Concept: Taxation in Solomon Islands


After the Protectorate was staffed in 1896, the British Colonial Office made clear that it was expected to become self-supporting. Resident Commissioner Woodford advised that no chiefly system existed to tap into that could introduce local administration, and for the immediate future the main sources of taxation would be poll taxes on all foreigners (except missionaries) and on trading stations, and shipping licenses. (AR 1897, 20)

Taxation of individual Solomon Islanders was introduced between 1921 and 1923 as a Head Tax payable by all able-bodied men aged sixteen to sixty. The tax rate was set lower on Malaita than in other areas (5/- as opposed to 10/- and £1), and not collected until 1923. Never cost-effective, the tax was imposed to indicate to Solomon Islanders that they had to support the colonial state, and to ensure that men had to labour to pay the tax. Once taxation began, cash was used more and trade goods were often obtained with cash rather than barter. During the Depression years in the 1930s, paying taxes became for many a great burden and rates were in parts of Malaita reduced to one shilling.

The 1944 Tenaru Conference which led postwar planning decided taxation would not be used to force men into plantation labour, but should instead be levied by Local Councils for local needs. (Campbell 2007) The Income Tax (Amendment) Regulation 1956 was enacted on 22 December 1956 and came into force in 1957. This decreased the basic rate of personal tax from 1s. 3d. In the pound to 9d. In the pound up to £5,000. The company taxation rate did not change. (AR 1955-1956, 17-18) The Native Tax Regulation allowed tax to be levied on each able-bodied adult male Solomon Islander and varied from 5s. To £2, according to the district. The Native Tax Regulation was amended in 1957 to allow women to pay tax if they chose to, and the new Regulation raised the upper tax limit from £2 to £5 a year. In 1959, the highest tax rate, £5, was paid by men earning more than £200 per year on Isabel and the Eastern Solomons. The lowest, 2/6 d. per year, was paid by men in the Outer Reef Islands. The women of Ugi Island voluntarily payed an annual tax of 5s., which allowed the Local Government Council (q.v.) to collect more funds. No taxes at all were paid on some of the most remote islands. Where Local Government Councils existed, the tax was credited for their use, and they could set their own rates: from 1964 the Malaita Council increased the tax to £3 per year for men with annual incomes over £150, but maintained the £2 rate for men earning less; the Guadalcanal Council set theirs at £3 for men west of Wanderer Bay and along the north coast, and £2 for men living inland and on the Weathercoast.

The Income Tax Bill 1965 was introduced to the Legislative Council in December 1965 and came into effect on 1 January 1966. It was intended to streamline taxation and to provide incentives and tax-holidays for new industries. Taxation was also levied within wards for each Local Council. Rates still varied island by island, depending on earning capacity. On Guadalcanal, coastal men paid $7 (decimal currency was introduced in February 1966) but men in inland areas only $5. People who earned more than $200 also paid more ($10), but this varied if a man was paying more than $4 in school fees for more than two children at Standard IV or above. Local Government Councils also raised money in other ways such as dog licences, fines and fees from Native Courts and rents for council property. (NS Dec. 1957, Dec. 1958, 15 Nov. 1963, 31 Oct. 1964, 15 Oct. 1965, 28 Feb. 1969; Bennett 1987, 277)

Related Concepts

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Bennett, Judith A., Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 1800-1978, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1987. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Campbell, Ian C., 'To Not Reinstate the Past: Wartime Optimism and Planning for the British Solomon Islands Protectorate', Journal of Pacific History, vol. 42, no. 1, 2007, pp. 55-72. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details