A MEMBER of the Rotary Club of Stanthorpe in Brisbane, Australia, has pleaded with the authorities not to charge taxes on any charitable assistance sent to Fiji.
An admirer of the Fijian way of life and culture, David Lee, has taken his passion further by helping Fijian people address their problems and needs including his family, friends and groups that he associates himself with in Australia.
The Rotary Club sent assistance to Naiyala and Saqani high schools in Cakaudrove following Tropical Cyclone Evan.
"The total items in the container were donated by the Rotary Club of Stanthorpe including the cost of $5040 for container freight charges from Australia to Fiji," said Mr Lee.
"In the dispatching of the gift, it was disappointing that both high schools had to pay a total amount of $3,198.74 to cover duty, VAT and other charges levied by the Fiji government for secondhand items donated to assist needy schools in Fiji.
"It is hoped that through communication and negotiations with Fiji government officials that their charges will be either minimised or eliminated on any future containers of educational items donated by Rotary Australia to Fiji to make it cost-free for the needy schools receiving the goods."
Mr Lee said Rotary Australia could send more assistance to rural schools in Fiji but such high taxes were unacceptable.
"The donated goods are second-hand and sent as gifts, and any cost to the recipients, the schools, seems to be unrealistic," he said.
When contacted for a comment, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority CEO Jitoko Tikolevu said freight charges were not imposed or determined by the authority.
"The authority is responsible for the administration of taxation and customs laws which only prescribe tax and duty rates. Our tax rates are the lowest in the region," said Mr Tikolevu.
"All relief supplies are to be addressed to the PM's office or the permanent secretary Provincial Development.
"The clearance of the cargo will be facilitated by the Fiji Procurement Office and supplies will be distributed by DISMAC officials."