Earlier this month, a person took to Facebook to complain about the increase in the fee for some of the land court services provided by the justice ministry.
The post was followed by comments from other people who shared similar sentiments.
“I just learnt something new today! Power of Attorney (POA) has increased from $6 to $25 each (one is for land matters, another is for income/monies such as land trust rental income),” the person posted.
“Effectively this means it now costs ‘Appointers’ $25 each POA application ($50 in total for POA on land and rental income).
“In addition to the land trust rental income, if the Appointer lives overseas, he/she is charged 15 per cent from whatever income they are entitled to receive.
“I’ve searched MOJ’s (Ministry of Justice’s) website for confirmation of these charges. I couldn’t find anything relating to POA. This was information relayed to me from a staff member at MOJ.”
Justice secretary Tingika Elikana said the High Court Fees, Costs and Allowances Regulations 2016 which authorised the hike in fees for such matters was passed in August, 2016.
He said the regulation came into force on October 1, 2016, replacing the 2005 regulations.
“Prior to the promulgation of the 2016 regulations, public submissions were called for. Unfortunately, none was received from the public except from a couple of law-yers,” Elikana said.
“Under the regulations, the fee for registration of court orders and ‘instrument’ of which a Power of Attorney is one, is $25.”
Regarding the 15 per cent imposed on appointers living overseas, Elikana said that was a withholding tax for non-residents, and the ministry was just collecting it un-der instructions from the Income Revenue Department to comply with existing tax laws.
Elikana said the increase was necessary to enable the ministry to provide a better service to the Cook Islands public.
Asked about any further fee increases planned in the near future, he said, “it took 10 years before we managed to increase the fees, so I assume that it will take the same period of time before any further increases.”