Ministry targets church ministers' personal accounts

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Minister for Revenue: Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.

Minister for Revenue: Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. (Photo: Vaitogi Asuisui Matafeo)

Church Ministers have forced the hand of the Government to seize funds from their personal accounts. 

That is the view of Minister for Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, who said the law applies to everyone including Church Ministers. 

“The salary assessment conducted by the Revenue Officers of church minister’s alofa resulted in the $5,000 taxes due for the last six months—January to March."

“The seizure of funds is for each and every church minister, who has not filed their monthly taxes, yet some church ministers I understand are making less than the $15,000 threshold." 

“Unless you file your taxes, we cannot determine which one makes less than the threshold. However, once the Church Ministers has filed their taxes and its less, we will refund them,” he said.

Tialavea said the law was passed in January 2018 and all the church denominations complied, except the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.).

 “Well the law applies to everyone. The law does not wait until it is accepted or not. We have given church ministers six months and those who continue to defy the law will face the consequences."

“As of last week, we have given all the banks a list of names of the church ministers whose personal accounts will be affected by this seizure. And if they don’t have any money, we will seize their cars and lands, whatever asset they own, which has a market value, we will take and again, this is done under the authority of the law.” 

The Minister said the Government did not want to go down this path, but they had no choice but to do what is right. 

He also reminded the clergies that no one is above the law, not even Church Ministers. 

“They should walk the talk. They preach one thing yet turns around and does the opposite,” he added.

Tiavalea said they are just following the conditions of the tax laws and going to court is the last resort. 

Chairman of the Samoan Bankers Association, Tu'u'u Amaramo Sialaoa said the banks are caught in the middle between the Ministry of Revenue and the customers. 

“For the banks, though, we just need to inform our customers of what is happening. We have to manage our customers to ensure they understand the law in place. However, the law is the law and obviously we need to comply with the law,” he said.

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