Tax default notices served to ‘faifeau’ or religious ministers in all the church denominations who have failed to file income taxes by the 15th July deadline, showed they each owe $5,000 in unpaid taxes.
The majority of ‘faifeau’ in default are of the EFKS Church, who rejected outright the notices served by the staff of the Ministry of Revenue.
A total of 644 ‘faifeau’ from all the church denominations in Samoa are officially registered, under one third or 198 are from the EFKS Church.
All but 16 EFKS ‘faifeau’ are holding out in defiance at having to pay tax on income they earned through donations or ‘alofa’ from church members.
The ‘faifeau’ in support registered against the official position declared by the leaders of the EFKS Church.
The new income tax law requiring ‘faifeau’ to pay tax came into effect at the start of 2018 in January.
A Commissioner of Revenue default assessment based on personal income for the first 6 months of 2018 from January to June, works out to about $833 per month or $5,000 in total for every ‘faifeau’ held in default.
A 30-day report period is allowed from the date of receipt of notice, for ‘faifeau’ to fill in P4 forms, and hand them in for an income re-evaluation.
The default assessment by the Commissioner will stand if the form is not filled and handed in.
Under long standing requirements of the law, the Ministry of Revenue is authorised to collect unpaid taxes directly from the taxpayers or ‘faifeau’ bank account.
The same power also authorises the Ministry to collect from individuals or entities who either owe the ‘faifeau’ or have the authority from another person to pay money to the ‘faifeau.’
Other personal assets like cars, houses or freehold land are also included as part of the tax repayment process for ‘faifeau’ with unpaid taxes.
“Ministry staff rejected by ‘faifeau’ when they served default notices recorded the date the notice was served regardless of the rejection,” Minister Revenue Tialavea John Hunt noted when asked by Newsline about it.
“The 30 day count starts from there.”
The identities of ‘faifeau’ who are in default are confidential and it includes the 16 EFKS church ministers who registered freely out of the 182 who oppose the Government tax.
“The Ministry has already registered all the EFKS ‘faifeau’ regardless of whether they refused to do so or not.
“The law empowers the Ministry to register all faifeau taxpayers after the deadline for registration on the 15 July 2018.
“We were able to secure a list of all the EFKS faifeau and the respective villages they are serving and they add up to 198 or just under a third of all 644 religious ministers in Samoa.”
Tialavea confirmed that the income for every ‘faifeau’ will be assessed every month for taxes and will be subject to late payment penalties if they fail to file tax returns in time.
There has been no further reaction from the EFKS Church since they decided to defy the Government by calling on all faifeau of the church not to pay income tax.
The EFKS position was decided in the annual ‘Fonotele’ general assembly at Malua of the church last May. It is understood they will hold on to their rebellious stance until the next ‘Fonotele’ the same time next year 2019.