web analytics
The Standard

Taxenophobia

Written By: - Date published: 4:51 pm, August 20th, 2014 - 22 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

Tim Hunter aka “Chalkie” has a fascinating article in today’s DomPost on why foreigners are so keen to buy New Zealand assets – tax. He discusses Wellington Electricity Network and Lochinver to make the point that “the real appeal of investing in New Zealand is how easily foreign companies manage to avoid paying tax” – anywhere.

“There are huge tax advantages available to overseas investors that simply cannot be accessed by locals. They crank up the returns available to foreign buyers and make New Zealand assets worth more to overseas owners than to New Zealand residents.”

He looks Wellington Electricity Network as an example, and also Lochinver. Read it and weep – or get mad.

WED was bought by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings  for $785million. It makes a loss, not because of its cashflow but because of its debt – 80% of its asset value. The debt is to a CKI company registered in the British Virgin Islands at a premium rate 12.5%. It pays no tax in New Zealand becuase of the loss and pays no tax anywhere else because it is owned in the Bahamas “where , like BVI, the tax system is a warm bath for companies to float in the dark and listen to the sound of money – no company tax, no withholding tax, no captial gains tax, nothing.”

Chalike discusses the Lochinver sale as well.

Chalkie reckons we should welcome foreign investment, but not so much that we meet it at the airport with the tax equivalent of a red carpet on the tarmac, a chauffeur-driven limousine, free accommodation at Kauri Cliffs and an invite to John Key’s house for drinkies every Friday night. Whatever the benefits of overseas ownership – and there will be some – Chalkie reckons we should also take account of the costs.

The issue is the same whether the assets are companies or farmland. The would-be buyer of Lochinver Station near Taupo has been named as Pure 100 Farm, described by the Overseas Investment Office as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin Group”.

It may be, but its immediate parent is Milk New Zealand Holding, owner of the former Crafar and Synlait farms in Waikato and Canterbury. Milk New Zealand Holding is wholly owned not by Shanghai Pengxin, but by Milk New Zealand Investment, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The ownership was disclosed to the Companies Office on August 13.

Chalkie reckons owning New Zealand farms through a Caribbean tax haven may have tax advantages – or is that xenophobic?

The ownership was disclosed on August 13. On August 2 Farrar’s Kiwiblog (repeated in National Business Review) carried this post in support of Steven Joyce’s “xenophobia” attack on Labour’s Grant Robertson on TV3’s The Nation.

Interestingly, a couple of the commenters on Kiwiblog were awake to the murky ownership of the Lochinver would-be  buyers. However I think Chalkie is right – we should pay attention to the costs of foreign investment, and we need tot alk about that rec carpet rollout.

Joyce’s thoughtless bullying exemplifying National’s thoughtless  “soundbite” approach leaves New Zealand wide open. At least Labour will keep New Zealand for New Zealanders and will also close the tax loopholes available to multinational corporates.

Time for a change.

P.S. For more on Wellington Electricity Network’s history and the stupidity of asset sales to foreigners, see this Fabian Society paper comparing outcomes for water and electricity networks in Wellington.

 

 

 

22 comments on “Taxenophobia”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Milk NZ Holdings were only able to buy the former Crafar farms because the National government stepped in to require the taxpayers milk the cows for them.

    Thats right they worked out a deal for Landcorp to become sharemilkers on someone elses land. Its crazy and not why we have a SOE involved in agriculture. I know that some people have long term leases on landcorp farms and some sharemilkers are on landcorp dairy farms.
    But the other way around ???

  2. hoom 2

    In the beginnings of the USA the citizens had the issue of Taxation without Representation.

    The world currently has the reverse problem of Rich & Corporates who have excessive Representation and no Taxation.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    As an aside I thought we had strict ‘thin capitalization’ rules to knock out most of this borrowing the lot off shore

    Seems as though there is looholes
    http://taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz/publications/2013-commentary-arearm/thin-capitalisation-rules

  4. alwyn 4

    I notice that you did a fairly selective edit of the article.
    The main organisation he talks about was Wellington Network which Chalkie says was bought in 2008 when, guess who (hint starts with an L) were the Government. He also says that, under a National Government the IRD are going to tighten up on the rules.
    Yes the rules are wrong but at least the current Government plan to do something about it.

