House queries Treasurer, Budget Dir over excise tax
The practice of releasing equipment/vehicles belonging to businesses from the dock prior to paying excise taxes for shipments was among the issues discussed before the House of Representatives last week during a hearing before the House Budget Committee. Attending the hearing was Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil Pili and Budget Director Catherine Dora Aigamaua-Saelua.
Concerns were raised by Representative Vailoata Amituana’i as to why vehicles which belonged to businesses were being released before the excise tax had been paid, as it is mandated by law that the tax be paid first. The hearing was chaired by Rep Timusa Tini Lam Yuen with Vice Chair Florence Vaili Saulo.
“The government needs all the money they can get, yet given the financial situation the government is in, you allowed businesses to remove their vehicles without paying their taxes. Also it appears this was only done for businesses… can you elaborate as to what occurred, so I can relay the explanation to the businesses who complained about this matter?” asked the faipule.
The Treasurer explained to lawmakers that only two businesses were allowed to take their goods, with an agreement for a payment plan, and the businesses provided down payments before their shipments were released.
Falema’o further stated that the Treasury Department held equipment for one company for over eight months because the company waited to finalize their contract, and upon receiving the contact they, too, made a down payment.
“I made the call as Treasurer to release the equipment for these companies while they make a down payment and pay the excise tax as they agreed," he said.
"The second case was a newly established business in the territory and the Governor is always keen on assisting new businesses. It was in that spirit this was done.”
He further stated that other vehicles and equipment the Treasury has released are for the American Samoa Power Authority and the American Samoa Telecommunications Authority with tax payment arrangements, given that they have an account with Treasury and this has also been done in the past.