Three Lower Hutt church members have been convicted after claiming more than $56,000 in false tax rebates

Faalemalo Ipiniu Letoga, Mau Veletaloola and Ita Vienna Aiomata - all members of The Evangelical Samoan Wesleyan Methodist Church - issued false donation receipts and claimed rebates for 33 people to the Inland Revenue Department.

IRD investigations and advice group manager Patrick Goggin said that Letoga, Veletaloola and Aiomata obtained $56,378.27 from 68 false claims from 33 people - many of whom did not attend their church.

Mr Goggin said the IRD was told by Letoga that the rebates had been claimed to raise money to send back to Samoa.

"The actions of these individuals were a deliberate attempt to claim money to which they were not entitled. They used the names of other people to request funds without their knowledge. They cheated not only these people but all taxpayers with their actions."

The dishonesty continued for five years, between May 2005 and June 2010.

The IRD was tipped off by one of those affected after they tried to claim their own rebate, only to be told their rebate had already been issued for that year.

"The Government has allocated additional funding for Inland Revenue to detect fraud and to take appropriate action. Our message to those breaking the law is to think again, you will be caught, and you will be dealt with," said Mr Goggin.