2 Jul 2019

Congregational Christian Church of Samoa tax hearing begins

1:22 pm on 2 July 2019

The district court hearing into tax charges against 20 ordained ministers from the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa has begun in Apia.

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept, court

Photo: ikiryo/123RF

According to Samoan media, lead counsel for the ministers, Alex Su'a, told the court it is the contention of the church that ministers are not taxpayers and therefore should not be paying taxes.

Each minister faces two charges of failure to withhold taxes and failure to file tax returns.

The Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautuaali'i, was the first witness called by the prosecution.

She explained the reasons behind the move to tax church ministers was centred around the need to increase government revenue to pay for infrastructure and other developments.

She said part of the new laws was to tax voluntary 'alofas' church members give ministers for their general upkeep.

Matafeo said the CCCS was the only church that did not accept the proposed change.

She said that church ministers are providing a service to members and should be taxed.

She told the court that while donations are voluntary, once they're received by the minister, it is income.

The case continues today with Matafeo still giving evidence.

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