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Puleleiite says ASTCA’s internet connection can handle sales tax collection for ASG

[SN file photo]
But only if within the territory

The American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority’s current technology “infrastructure” can handle a government sales tax using internet connection to collect sales data and other information, says ASTCA chief executive officer Pulele’iite Tufele Jr.

ASG Revenue Task Force officials had testified before lawmakers that modern technology equipment, with internet connection, could be used by the government to track and collect the proposed 7% sales tax — which the Senate and House have put on hold.

Some lawmakers were not yet convinced that Treasury is prepared to take on the task of collecting the sales tax; and top executives of local businesses have informed the Fono that they have serious concerns over the ability of ASG to accurately collect sales tax revenues.

One of the issues some lawmakers are concerned about, is whether ASTCA has the internet capability of handling large volume sales tax information from the many businesses that will be collecting the sales tax.

During a recent Senate committee hearing, Pulele’iite revealed that the Governor’s Office had inquired about ASTCA helping with the sales tax issue.

Pulele’iite’s revelation came after he was queried by two senators on whether ASTCA has sufficient internet capability and infrastructure to handle sales tax transactions, or does ASTCA need to first have connectivity to the proposed new Hawaiki undersea fiber optic cable, which is set to link American Samoa next year in June.

Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua said the concern is that ASTCA may not be prepared to handle such a task, with many businesses on island all using the same service.

Pulele’iite said the governor inquired on ways that ASTCA can assist, and the recommendation was provided: that ASTCA's fiber connection can be used to connect all businesses to a “server” at the Tax Office.

(Samoa News notes that the fiber connection is through ASTCA’s federally funded BLAST project.)

According to Puleleiite, anytime a sale is made at a business location, it's automatically picked up by a server set up at the Tax Office, which would be able to read the daily sales by that business, as well as weekly and monthly sales and so forth.

He added that if the collections by the government is only within American Samoa, ASTCA is equipped with sufficient “infrastructure” to handle it.

Unless the government tells ASTCA that “this server will [also] collect” all purchases outside of American Samoa on sales tax, “then I would say, ASTCA would need the Hawaiki” link, he said and noted that currently, ASTCA is able to provide to local residents all types of telecommunication services.

Also during the hearing, the committee shared with Pulele’iite — who was accompanied to the hearing by newly appointed ASTCA board chairman, Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet — their disappointment over ASTCA paying $155,000 monthly to Bluesky Communications as a customer of the American Samoa Hawaii Cable LLC (or ASH-Cable), when ASG has invested $9 million in the undersea fiber optic cable project.

Fai’ivae stressed that ASTCA has no say and nothing to do with ASH-Cable, as it is an issue directly dealt with by the governor.

Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean asked if there are any efforts being made by ASTCA to “off set” the monthly $155,000 paid to Bluesky, and Pulele’iite said yes, adding that they are working on plans for discussions with Bluesky on a possible offset of cost.

For example, reduction of rates for ASTCA customers calling Bluesky Samoa numbers in Samoa which he said currently costs about 45 to 60-cents per minute.

Samoa News notes that ASH-Cable is minority owned by ASG, as part of its $9 million investment, while Bluesky’s off island owner holds the majority share of ownership.