    • infused 4.1

      Yeah, Labour flogged that one off… on the quiet too.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      The main organisation he talks about was Wellington Network which Chalkie says was bought in 2008 when, guess who (hint starts with an L) were the Government.

      And a lot of us were saying at the time that it should have come under the Strategic Assets legislation that the Labour led government had just passed.

      Yes the rules are wrong but at least the current Government plan to do something about it.

      So do the next government. Thing is, we’ve known about these tax loopholes for years and National haven’t actually done anything about them. Instead they’ve been passing laws that damage working peoples rights, engaging in beneficiary bashing and giving state subsidies to WB, Rio Tinto and SkyCity.

      And, yes, I’ll agree that a government can’t do everything at once but these should have been a priority in 2008 or earlier.

  5. disturbed 5

    Can we get someone to compile an up to date list of foreign companies take overs as this as Farrar “taxpayers Union” or Government has yet to do.

    List of foreign taxpayers rip-off”s of the N.Z. taxpayer.

    1/ Lochinvar Station. to Shanghai Pengxin Group”.
    2/ 49% sale of Mighty river power, ?
    3/ Crafer Farms, to Milk NZ Holdings – British Virgin Islands
    4/ Wellington Electricity Ltd – Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
    5/ Genesis Energy, to ?
    6/ Meridian Energy, ?

    Add to anyone.

    • Gareth 5.1

      ASB, ANZ, BNZ, National, Westpac

      • TheContrarian 5.1.1

        Westpac has always been an Aussie bank and ASB was, from memory, never owned by the govt. Same goes with ANZ too actually – was never a govt owned banking outfit.

        • felix 5.1.1.1

          I think the australian-owned westpac bought and subsumed the locally-owned trustbank, hence westpactrust.

          • TheContrarian 5.1.1.1.1

            True they did (like ANZ acquiring National bank) but Westpac and ANZ were always foreign owned and ASB has never been publicly owned.

            All three, however, have consumed and assimilated NZ owned enterprises. Except for maybe ASB

    • disturbed 5.2

      Updated any further?

      Can we get someone to compile an up to date list of foreign companies take overs as this as Farrar “taxpayers Union” or Government has yet to do.
      List of foreign taxpayers rip-off”s of the N.Z. taxpayer.

      1/ Lochinvar Station. to Shanghai Pengxin Group”.
      2/ 49% sale of Mighty river power, ?
      3/ Crafer Farms, to Milk NZ Holdings – British Virgin Islands
      4/ Wellington Electricity Ltd – Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
      5/ Genesis Energy, to ?
      6/ Meridian Energy, ?
      7/BNZ
      8/Partial sale of Air NZ.
      9/Wairakei geothermal Power Station, to Contact/Origin Energy
      10/ Works Infrastructure ex (M.O.W). to Downer (Aust’)

  6. mikesh 6

    It’s about time interest was declared non deductible. It’s not really a business expense in any case.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    If that article is right, and I have no reason to doubt it, and Labour et al do close the tax loopholes (which I also have no reason to doubt) then you can start counting the time until foreign investors start running for the hills as their tax exempt status gets shut off.

  8. ianmac 8

    Who could ask if Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings paid any tax in NZ?
    Mr Key is very well informed and open and transparent.

  9. Alistair Connor 9

    The important point is that the various “free trade” treaties NZ has signed, or is negotiating, make it obligatory that the country be open to foreign investment.

    This is sold with “level playing field” arguments. But the playing field will never be level between local companies and multinational firms — or perhaps we should call them “non-national firms”, because they might as well be domiciled on the moon if they escape all tax jurisdictions.

    The case of Wellington’s electricity distribution is a blatant example. The story of the 12% interest rate paid to a letterbox in the Virgin Islands cries out for a law change — it would surely be legitimate to tax at, say 50%, interest paid to related parties at above market rates?

