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Samoa church Mmnisters outraged by tax law

Pay your taxes, P.M. tells Church Ministers. [SN file photo]

Church Ministers did not mince words when they expressed anger and disappointment at the government’s decision to tax their incomes – and gratuities - starting on 01 January 2018.

Strong emotive language was used which led to one government official shedding tears in an attempt to appease unhappy members of the clergy.

But a number of Church Ministers who attended a seminar, called by the Ministry of Revenue to explain how the new tax laws will work, say the government had underestimated the impact of what they have done not just on the church but on all members of the public.

“If this is God’s way to punish Pastors in Samoa then so be it,” one Church Minister said. “But if this is from man’s creation, then I just want to remind you that someone (in the Bible) fell, broke their neck and his body parts strewn all over the place when he disrespected the will of God.”

The dialogue was held at T.A.T.T.E building. The talk was a platform for church ministers and government officials of the Ministry of Revenue to interact and raise issues associated with the taxing of pastors. 

 “For your information, peleti (pledge) is not a salary; it’s a divine portion from God to give straight to the pastor,” he said. “But you are now trying to reach out onto the altar.”

One Rev. Leauma agrees.

“A servant of God works in the spiritual life of people because it’s the fulfilment of God’s commandments,” he said.

“What the people give to church ministers is for God, not for pastors and what people give is sacred, meaning its untouchable.”

He reminded the government that people perished because of the lack of knowledge.

“It’s not that if you’re a Cabinet Minister then you know everything,” Rev Leauma.

During the seminar, Ministry of Revenue officials said they would take note of the concerns expressed. They also revealed that a form would be given to churches for pastors or church secretaries to indicate how much money a pastor receives. This form should then be submitted to the Ministry of Revenue with the payment of the tax.

But another pastor who identified himself as Rev. Faraimo rejected it.

“It’s not our duty to bring this form to your office after every fortnight,” he said.

“For your understanding,  if someone is given this task, it also takes money to come here to pay the pastor’s tax.

“If that’s so, then the Ministry should pay for the church’s secretary or any other person that will be doing this. I mean we should not be held liable for your responsibilities.”

Read more at Samoa Observer