New scanning fees at Post Office and PPG are in effect now
The two local canneries are waiting for feed back from the Governor’s Office as to whether they are exempt, through their ASG tax exemption certificates, from paying the new fees for the use of the X-ray scanners on their containers at the Port of Pago Pago.
In the meantime, the new fees for scanning containers will not go into affect until the end of next month, January 2017.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga signed into law in early October this year, Fono approved legislation — which was proposed by the administration — that includes provisions imposing fees for the use of new X-ray scanners at American Samoa’s ports of entry. The new fees — that became effective Dec. 14 — 60 days after the end of the session in which it was passed — are:
• $200 for a 40 feet or more container;
• $200 for less than a 40 - including all 20 foot containers;
• $50 for loose cargo pallet;
• $50 per vehicle or heavy equipment;
• $10 per parcel imported for commercial purposes; and
• Other scanning fees are as determined by customs and enacted by administrative rule making.
However, Chief Customers Officer Moetulu’i Sipili Fuiava told Samoa News yesterday that fees for scanning containers will not go into effect until the end of January as they are “waiting for spare parts to commission” the large X-ray scanner for containers on the main dock.
“Everything else is in effect,” he said, referring to other fees for scanners located at the Pago Pago International Airport, the Fagatogo Post Office — and scanners at these locations are working well. Custom Officers were sent off island for training on the use of the scanners.
Samoa News should point out that when the new scanner fees were discussed by the Fono, prior to passing the statute — it was repeatedly said that these fees would be passed on to the consumer by the businesses, raising the cost of goods in the territory.
Samoa News has learned that the two canneries, StarKist Samoa and Samoa Tuna Processors Inc. are seeking clarification from the government as to whether or not they have to pay scanner fees while they have in place their separate tax exemption certificates.
“We're waiting on feedback from the Governor's Office on this matter,” said StarKist Co., corporate spokesperson Michelle Faist in response to Samoa News inquiries.
STP General Manager Fa’afoi Palepua said the company started inquiring with ASG about a month ago on whether they are exempted from scanner fees, based on their tax exemption.
“The government is reviewing the law if it will apply to both canneries since the canneries are operating under tax exemption,” Palepua said yesterday responding to Samoa News questions.
Asked as to what happens if scanner fees are not exempted for Tri Marine, Palepua said the company “will evaluate feasibility of doing a ‘logistic hub operation in American Samoa’.” He said since the new fees will not go into effect until the end of January, “this will give us more time to discuss this further with ASG officials.”
However, Samoa News asked Moetulu’i if the canneries are exempt from the scanner fees, and he said, “They are not” and “the law doesn’t allow exemptions” and everyone pays the scanner fees, including for containers.
But, “We are in talks with the canneries” on this matter, he said.
Samoa News understands that Moetulu’i met early this week with officials of STP and StarKist Samoa over the exemption of paying the scanner fees as well as the new date of when scanning containers will commence.
According to the US Government Accountability report released Dec. 2, StarKist‘s tax exemption from ASG went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 and is valid through Dec. 31, 2022; while Tri Marine’s exemption was received Oct. 5, 2010 and is valid for 10-years.
Other provisions of the new law that went into affect yesterday, state that, “Whenever a vessel, aircraft or any other form of transportation from a foreign port and place, or within the Territory, arrives or exits an American Samoa port of entry, customs and border security officers are authorized to enforce, inspect and ensure compliance with all customs regulations including collection of appropriate excise taxes.”
This includes search of the persons, baggage, and merchandise discharged or un-laden from such vessel, whether or not any or all such persons, baggage or merchandise has previously been inspected, examined or searched by customs officers, the bill states.
To execute customs responsibilities, that includes searching for contraband, weapons or other illegal or undeclared merchandise, the bill authorizes the use of scanners or X-ray equipment for inspection of all containers, loose cargo and merchandise as well as parcels.
However, the importer, exporter, and/or owner of the examined merchandise are responsible for the cost of this inspection, examination and search, according to the bill, which also outlines the fees for such service.