    I am opposed to all further opening of trade — in particular, the Pacific treaty under negotiation — until such time as a satisfactory international tax treaty has been established (which is likely never…)

  10. Rolf 11

    This is a trick used all over the world now, not only concerning New Zeeland. The investor put his money in a bank in, for instance UAE. He takes a loan from a bank or financial institution in BVI or Singapore, the UAE bank balance is the security. The loan interest and cost from BVI or Singapore is set high, and pay for the other costs many times over. The cost of money, interest to the BVI or Singapore is of course deductible as a commercial expense, hence no or little tax in the end. All the high tax nations are exposed to this, the real investor may even live in the same country, in this case, he lives in New Zealand, but is hidden from view through the system. This way the costs are high, and he does not have to pay tax. The only remedy is to cut the tax.

  11. Rich 12

    Cutting the tax rate? That won’t do anything, quite obviously the preffered tax rate is 0%.

    But as someone said elsewhere cut the tax claim on interest, and you will defeat this. Sure it will get a few legitimate businesses a bit antsy at first but then if your gearing is reasonable, you will be able to handle it. Well run debt evasive companies and businesses will do well.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

1 2 3 8

  • Minister needs to do his homework
    Nathan Guy needs to do his homework, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “Answering questions in Parliament today on the dairy sector, the Primary Industries Minister denied John Key wants to float Fonterra. ...
    3 hours ago
  • Minister needs to put the kibosh on dirty diesel
    State-Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay has to get a grip on the KiwiRail board and put the kibosh on its crazy plan for dirty diesel on the main trunk line, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. It has been revealed… ...
    5 hours ago
  • Louise Nicholas Day: Work still to do
    This is a summary of a speech I gave in honour of Louise Nicholas Day on March 31 The IPCA report showed us basic mistakes are still able to be made within a specialist unit. The Police Commissioner said there… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 hours ago
  • The meanness and pettiness of Nats in power
    Last night, Parliament debated NZ First MP Tracey Martin’s Bill to ensure children in the long term care of family members were able to access a clothing allowance currently only available to children in foster care. Many of these children… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 hours ago
  • Defence Force’s Hotshots given cold shoulder
    The latest victim of the Government’s cost-cutting drive looks set to be an organisation that has provided vital services and support to defence force staff and their families for 67 years, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “Labour understands Gerry… ...
    7 hours ago
  • Dairy price drop a blow to neglected regions
    The biggest drop in global milk prices for four years is yet another blow to the dairy industry and the many neglected regions that rely on it, says Labour’s Economic Development Spokesperson David Clark. “This 13 per cent drop in… ...
    8 hours ago
  • Plenty left to do on human rights
    Labour is backing calls to have a Parliamentary Select Committee take responsibility for overseeing and monitoring human rights issues. “A just released three-year study into New Zealand’s track record on human rights, funded by the Law Society, makes uneasy reading,”… ...
    11 hours ago
  • Many regions need by-election levels of support
    Northland is not the only region struggling under the National Government, but unfortunately places like Gisborne, Whanganui and Tasman do not have by-elections on the horizon, Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark says. “A desperate National Party has thrown money… ...
    1 day ago
  • Real changes must come from CYF review
    A well-overdue revamp of Child, Youth and Family cannot be just another cost cutting exercise, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. “Labour has been pushing for a review for some time. It was part of our policy at the election. ...
    1 day ago
  • Latest Air NZ plan carries on regional snub
    Christchurch Labour Members of Parliament have secured a meeting with Air New Zealand boss Christopher Luxon following the airline’s decision to cut its Christchurch to Tokyo summer flights.  They are also calling on the Minister of Transport Simon Bridges to… ...
    2 days ago
  • Carmel Sepuloni back in Social Development role
    Andrew Little has reinstated Carmel Sepuloni as Labour’s Social Development spokesperson following the sentencing of her mother in the New Plymouth District Court today. “It has been a tough time for Carmel, but we both agreed it was appropriate she… ...
    2 days ago
  • Government taking Kiwis for April Fools
    Many Kiwis will be wondering if the joke is on them when a raft of Government changes come into effect tomorrow, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “First is ACC and National’s unwillingness to end its rort of Kiwi businesses which… ...
    2 days ago
  • Time to show RMA housing affordability plans
    Labour is challenging the Government to reveal its plans to make housing more affordable through amending the Resource Management Act, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Labour remains willing to consider the proposals on housing affordability on their merits and… ...
    2 days ago
  • John Key now admits no broad support for RMA changes
    John Key has now been forced to admit that he never had the broad political support to gut the Resource Management Act, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson Megan Woods. “Cornerstone legislation such as the RMA should never be changed without genuine… ...
