Give to Caesar what belongs to him

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The plan by the Ministry of Revenue to change taxation laws to allow the government to tax officials who are currently exempted from PAYE is an interesting one. 

No doubt it would have generated a lot of talk during the toanai yesterday.

It’s a controversial topic but one that needs to be dealt with. 

There are different schools of thought about the issue, especially given the church’s prominence in Samoan society but the right thing must be done.

And according to the Minister of Revenue, Ti’alavea Tionisio Hunt, everyone in this country – including Pastors and the Head of State – should pay taxes.

“I took the oath when I was selected as the Minister that I would do everything to make sure that we get extra money for the development of the country,” said Tialavea. “So we are now in the process and we are reviewing the laws to make sure that everyone pays taxes.” 

In terms of Pastors, Tialavea said the Ministry has been in consultations with the churches.

 “The proposed changes targets the money church ministers receive from the congregation every two weeks (alofa/peleti),” he explained. 

“We will not touch other contributions made by the church. We believe those other contributions are for the development of the churches. This will also exclude the money they get from funerals, weddings, and other things.”

So how will it work? Well according to the Minister, a form would be provided by the Ministry for every church Minister in Samoa. 

 “They will write down how much they get and we will calculate the amount of tax they have to pay depending on how much they receive. It’s just going to be just like other workers in Samoa. You have to pay as you earn (P.A.Y.E).”

Okay then but how will the Ministry know if the information the pastors write down is true? They are human after all.

By the way, the issue is not a new one. 

“This is actually the third time we are making an attempt to push for this change. The first and second time we presented this in Cabinet, it was unsuccessful. 

So why is this necessary? And why now?

“These taxes are for the development of our country. It is to help our people,” the Minister said. 

Ti’alavea added that there is no need to hide the fact the government needs revenue.

 “We don’t have minerals like other countries. We depend on our hands to do the things we want. We also rely on our development partners to fund the development. 

“With the proposed change, our developing partners will be able to see that everyone in Samoa is contributing to the development of our country.”

The Minister said it is not the Ministry’s intention to offend members of the clergy.

 “We don’t belittle their commitment and the performance of their roles in our country but we just think it is only right for them to pay tax as everyone else,” Tialavea said.

 “If God wants it to happen, it will happen. If not, then it will not happen.”

Speaking of God, we know the scriptures are quite clear. Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. But that’s what we think anyway?

What about you? Do you think Pastors should pay taxes?

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a fantastic week Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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