tax

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Prime Minister: Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

Prime Minister: Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The law which legalises the taxing of Church Ministers targets them individually, not the Church. 

That’s the response from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to the latest development where the biggest denomination in the country has decided to disobey the law by not paying their taxes. 

“The law applies to the Church Ministers individually, not the church as a whole,” he said. 

“The law does not target an organization because the taxes are to be paid by the Church Minister not the church.”

The Prime Minister was asked for his view following a story titled  “C.C.C.S. Church opposes Govt.” published in the Sunday Samoan.  

Documents leaked to the Samoa Observer shows that the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) will not obey the demand by the Government for all Church Ministers to pay income taxes. 

According to the minutes of their meeting on 14 March, 2018, the church will only agree after a discussion during their annual Malua conference next month.

But the Prime Minister said unless it is officially announced by the church, he will not respond in case the report by the Samoa Observer is “inaccurate”. 

 “Unless it is publicised by the church, only then I will comment, and also my views on behalf of the Government have already been published."  

“The law applies to the Church Ministers individually, not the church as a whole." 

“The law does not target an organization because the taxes are to be paid by the Church Minister not the church.”

He reiterated the law targets the Church Ministers. 

“It is directed to the Church Ministers meaning the hammer will fall on the head of the nail." 

“That is why it is important to know that if the Elders of the Church try to interfere, we look back to the law which indicates that is being a party to a crime."

“Also be mindful that is a serious matter." 

“I cannot comment because the report is from you and there is no certainty as to the accuracy of that report." 

“Because I know for a fact the Elders are wise men who are holy men who live by God’s Ten Commandments and they also understand Paul’s scripture in Rome pertaining to the clergy paying taxes and that is why it is hard for me to believe your report."

“Unless it comes directly from the Secretary General that means it is official.” 

It was put to the Prime Minister, it was him who said the Church is seeking an extension until their General Conference next month, but Tuilaepa said that was not the final decision rather it was merely queries by the church. 

“He said this matter deals with the law,” said Tuilaepa. 

Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt declined to comment on what actions the Government will take when the Church Ministers do not follow the law.

“I’m sorry but no comment from me.” 

The Samoa Observer asked the Minister if he was scared of the church but he said: “I am not scared, I just don’t want to elaborate on the issue."

It was put to the Minister that it is going on four months since the tax became affective. 

“Currently the Church Ministers are undergoing registration, however taxes should have already been paid as of January 2018,” said Tialavea. 

“The question as to how many Church Ministers who have not paid or have paid, I cannot say because I don’t know."

“Other than that, no comment from me."

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