    3 days ago
  • National’s changes leave student bodies in chaos
    The chaos created by National’s scrapping of compulsory student association membership may force the 86-year old Union of Students Association to fold, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson David Cunliffe says. “National’s 2011 Voluntary Student Membership Act has left student associations with… ...
    3 days ago
  • Tragedy must be impetus for better training
    The Police Minister needs to explain why unsworn and inadequately trained custody officers were put in a situation of caring for a medically unwell prisoner on a busy Saturday night, Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Commenting on an IPCA… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government must be more transparent on investor state clauses
    The Government must be more transparent around the draft investor state dispute settlements in the TPPA, says David Parker, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson. “Labour is pro trade, and is proud of the FTA we negotiated with China, which… ...
    6 days ago
  • Protect university staff and student voices
    The Green Party believes ensuring student and staff representation on university councils is important. National recently passed a law reducing the size of university governance councils while increasing the proportion of the members nominated by, guess who… Steven Joyce. The… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    1 week ago
  • We can fix Christchurch and keep our assets
    The Christchurch City Council is seeking public feedback on its proposed 10 year plan for Council revenue and spending. This is probably one of the most significant 10 year plans ever to be written by a local council because of… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Thanking our caregivers
    Let’s celebrate and thank our caregivers. This week is caregivers’ week. It’s a chance to acknowledge the thousands of women, and occasional other person, who are caring for the elderly and disabled in our country. They hold people’s lives in… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Roundup: UN finds it “probably” causes cancer
    At last the UN has spoken out against the widely-used weedkiller Roundup. The UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified glyphosate, the principle ingredient in Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. They also include as probable carcinogens the insecticides… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • World water day: eight rivers in one day
    Our photo journey started by the Waioweka (also known as Waioeka) River which flows from Te Urewera to Opotiki, and is surrounded by beautiful forest. The water looked great! Kopeopeo Canal It contrasted greatly with the Kopeopeo Canal near Whakatane,… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • We all benefit when education meets everyone’s needs
    As Dyslexia week comes to a close,  Dyslexia NZ have reminded us that around 10% of our citizens are dyslexic and are entitled to better support. One of their strongest arguments is that failure to provide identification and support for… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Big change starts small
    Today marks Race Relations Day in New Zealand. Race Relations Day coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The United Nations General Assembly chose this day as it marks the day in 1960 when 69 peaceful… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Israel, Palestine and the question of statehood
    The knife-edge election in Israel complicates the Middle East situation, even more than usual. The Prime Minister-elect, Binyamin Netanyahu, is moving to form a government. Netanyahu has indicated that, during his term, a Palestinian state would not be established. That… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Christchurch transport goes backwards
    The Green Party has a vision of a liveable, accessible Christchurch with a sense of identity and strong connected communities. Instead, 2013 census figures released by Statistics New Zealand reveal a fractured community, and tell a story of frustrated Christchurch commuters… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Super Fund should divest $140 million in high risk coal
    The Green Party is calling on the New Zealand Super Fund to divest their $140 million investment in coal companies that are vulnerable to becoming financially stranded according to a damning new report from Oxford University. The Smith School of… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Learn to count with Mark Osborne: 0 + 1 = ?
    The adage about the first casualty of war being truth is one that might often be applied to the political battle for hearts and minds, and of course votes. A rather unfortunate example of this has been arriving in the… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Is it still a safety net when the holes are this big?
    Over the last few weeks I’ve been wondering how safe our income support system is for people, especially those with cognitive or learning disabilities. I’ve been trying to support a young man who was severely injured in a workplace accident… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Pasifika – protecting the Pacific needed now more than ever.
    Over the weekend thousands of Aucklanders flocked to celebrate our city’s diverse Pacific communities and cultures at the annual Pasifika festival and the Greens were there to join them. The Pasifika festival has been held every year for 23… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago

Removed at the request of The Daily Blog.
Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere