Faife’aus employees of God?

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Mika Kelekolio*

Oh, when will this faife’aus’ tax saga end?

In last Saturday’s Weekend Observer, the spokesperson for the E.F.K.S. was defiant in defending their stand on faife’aus paying income tax. Talking about trying to defend the indefensible? 

Poor guy, the harder he tries, the more hollowed his arguments sound.

He was responding to the Minister of Revenues’ threat earlier in the week outlining what the Government would do should the faife’aus continue to resist paying tax.

I don’t know about you but this whole thing reminds me of a challenge game we used to play as children. Both challengers would stand at a pace apart facing each other. Then one would step forward and pull the other’s earlobe before stepping back. The other returns the favour doing likewise. This would go on eventually leading to a punch up that will only end when one has a bleeding face.

Anyway, according to the media last week, 19 faife’aus have now registered for income tax. No doubt, that number will increase come July 31. Some may have done so because they genuinely believe they should contribute to the cost of developing this country like everyone else. Others, well maybe it’s because they have come to realise that they stand to lose a lot should they continue to be part of this absurdity. 

I’d love to be a fly on God’s wall watching Him curse in disgust every time His name is dragged into this debate to justify the freeloading mentality the E.F.K.S’s spokesperson seemed to be promoting.Take his point that, because the faife’aus are “employees of God,” they do not therefore have to pay any income tax. Well, to any rational person, that comment makes little sense if any at all.

Prove me wrong, but I’ve always believed that when God put us humans on this earth, He wanted us to not only carry out His will, but work for his Glory in whatever we do. Are we not therefore, “employees of God” also?

From the time a woman conceives to the time she gives birth to her child, she works a 24-hour shift for nine months, carrying and protecting God’s gift in her womb. Then many more years and countless nights of broken sleep after that in raising her child. Is she not therefore an employee of God given what faife’aus preached that children are God’s gift to us parents?

You see, all of us could claim, as faife’aus’ are claiming, that we should not be subject to tax. But we aren’t. We are all paying our taxes. Uncomplainingly!

If faife’aus persist with their belief that only they are “employees of God”, then something is terribly wrong with Christianity. And I’d love to see their employment contracts with God’s signature on it, saying that only they can be His employees and the clause therein that says their alofa is not liable to tax.

As citizens of this nation, it is both a legal and moral obligation for us to pay our taxes, faife’aus included. 

Selectively quoting texts from the Bible to justify their position may not have helped the E.F.K.S’s case. We Samoans are experts at that. Whenever we seek to prove a point or legitimise a contemptuous behaviour towards authority, the easiest way to do it is to quote the Bible.

Some people might interpret my comments here as anti-E.F.K.S. and anti-faife’aus. Far from it. I have a healthy respect for faife’aus and pastors/clergies of all denominations.

As a youngster, I witnessed the great work faife’aus, pastors and catechists of yesteryears did in their respective parishes. I’ve also seen the work faife’aus are doing in New Zealand especially in helping our disturbed and troubled youths in places like Porirua and South Auckland. 

If I’m anti anything, it is towards people who will quite happily use public facilities and utilities built and maintained by tax-payers like schools, hospitals, water supply, power stations, wharves and interisland ferries, fast broadband, you name it, but are not prepared to contribute to their cost. That to me, is the apex of selfishness?

Do you see how absurd this whole thing has become? All because some faife’aus, as said in my previous column on this subject, have a deep-seated sense of entitlement that they have come to believe it is their prerogative to demand and be granted special treatment. 

That is what this whole issue boils down to.

Ask any rational person whether faife’aus are appointed by God, and they will without doubt say no. They are appointed by their church’s bureaucracy on the perception that they have formally studied and may therefore have a better understandingof the Bible and church policy than the ordinary man on the street or in the village.

It’s very much like any other profession. For example, members of the legal profession areappointed to the bench by the Government bureaucracy because of their perceived wisdom in interpreting the law and their understanding of legal, ethical and moral issues, or the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Finance or the Governorof the Central Bank because of their in-depth understanding of macro-economic and banking policies. 

And strangely enough again, they all pay their taxes!

As to the assertion that the “[E.F.K.S’s] goal is ……protecting what belongs to the church,” my understanding is that Government is not taxing the E.F.K.S. as an entity, but their individual faife’au’s alofa – his earnings; it is that which forms the basis of his household’s disposable income. It is that money which he uses to pay for his private home, green fees, crates of Taula, petrol for his cars, school fees for his children etc. etc…

Call it “sacrifice”, “thanksgiving offering to God” or what you may.(I’ve yet to see God using His thanksgiving offerings to pay for His green fees or Taula!) The simple fact is that a faife’au’s alofa is earned income.

Now, to be fair to the E.F.K.S., the Government in its effort to collect all tax it is owed must cast its net wide to catch all who are not paying their taxes through tax evasion and tax avoidance.

The Catholic Church of which I am a member (my father was a catechist) has for years being paying some of their contractors for work they’d carried out with acreage of land in some of the most sought after areas. Because these were payments in kind, no money changed hand. That means the Government was deprived of V.A.G.S.T. 

It may also mean that tax returns by some contractors may not have reflected the true value of their earnings. 

If there are law prohibiting these types of transaction, then the Minister of Revenue must make sure that the Catholic Church takes the rap. If there aren’t, then he should enact one that will prevent that sort of business dealing in the future as it encourages tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Acreage of land have also been allegedly given for free by the Church’s hierarchy to those closely related to or associated with their top office holders in areas like Malololelei. This is no different from the faife’aus receiving alofa except that the process is in reverse. 

Government should assess the value of these properties and slam a tax on them as well. 

Thousands of dollars is sitting there to be collected.

*Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper’s management.


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