Samoa's head of state, pastors to pay tax

For the first time, Samoa's Head of State and church pastors will have to pay income tax.

Despite opposition from a handful on MPs, the country's parliament has passed the Income Tax Amendment Act.

The MP for Urban West, Faumuina Wayne Fong, said it should have been a tax on the church rather than individual pastors, while another MP, Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, said church pastors should be exempt. He did not oppose the Head of State paying tax.

Sulamanaia said the revenue minister, Tialavea Fea Leniu Tionisio Hunt, was too quick to table the bill and there should have been more time for consultation.

But Tialavea said there was enough time given, and that of the 19 denominations consulted, only two opposed the measure.

The Samoa Observer reported the prime minister, Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, telling Sulamanaia that in his district, pastors made between US$39,000 and US$79,000 annually.

Tuilaepa said nothing in the Bible prohibited church ministers from paying tax, and many pastors were happy to do so.

The legislation exempts those earning less than $US5,891 from paying the tax.

The government expects to collect US$1.57 million dollars from the income tax extension.

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